St. Paul – Minnesota entered the North Star College Cup well aware of their recent struggles against their in-state rivals. They leave the weekend with two more losses falling 4-2 to Bemidji State, 3-2 to Minnesota State, and are now 1-12 in their last 13 games against the Beavers, Bulldogs, Huskies, and Mavericks.
“It’s not like we take these games easier, or lighter than other games, we have these marked on our calendar as I assume they do too,” said Justin Kloos. “But for some reason we’ve just came up short of the last almost year and a half now.”
Kloos scored in his seventh consecutive game and Connor Reilly scored in his third consecutive game, but mental mistakes cost the Gophers Sunday.
“We didn’t play hard enough—that’s kind of what it came down to in the Bemdiji game,” said Hudson Fasching. “Today we just weren’t focused. Compete and focus are huge in hockey and those are two things we really need to focus on going forward.”
Minnesota State (14-9-5, 12-3-5) took the opening lead courtesy of a mishandled puck by the Gophers defense 4:04 into the first period. Teddy Blueger threw a backhand across the crease and the puck went in off a Minnesota stick.
Kloos evened the game with a power play goal, his 11th of the season, converting a one-time slap shot into the upper left corner at 14:48.
Minnesota State regained the lead while on a two-man advantage late in the second period. The Mavericks sustained pressure throughout the power play and CJ Franklin took advantage of space stepping in from his off wing to pick the upper left corner for his 11th goal of the season.
Reilly’s fifth goal of the season 5:27 into the third period evened the score, but the Mavericks added their second power play goal just over two minutes later when Blueger walked in off the wall and scored his eight of the season.
Fasching thought the team came into the weekend too complacent with their recent success. He felt his team didn’t do well enough in puck battles, their timing on the forecheck was off, and that they’ll need to anticipate and get on pucks quicker going forward.
“We were playing good hockey before this, I think we can play good hockey after this,” said Fasching. “I think we can still accomplish a lot of our goals going forward.”
Don Lucia said the team battled harder Saturday, and he was pleased with the effort considering the loss Saturday and the early start Sunday. He noted mental mistakes cost them against Minnesota State and credited the Mavericks with making two nice plays on the man advantage.
The Gophers (13-12-0, 8-2-0) return to Big Ten play next weekend with Penn State coming to Mariucci Arena for a Friday, Saturday series. Face-off is 7 pm on Friday and then 4pm Saturday for Hockey Day Minnesota.
“The same thing last year, we lost a couple games and we were able to put it behind us and then go on for a good run at the end of the year,” said Lucia. “We have to do the same.”