MINNEAPOLIS- Minnesota State only led for a grand total of 44 seconds Friday night at Mariucci Arena, but that didn’t really matter. They were last 44 seconds.
Mavericks freshman Brett Knowles buried the rebound from a Zach Palmquist shot past Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox to give the visiting Minnesota State (16-8-3, 10-8-1 WCHA) a 2-1 win to snap a ten-game unbeaten streak. The goal was just Knowles’ second of the season and rewarded Mavericks goalie Stephon Williams for his 37 save performance against the Gophers.
Minnesota (17-4-4, 9-4-4 WCHA) got off to a slow start, being out-shot 12-8 in the first period, yet got on the board first. Following a scoreless first, defenseman Nate Schmidt pinched in towards the net. He then simultaneously settled down a Nate Condon pass and shot the puck over Williams for a 1-0 Gopher lead 7:48 into the second period.
That held up for almost 9 minutes when the Mavericks tied the game up on the power play. Sophomore Matt Leitner caught the opposing defense napping in front of the net and set up junior Johnny McInnis for his 11th goal of the season. Although Minnesota more than doubled their shots on goal from the first 40 minutes in the third period, out-shooting Minnesota State 20-8, both teams had chances to win before Knowles’ game winner.
What I saw:
-Minnesota State made adjustments in the second and third period to get to the net better and it paid off with both of the team’s goals Friday night happening within 10 feet of the cage. While the Mavericks had 17 shot attempts in the opening 20 minutes, only 2 of them were below the face-off dot and none were in the slot. That made it easy for Wilcox to see the puck and make saves.
In the third period, Minnesota State had 16 shot attempts yet 5 – including the game-winner – were right in front of Wilcox and 9 were head-on.
– Minnesota came out slow for the third straight Friday and while they didn’t end up trailing early like the previous two, the Gophers were the ones burned with a last-minute goal. They looked like the team that had dominated Boston College, Notre Dame and North Dakota over the final ten minutes but the offensive wasn’t clicking for most of the first 50. Stephon Williams deserves credit for that and goes to show how they can’t take a night off in the WCHA.
-Both teams played pretty evenly throughout the game and that was showing in the goals (a pair of defensive breakdowns and a rebound) and pair of strong goaltending performances.
What I thought:
-Adam Wilcox had a solid game Friday, making 31 saves in defeat. However, he also seemed to be tentative at times. When I asked him about it, Wilcox said, “There weren’t too many opportunities where I had to (leave the net). We were breaking out good enough right now where we didn’t have too many turnovers.”
-Williams, meanwhile, did a great job steering pucks to the outside and Minnesota State’s defense kept the Gophers off-balance. Although the top-six had chances, Minnesota’s best line Friday was the third line of Tom Serratore, Travis Boyd and Justin Holl.
-Minnesota State played their best hockey following the Schmidt goal and dug themselves back into the game. It looked like they might fade in the second period before that but in the end Friday was the first time in 2013 the Gophers lost a game after scoring the first goal. They were 13-0-3 before tonight.
-Knowles was excited to score the last-minute winner; just not in Nail Yakupov fashion
What they said:
– Mike Hastings: “We fought through a lot in the third period.”
-Don Lucia on Williams: “He was good tonight. I thought both goalies played very well tonight. They kind of settled in where it was going to be a ‘low-scoring, one play was going to make the game’.”
-Nate Schmidt on the Gophers’ sluggish start: “Not really. I really don’t have an answer for you.
“There’s no weekends off in the WCHA. There really isn’t. With how good the league is this year a team like Mankato is going to come in here and if we have a lackluster first period that is what is going to happen. First, second period we were sloppy and never had a chance to pull away in the game”
-The two teams play again tomorrow night in Mankato. Puck drops at 7 p.m. CT and the game airs on Fox Sports North Plus.
-The Mavericks held Minnesota to less than four goals for the first time in 10 games. Not surprisingly that was the last time the Gophers lost.
-MSU-M defenseman Josh Nelson returned after missing 4 games. He was also called for a holding penalty with 3:12 remaining in regulation that was simultaneously called a dive on Minnesota forward Kyle Rau.
-Attendance was announced at 10,076.