Mankato, MN – When asked about what the team took away from the game Saturday, Mason Nevers said “it’s gonna be tough to beat teams two nights in a row.”
It gets easier if you don’t shoot yourselves in the foot.
With a chance to make an early statement against a top-five team, the Minnesota Gophers (3-1-0 Overall) wasted golden opportunities, and Minnesota State (1-1-0) took advantage, scoring three times in the final two periods to snag a 3-2 win Saturday night in front of their home fans down in Mankato.
Coach Bob Motzko’s line about the team’s performance:
“We were ok tonight. Ok ain’t gonna cut it in a game like this.”
The Gophers weathered a couple early Mankato power plays and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission on Jimmy Snuggerud’s fourth goal of the weekend at 15:29.
Early in the second, the Gophers got a powerplay, and were given a massive opportunity when MSU’s David Silye took a five-minute major with about a minute left on the initial penalty. Already up 1-0 and with 53 seconds of 5 on 3 power play followed by four plus minutes of a major penalty, it was the moment for Minnesota to score a goal or two and bury Mankato.
Alas, it was not to be. The Mavericks killed both the two-man advantage and the ensuing major, and at home in their building the pendulum of momentum swung the opposite direction. MSU was the team winning faceoffs, winning puck battles, and generally out-hustling Minnesota, and it paid off with a goal from Campbell Cichosz at 14:36 of the middle frame to tie the game 1-1.
Mankato scored again early in the third to take their first lead at 2-1, but the Gophers answered back when a great backcheck by Jaxon Nelson forced a turnover and resulted in an odd-man rush the other way. Mason Nevers was the eventual beneficiary, potting a nice pass from Charlie Strobel to tie the game at 2-2 just 1:01 after Mankato had taken the lead.
Minnesota State wasn’t done yet, as Ryan Sandelin (have you heard that he’s Scott Sandelin’s son?!) scored what would be the game-winner with just over 6 minutes left to play in the third. Minnesota put up a bit of a fight with the goalie pulled at the end of the game, but could not beat the Maverick defense, and settled for a close 3-2 defeat.
Along the way, the Gophers failed to take advantage of multiple odd-man rushes and partial-breakaways, and goalkeeper Justen Close made some nice saves (30 in total) to give Minnesota a chance to win.
After the game, Motzko praised the defensive unit, but was harder on the forwards, echoing his overall assesment of the game: “our forwards were just ok, and we have to be better than ok.”
Next week, the Gophers are off, but the following weekend they welcome North Dakota to Minneapolis for a pair of games. It will be another good test and should be a jam-packed building – full of both Gopher and Fighting Hawks fans. After that, at the end of October, Minnesota starts Big Ten play in Columbus against Ohio State.