After Friday night’s game which did literally come to the very end, the Minnesota Golden Gophers wanted Saturday to be a different story so they could “save face” with pollsters who would be unkind come Monday when the national poll comes out. Adam Wilcox and Stephon Williams received the starts in net for Minnesota and Minnesota State.
Minnesota’s Mark Alt got the first shot away in the opening two minutes of play. It was clear off the hop that Minnesota was intent on gaining the split, and it was clear that Minnesota’s top line of Kyle Rau, Nick Bjugstad, and Erik Haula needed offensive production.
Minnesota State’s opening shot came at 3:52 as Matt Leitner lobbed one on Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox, but Wilcox was up to the task. The game’s opening five minute period had more speed than all of the first period did on Friday.
There were no penalties in the first few minutes of the game, and it felt like the first penalty taken would lead to a goal. Nate Schmidt would test Stephon Williams toward the six and a half minute mark, only for Williams to answer.
At 6:34, Minnesota State’s Johnny McInnis and Minnesota’s Zach Budish would be called for roughing after a fracas at the net of Adam Wilcox. The teams were four on four for two minutes, which equaled more space to work for each team. Time with each team down a man didn’t produce a single goal, so the game was scoreless.
Shots were 8-4 in favor of Minnesota with 11:30 gone, with seven different Gophers taking shots on goal. At 12:35, Minnesota’s Justin Holl scored an even strength goal off a breakaway effort that was simply the stuff of legend. Holl was unassisted in his Herculean effort.
At 14:31, coincidental cross checking minors were called against Minnesota’s Brady Skiej and Minnesota State’s Teddy Blueger. Four on four play didn’t change the scoreboard, and as the stretch run continued, Minnesota kept their one-goal lead.
An interference penalty at 17:19 was called against Minnesota State’s Zach Palmquist, giving Minnesota a power play chance. Not even a minute later, at 18:11, Minnesota’s Nate Schmidt scored on the power play. Schmidt was assisted by Zach Budish and Erik Haula on his effort that would send Minnesota to the locker room with a lead. At 18:57, penalties were called on both teams as Minnesota sent Seth Ambroz and Ben Marshall while Minnesota State sent Evan Mosey and Eriah Hayes for roughing after the whistle. Marshall was also given an unsportsmanlike penalty while Minnesota State’s Teddy Blueger got an instigating minor. At 19:48, Minnesota’s Sam Warning was cited for elbowing.
That meant that shots after twenty favored Minnesota 13-8 and Minnesota was 1-1 on power plays while Minnesota State didn’t have a true power play yet.
As the second period started, Minnesota State was on the power play thanks to the Warning elbow. Minnesota State couldn’t convert with its advantage, though they had two shots on it.The second period brought speed from both teams, but it was Minnesota State who was needing to make a Herculean effort to just get back on terms with the Gophers.
The first eight minutes of the second period brought about no new penalties, and the Mavericks were slowly pressuring in the Minnesota end. The middle stages of the game didn’t get much in the way of stoppages, which also led to a lot of open hockey.
Shots were 18-16 in favor of Minnesota at the 32:00 mark and Nate Schmidt was Minnesota’s most popular shooter with four bangs of the biscuit. The first penalty of the second period came against Minnesota’s Mike Reilly at 13:18, as Reilly went for cross checking. Minnesota State’s second power play of the night would not come to fruition, and the Mavericks realistically had difficulty shooting during the advantage.
The second period entered its stretch run with Minnesota keeping a lot of the advantage, and the swagger that they had from the play in the opening period. As forty minutes ended, shots favored Minnesota State 20-19, while Minnesota State was 0-2 on the power play. Minnesota was 1-1 on a power play from the first period.
The third period started with the Mavericks really turning on the speed, but the Gopher defense was unfazed. Just like in the previous two periods, there weren’t many stoppages early in the third period.
As the game ticked towards fifty minutes, Minnesota State’s Stephon Williams made the save of the year on Jake Parenteau, but the Maverick teammates of Williams couldn’t get anything going offensively.
At 8:34, both teams got together in one corner. Minnesota State’s Eriah Hayes was sent off for boarding. Minnesota’s second power play started hot, but Stephon Williams made a left-handed save twenty seconds into the power play that was easily a SportsCenter candidate for a top ten play.
At 9:46, Minnesota’s Zach Budish blasted a puck down Broadway to put the game away and take a 3-0 lead. Erik Haula was credited with an assist. That was lights out in Mankato.
The game would wind down without Minnesota State generating much of an attack until the 12:59 mark. Minnesota State’s Zach Lehrke would score on a rebound via an even strength tally. Lehrke was assisted by Bryce Gervais and JP LaFontaine. Shortly thereafter, at 13:26, a potential goal by Johnny McInnis was waved off via a punch of the puck.
Shots were even at 27-27 with 6:13 remaining in the game and the series. The game was far from over, however.
With 3:49 remaining, Minnesota State pulled Stephon Williams, thereby crucifying its chances to win. Erik Haula put icing on the cake via an empty net goal. Haula was assisted by an Energizer bunny named Kyle Rau. At 18:08, Minnesota State’s Bryce Gervais was called for boarding, giving Minnesota their third and final power play of the game.
As the final buzzer fell, Minnesota ended the game with a 29-27 advantage in shots. Minnesota ended the game 2-3 on power plays with Minnesota State going 0-2.
The Gophers take a week off before going on an “extended road trip,” as they next face the Huskies of St Cloud State. Puck drop on February 8th is scheduled for 7:30pm CT on FOX Sports North Plus.
Geoff Discher is snaptwig.com’s Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey Examiner as well as the National College Hockey Examiner. Leave a comment below, or feel free to reach him at Disch61@hotmail.com with comments, story ideas, or any general talk surrounding college hockey. You can find him on Facebook as well by clicking here as well as here and joining the conversation from the social media side as well. He’s always chock full of fact and opinion. I’m also on Twitter @GophHkyExmnr. Check it out!
Until next time, I’ll see you at the rink!