Update: Minnesota’s first goal at 19:00 of the third period has now been credited to Jack Sadek for the sophomore defenseman’s first career goal. Assists on the play went to Jake Bischoff and Mike Szmatula. Additionally, a secondary assist on Minnesota’s second goal at 19:37 of the third period has been credited to Bischoff. The game-tying goal now reads Szmatula from Justin Kloos and Bischoff.
Canton, N.Y. — Minnesota had only one player on their roster, Mike Szmatula, who had ever played St. Lawrence coming into Saturday night and he had some success scoring a goal and five assists in four games against the Skating Saints. It took 59 minutes for Minnesota to generate any offensive production, but two goals came from Szmatula in extra attacker situations to steal the Gophers a 2-2 tie at Appleton Arena in front of 1,809.
Both coaches and media placed #18 St. Lawrence (3-4-1) as second in their ECAC preseason polls. It was a status placed largely because of a veteran defensive corps led by All-American Gavin Bayreuther and their goaltender Kyle Hayton. The Skating Saints gave Hayton the night off on Friday against Wisconsin as he entered the weekend with a .878 save percentage, but his team nearly pulled off their recipe for success against #12 Minnesota.(3-2-1).
“They were just going to pack it in, rely on their defensemen, and try to win a 2 to 1 type of game, and they almost did,” said Gophers coach Don Lucia in his postgame comments to Wally Shaver and Frank Mazzocco.
St. Lawrence’ Ryan Lough scored first 14:58 into the first period and then the Skating Saints added a second 6:41 into the third from Bayreuther. Meanwhile, the Gophers were peppering Hayton with pucks from outside with little to show for it. Despite Minnesota outshooting St. Lawrence 44 to 24, the Gophers weren’t getting many quality scoring opportunities or second chance scoring opportunities.
“[Hayton] was really good tonight, we had a lot of good looks, some good chances, I think our guys were getting a little bit frustrated–we kept trying stress that we needed traffic and we needed rebounds,” said Lucia. “And low and behold even though it took us 59 minutes, the first goal was scored off traffic, he didn’t see it from the point and the second one was off of a rebound.”
Szmatula deliver both goals, the first via a Jack Sadek point shot through traffic after the puck moved from point to point, and the second after a scramble started by a Justin Kloos shot.
“[Szmatula] was a little bit frustrated because he hadn’t scored, I know we showed him some video and he was getting chances,” said Lucia. “When good players get chances, sooner or later they’re going to score and he’s getting his goal around the net the way he needs to.”
Eric Schierhorn played steady between the pipes for Minnesota making 22 saves on 24 shots including two massive saves at key points during the overtime period to preserve the tie.
Special teams played a big role in the game, and while the Gophers killed off five shorthanded situations, they also went 0 for 5 on the man advantage. Minnesota generated 11 shots on their power play, but were limited mostly to shots from the center of the ice atop their umbrella power play.
Next week Minnesota welcomes North Dakota to Mariucci Arena.for the first time after a three-year layoff. The Fighting Hawks will be licking their wounds after getting swept at Minnesota Duluth 5-2 and 3-0, and will play the Gophers on November 4 at 7 pm and November 5 at 8 pm with both games on Fox Sports North.
“The battle level and battle intensity was there all weekend long, that’s something that our guys have to understand,” said Lucia with next weekend looming. “When you go into the battle, it’s having a plan to win a battle and it’s not just who is stronger, but who is stronger on the puck and that’s an area we have to continue to get better at.”