Minneapolis, MN – Since the start of the 2014-2015 season, Minnesota State has had the Gophers’ number.
The Gophers are 38-18-6 all time against Mankato, but since 14-15 Minnesota State has won 8 of their last 10 games against their ‘bigger brothers’, including dominating victories in the NCAA tournament to end Minnesota’s season the last two years.
One way to exorcise the team’s demons: bring in a ton of freshmen who don’t have any baggage to write a new script.
That’s what happened Friday night, when Minnesota (3-0-0 Overall) beat MSU-Mankato (0-1-0) by a 4-1 score. All four Gopher goals were scored by freshmen, with Jimmy Snuggerud scoring his first, second, and third career goals to lead Minnesota past the Mavericks.
The first fifteen minutes of play were decidedly in favor of Mankato, with the Mavericks controlling the puck, winning puck battles, and generally out-competing the highly-touted Gophers early on. That began to change towards the end of the first period, and the momentum shift was punctuated by Snuggerud’s first goal of the game at 18:21.
Snuggerud put the Gophers up 2-0 on a quick wrister from the high slot at 5:30 of the second, and from there the game settled into a rhythm. Minnesota State had their share of chances, and actually found the net later in the second period, but the Gophers successfully challenged the call due to goaltender interference. The Mavericks had a man in the crease, so the goal was disallowed.
Minnesota State evenutally did get on the board at 4:00 of the third period, but Snuggerud scored his third goal of the game on a one-time slapper from the point at 10:46 on the powerplay to essentially seal the game. The Gophers added an empty netter by Connor Kurth with just over two minutes left to end the scoring.
Justen Close was again solid, stopping 17 of 18 shots on the night for his second victory of the season.
The two teams play again Saturday, squaring off at the Verizon Center in Mankato. The puck drops at 6PM, and can be seen throughout the Twin Cities on Fox 9+. As always, the game can be heard on AM 1130 and FM 103.5.