For much of Friday’s game between first place Minnesota and last place Minnesota State, it was difficult to decipher who was the top team and who was the bottom one. The answer to said question came in the third period, when in the span of about 10 seconds, the Mavericks had a chance to win, and then lost on a goal at the other end.
Playing shorthanded, MSU senior forward Michael Dorr raced in on a breakaway on Gopher goalie Kent Patterson. His shot whistled well high and wide, directed around the glass and onto the stick of a Gopher. Minnesota charged to the other end and Nate Schmidt set up Erik Haula on a slap shot from the blueline — hit not that especially hard — that somehow found its way into the Maverick net.
MSU head coach Troy Jutting thought it was a shot that should have been stopped, as were the other two that got through senior goaltender Austin Lee.
Make no mistake; Lee made some terrific saves at various points Friday night. But as has been the case for much of the early part of their season, the upperclassmen have simply not shown up.
In the span of 10 seconds at Mariucci tonight, a pair of seniors had a chance to turn the game upside down. Instead, Minnesota went ahead 3-2 and added an empty netter at the end for the final 4-2 margin.
Once again, the Mavericks best line was their freshman grouping of J.P. Lafontaine, Matt Leitner and Max Gaede. Lafontaine’s power play goal which tied the game at two in the second, featured a tremendous leg save by another freshman — defenseman Zach Palmquist — to keep the puck in the zone near the half wall. Palmquist then gathered in the puck, charged to the net and created a pile in front, where Lafontaine swooped in and roofed a rebound shot over Patterson.
It was the eighth goal in just 15 games for Lafontaine, who’s quietly putting together a great freshman campaign (more on him and the other MSU freshmen coming Monday). But if MSU is going to try and mount some sort of second half charge to respectability, it’s clear where that will have to come from.
“We need our older guys to step it up,” Lafontaine said. “They need to start playing, start scoring and they’re not doing that.”
Lafontaine and Leitner lead the Mavericks in scoring this season while linemate Max Gaede has looked the part since returning from injury a couple of weeks ago. Right now, it’s really all the Mavericks have going for them.