The script for Minnesota State looked so familiar that the ending seemed all but inevitable. The Mavericks looked well on their way to a sixth straight non-conference, and fifth shutout in those six losses.
They trailed Minnesota 2-0 with just over three-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game when Bryce Gervais managed to tip in a Casey Nelson shot from the point to put Minnesota State on the board. Starting an improbable comeback that led to a 3-2 overtime victory for Minnesota State.
After Gervais' goal, which came with goalie Jason Pawloski pulled, the Mavericks would net the equalizer with just 44.9 seconds remaining in the game, again with Pawloski out of the net for an extra attacker, when defenseman Daniel Brickley leaped into the air to glove down a clearing attempt, they fed the puck to Max Coatta, who hit Knowles in the slot for the goal to tie the game.
With momentum on their side, Minnesota State had the better quality chances in overtime, and in the final minute of overtime, Teddy Blueger picked up the puck in the neutral zone and on a two-on-one, held the puck, cut to the middle of the ice and slid a shot through the pads of Schierhorn for a 3-2 Minnesota State victory.
Minnesota State's Jason Pawloski made 24 saves in the victory, while Eric Schierhorn stopped 28 shots in the loss. The victory moves Minnesota State back to .500 on the season with a 6-6-0 record. Minnesota falls to 4-5-0 on the year. Minnesota State travels to Marquette, Michigan next weekend for a WCHA series against Northern Michigan while Minnesota has the week off to regroup before a Thanksgiving weekend home series against St. Cloud State.
Notes and Thoughts:
-Welp. This is pretty much a complete re-write from my first draft.
I don't know what to say about this one. Minnesota did everything they needed to do for 57 minutes of this game and Minnesota State looked absolutely horrible for 57 minutes. Yes, the Gophers went into a shell in the third period, but so does every single other college hockey team and that's more than good enough 99% of the time. Minnesota State just happened to get some lucky bounces at the right time. Gervais' goal didn't look any more dangerous than about 30 other attempts tonight that Minnesota State flung into the forest of bodies in front of the Minnesota net. That one just happened to find the back of the net. It's a painful loss for Minnesota, but one that is so weird that you just have to shrug it off as an outlier.
-Minnesota State played two very bad periods to start the game, and looked like they would escape both unharmed. And in both periods they gave up a late, (seemingly) back-breaking goal.
In the first period, Mike Huntebrinker was whistled for a penalty with just 18 seconds left in the period. Eight seconds later, the puck was in the back of the net for the game's first goal. College hockey games are often a race to one goal and for Minnesota State to go down in an escapable situation put them in a huge hole.
Still, they were at least one lucky bounce from getting back into the game for much of the second period, despite being dominated in terms of possession. But with just over a minute remaining in the second period, Jason Pawloski--who was otherwise fantastic all night, and was the only reason Minnesota State had any chance in this game--misplayed the puck and gave up a very soft goal.
Late goals like that are difficult to overcome, and again, going down 2-0 like that is going to be a death sentence most nights. The Mavericks dodged a very major bullet here.
-The key match-up in this game was Minnesota's aggressive forecheck against Minnesota State's breakout, and that was a decisive victory for the Gophers. Minnesota was willing to sacrifice a potential odd-man rush in transition to pinch a D in and aggressively hold the offensive zone. In the first period, that yielded a few rush chances for Minnesota State, but they were poorly executed. In the second period, Minnesota State could not break the puck out of their zone at all. It was a huge help to the Mavericks when the Gophers backed off with a more conservative style of play in the third period.
The downside to that aggression came on the overtime winner. The Gophers survived an early 2-on-1 chance in overtime thanks to a defenseman pinching in the neutral zone when Eric Schierhorn bailed his team out with a huge save. But it happened again on the game's final play when Nick Seeler went for a big check in the neutral zone, sending Teddy Blueger in on a 2-on-1 which he would convert.
-Blueger's game-winner was another difference between Minnesota State's first 56 minutes and their final seven. On the few offensive rushes Minnesota State did have earlier in the game, it felt like they settled for longer range shots rather than taking a few extra strides and working for better position and a higher-quality chance. Those type of shots aren't going to beat a goalie like Schierhorn. But on the game-winner, Blueger held the puck and rather than taking a low angle shot from the right wing, he worked his way to the middle of the ice and had a much higher percentage shot.
Shots on Goal: UM: 9-10-7-1-27 MSU: 7-9-12-2-30
Even strength shot attempts: UM: 19-15-6-3-43-49.5% MSU: 13-9-20-2-44-50.5%
Prime scoring area attempts: UM: 6-7-1-0-14 MSU: 2-5-9-2-18
What do the numbers tell us?
Minnesota dominated the first two periods. The big focus should here should be on the prime scoring area attempts, of which there were extremely few for Minnesota State through two periods. Minnesota went into a shell in the third period and Minnesota State controlled the play in the third period. Again, you could make the argument that Minnesota was a little too conservative in that third period and gave up a few too many opportunities, but they played well enough to win most nights.
19:49 Justin Kloos from Michael Brodzinski and Connor Reilly (power play) 1-0 Minnesota
Brodzinski took a pass from Reilly at the right point and slid it across to Kloos at the left point. Kloos' one-time slap shot to the upper right corner of the net that beat Pawloski's glove.
18:58 Tyler Sheehy from Jack Glover 2-0 Minnesota
Sheehy grabbed the puck at the right point and, just trying to hold the zone, flung a high wrist in the direction of the goal. Pawloski stopped the puck with his blocker, but let it bounce over his shoulder and into the net.
16:28 Bryce Gervais from Casey Nelson and Teddy Blueger (extra attacker) 2-1 Minnesota
Blueger won the puck back to Nelson at the point off the face-off. Nelson's low shot was tipped by Gervais at around the hash marks and found the back of the net.
19:15 Brett Knowles from Max Coatta and Bryce Gervais (extra attacker) 2-2 Minnesota
Daniel Brickley made a jumping play to glove a clearing attempt down and keep it in the zone. He worked the puck to Gervais, who found Coatta on the left wing for a 2-on-1. Coatta slid a perfect pass to Knowles, who one-timed the puck into an open net.
4:17 Teddy Blueger from Brad McClure and Daniel Brickley 3-2 Minnesota State
McClure had the puck in the neutral zone, but was taken out of the play. Blueger picked up the loose puck and entered the zone with a 2-on-1 skating down the right wing. He cut to the middle of the ice at around the hash marks and his low shot slipped between the pads of Schierhorn for the goal.