Few expected Friday’s game between the Gophers and Minnesota State-Mankato to a barnburner. In that regard, the game lived up to its expectations.
But the result -- a 2-1 Mavericks win -- was unexpected.
Brett Knowles scored with 44 seconds left to give the No. 14 Mavericks the victory over the No. 1 Gophers. It was Minnesota's first loss since Nov. 30.
“You knew it was going to be low-scoring. One play was going to make the game,” Gophers head coach Don Lucia said. “They made the play in the final minute.”
The two teams' freshman goalies stole the spotlight Friday. Mankato's Stephon Williams finished with 37 saves, and the Gophers' Adam Wilcox finished with 31.
Williams and Wilcox' strong efforts early kept the game scoreless after one period. Each team scored a goal in the second period.
Nate Schmidt broke the scoreless tie when he found himself with the puck near the crease and only the goaltender to beat after a pass from Nate Condon. The junior defender made a nifty move and beat Williams backhand.
“I just found myself in a couple unique situations tonight,” Schmidt said of being so close to the net even though he’s a defenseman. “Right now we’re trying to press a little bit [as defenders] and get pucks to the net.”
Later in the period, Johnny McInnis tied the game for the Mavericks on the power play after a behind-the-net pass from Matt Leitner.
The third period was entertaining. The Gophers had 20 shots, doubling their offensive output in the first two periods, but Williams stopped all 20. The freshman stood tall as the Gophers launched a blitzkrieg at him after Knowles' goal and ended the game with a glove save.
After holding the Mavericks to mainly perimeter shots in the first period, the Gophers allowed the Mavericks some opportunities closer to Wilcox in the second and third periods. Both the game-tying and game-winning goals were scored on Wilcox’s doorstep.
Mankato stayed out of the penalty box for the most part, but when the Gophers had the extra man, they did nothing with it.
“It was not very good,” Lucia said of his team's 0-for-2 performance on the power play. “It needs to be a whole lot better tomorrow.”
Lucia said the power play was a key part of the game because Mankato scored on it and Minnesota didn’t. The Mavericks went 1-for-3 on the power play and recorded only one shot — McInnis’ goal.