MANKATO – Mike Hastings talked about wanting to defend home ice after a rare loss to Minnesota.
#5 Minnesota State-Mankato snatched momentum following an uneven first period and a lengthy penalty kill to start the second period, and Ryan Sandelin scored with 5:58 remaining in regulation to lift the Mavericks past the 2nd ranked Golden Gophers 3-2 on Saturday night at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center, salvaging a split of their non-conference series.
Mankato never really got started in a loss Friday night in Minneapolis, and Hastings talked about the importance of avoiding an 0-2 start in front of their home crowd.
“Didn’t get off to the start we were looking for,” said Hastings, as his Mavericks (1-1) beat the Gophers for the 8th time in their last 10 meetings, including twice in the last two NCAA tournaments. “I thought we stuck with it. I thought the guys banded together. It was a good win for us.
“Minnesota’s a really good hockey team. We knew they’d be coming in to try and finish us off from last night. I like the way we stuck around and didn’t go away.”
Sandelin, a senior forward from Hermantown and the son of Minnesota Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin (whose Bulldogs visit Mankato for a two-game series next weekend), beat Minnesota goaltender Justen Close down low for his game-winner.
“We could’ve easily sat back and felt bad for ourselves, but we kinda dug our heels in and battled, and we ended up getting the game-winner,” said Sandelin. “That shows the resiliency of this group.”
Jimmy Snuggerud opened the scoring in the first period for the Gophers (3-1) with a beautiful top-shelf shot for his 4th goal of the weekend, but a lengthy period of time spent on the power play with nothing coming out of it proved costly in the end as Minnesota fell for the first time this season.
“We were okay tonight. Okay ain’t gonna cut it though in a game like this,” said Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko. “We have to be better than okay.”
Neither team possessed the puck for long periods of time in their respective offensive zones in the first ten minutes of the game – it became a defensive battle early. With under five minutes to go in the first, Snuggerud got things started. The freshman forward, a St. Louis Blues draft pick from Chaska – about an hour’s drive northeast of Mankato – continued his outstanding weekend with a sniper from the left circle to give the Gophers a 1-0 advantage after one. Snuggerud, whose hat trick on Friday powered Minnesota to a 4-1 victory in the series opener, is likely to be voted Big Ten First Star of the Week for his actions.
Things seemed to be going more the way of the Gophers early in the second period as two penalties were called on the Mavericks 1:07 apart, one of which was a boarding major and a game misconduct on David Silye that had Minnesota on a long power play. But despite five or six shots on the power play time, the Gophers could not find a way to get one of them past Keenan Rancier, who ended up having a great night in net for Minnesota State.
“I’m wanting to see how Keenan would handle back-to-back,” Hastings said. “He lets the first one in, but I think he’d like to have [that] back, but I asked him to shut the door after that and I thought he did a really good job of that.”
Motzko figured a momentum shift was coming after nearly six minutes of power play time for the Gophers ended up with no goals.
“You see that in hockey all the time, especially on the road,” he said. “Our D handled it, but I was disappointed in our forwards tonight. We needed a little more bite tonight out of our forwards.”
At that point, the Mavericks took the momentum, not allowing a shot on goal on their end and peppering Close on the other end until a Campbell Cichosz shot from the slot found its way through heavy traffic and in, giving the freshman defenseman from Albert Lea his first collegiate goal and tying the game at 1.
“I think it’s everything,” Hastings said when asked about the momentum swing.
Mankato took their first lead of the weekend early in the third as an Ondrej Pavel rebound went right to Josh Groll on the doorstep, who tapped it in for a 2-1 lead. But the Gophers had an answer barely a minute later as a centering feed from Charlie Strobel found Mason Nevers on the backdoor, and the Edina native put it in to tie the game at 2.
“It started with a great play by [Jaxon Nelson] on the backcheck, kinda pickpocketed the guy in the neutral zone and we had three guys go on with speed so a nice little 3-on1,” Nevers said. “[Strobel] and [Ryan Johnson] had a little yin and yang, and Strobes found me backdoor and I probably did the least of the work.”
Missed opportunities continued to hurt the Gophers, however, and after a turnover in their own zone, Sandelin scored the 30th goal of his career on a low laser to the glove side of Close, and it was 3-2 Mavericks. Rancier concluded his fine performance with a series of saves over the final 1:15 while Minnesota had the extra attacker on. He finished with 25 saves, while Justen Close had 30 for the Gophers.
Minnesota is idle next week before the archrival North Dakota Fighting Hawks visit 3M Arena at Mariucci in two weeks.
MINN goal at 15:31: Jimmy Snuggerud (4). Assisted by Rhett Pitlick (4) and Jackson LaCombe (4).
MSU goal at 14:36: Campbell Cichosz (1st collegiate goal). Assisted by Ondrej Pavel (1).
MSU goal at 4:17: Josh Groll (1). Assisted by Pavel (2) and Jake Livingstone (1).
MINN goal at 5:18: Mason Nevers (1). Assisted by Charlie Strobel (1st collegiate point) and Ryan Johnson (5).
MSU goal at 14:02: Ryan Sandelin (1). Assisted by Sam Morton (1) and Christian Fitzgerald (1st collegiate point).
Power plays: MINN 0-3, MSU 0-4.
Shots on goal: MINN 27, MSU 33.