MINNEAPOLIS- Although hockey teams will take every opportunity given to point out that they strive to play a complete sixty minute game, the game itself also contains three separate periods. Sometimes that is more obvious. Sometimes the back-and-forth action of a hockey game more closely approaches a boxing match with teams trading blows on one end of the ice.
Goals were answered and rounds - or periods - were won or lost.
That was the case Friday. St. Cloud State scored two power play goals at Mariucci Arena and played forty minutes of solid hockey. It was enough as SCSU came away with a 3-2 win over Minnesota (4-6-0, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten). The Huskies (10-3-0, 5-1-0-0 NCHC) won the first and third periods sandwiched around the home team dominating the second.
"The fans on (one) end got all the action," said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, whose quest for his 400th career win with the Gophers was once again denied. "We can't play an uneven game. St. Cloud State has a skilled team."
St. Cloud State dominated the opening twenty minutes, out-shooting Minnesota 11-5 and twice as many attempts on the ice. The Gophers returned the favor in the second period. Minnesota held the Huskies to two shots on goal, out-attempting 22-7, and scoring twice in a 1:10 span after SCSU had appeared to weather the storm.
An early third period power play for the Huskies helped the #7 ranked team in the country tie the game at two on Jimmy Murray's fifth goal of the year. Joey Benik re-gained St. Cloud State the lead for good with 12:44 remaining in regulation, lifting the puck over Gopher goaltender Eric Schierhorn.
"We started mismanaging the puck. That's one thing we talked about going into the third period with a lead. We need to manage the puck well right from that first shift and got in trouble," defenseman Ryan Collins said about the team's second consecutive loss after Minnesota held a second period lead.
Special teams and puck movement played into the opening goal. Jimmy Schuldt found an open David Morley next to the net with 13 seconds remaining on the power play. The redshirt senior redirected the puck 3:28 into the game.
While the Gopher players showed signs of rink rust after a week off, the team did fight back in the second period. Minnesota looked like a different club than the one which had left the ice stick tapping Schierhorn, who made 25 saves Friday, for saving them from being down more than a goal.
"We're not good enough to play that way. I thought there was too much forecheck poke and hope, you know try to poke the puck by and play the body. I didn't think we had great energy as far as the pace of our play," Lucia said. "Then it obviously picked up in the second period and we played a great second period."
Huskies goaltender Charlie Lindgren weathered the storm for most of the period, stopping several point-blank chances. Nick Seeler hit the post before Jake Bischoff's first of the season and Leon Bristedt's wraparound goal turned the game upside down.
But the third period and consistency have been unsolved problems that plagued the Gophers all season. The momentum changed once again. Minnesota disappointingly could not match the final blow, dropping another game that was within reach.
"We proved to ourselves that if we play the way we want to play and if we play the way that we are capable of playing we are a good hockey team. We proved that in the second period," Bristedt said. "It's all about finding a way to play that for sixty minutes and not just for twenty minutes or fifteen minutes."
Minnesota and St. Cloud State continue the two-game series after an off-day tomorrow. Sunday's series finale from Mariucci Arena begins at 6 p.m. CT.
SCSU - David Morley (6) (Jimmy Schuldt, Jimmy Murray 3:28 PP)
MIN - Jake Bischoff (1) (Vinni Lettieri, Leon Bristedt 15:21 PP)
MIN - Leon Bristedt (6) (Tommy Novak, Ryan Collins 16:31 EV)
SCSU - Jimmy Murray (5) (Morley, Niklas Nevalainen 3:05 PP)
SCSU - Joey Benik (8) Morley, Patrick Newell 7:16 EV)
SCSU 11 -2 - 15 -- 28
MINN 5 - 14 - 7 -- 26
SCSU 20 - 7 - 19 -- 46
MINN - 10 - 22 - 19 -- 51
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate