MINNEAPOLIS — Fans of the Minnesota Gophers can put away those jokes about St. Cloud State having college hockey’s best diving team. On Tuesday, Gophers coach Bob Motzko walked back his initial comments about the controversial ending to Saturday’s 4-3 overtime win over the Huskies, and said that SCSU defenseman Nick Perbix did not take a dive.
Immediately after after the game, in which Perbix was pulled down from behind by Gophers forward Blake McLaughlin and no penalty was called, Motzko said “it was a dive” about Perbix going down, and opined that if anything should have been called, “two and two” for holding and embellishment would have been proper. After reviewing video of the play, Motzko admitted that he was incorrect.
“I didn’t see the jersey pull until I got home and saw it on film. I don’t know if any of you guys saw it live. You had to see that,” Motzko said to the reporters gathered for his weekly media availability. “I never should’ve said that for two reasons. One, I shouldn’t have called (him) out, because I know Nick Perbix. I recruited him. He’s one of the best defensemen in college hockey. Friday night here at Mariucci, he was the best player on the ice. And two, he’s an unbelievable kid.”
The Rink Live learned that Perbix — whose brother Jack is a forward for the Gophers — contacted Motzko directly late Saturday night after seeing the coach’s comments about a dive. Motzko had viewed video of the play by that point and told Perbix then — and reiterated on Tuesday — that his comments following the game were not acceptable.
“We were all emotional and I should not have done what I did,” Motzko continued. “I apologize to him, and I apologize to our team for saying that.”
Motzko added that the referees obviously didn’t see McLaughlin pulling the jersey, because it is an “easy call” if officials had seen the hold.
Blake McLaughlin (#FlyTogether) steals the puck with what should be a penalty and then sets Sammie Walker (#GoBolts) up in front for the overtime goal.— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) October 17, 2021
Minnesota wins 4-3 in overtime, regrettably, on perhaps the worst non-call I've seen in some time. I feel for St. Cloud State. pic.twitter.com/DWu1G4DElD
On Sunday, the NCHC issued a statement saying that one or two penalties should have been called on the play, and that referees Sterling Egan and Tom Sterns would face discipline. The conference statement also admonished fans at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center for throwing items on the ice in a chaotic postgame scene.
Following Sammy Walker’s overtime winner, which was assisted by McLaughlin, Gophers goalie Jack LaFontaine was punched by a Huskies player while trying to retrieve the game puck for Motzko (to commemorate the coach’s first win as the visitor in the building where he was the head coach for 13 seasons), Gophers players celebrated in front of the SCSU student section and a few appeared to taunt the crowd, and Huskies coach Brett Larson was seen in front of the penalty boxes screaming at the officials about the non-call.
Most were in agreement that, despite the messy ending, the first 120 minutes of hockey last weekend were examples of the best of the game.
“It was awesome. That’s why you come to play here at the University of Minnesota is for games like that,” said Gophers forward Grant Cruikshank, who transferred from Colorado College last spring. “The crowd was electric. We could feel it in warmups. You could just see how many people were there and so passionate. That’s what makes playing hockey fun and playing here fun.”
Minnesota Gophers coach Bob Motzko, forward Grant Cruikshank and defenseman Ryan Johnson spoke to the media following the team's practice on Tuesday.
Motzko’s career record versus his alma mater and former employer now stands at 2-1-0.