MINNEAPOLIS – Given the recent stretch in which there has been a lack of games, Bob Motzko is willing to be patient to let his team get back to where he thinks they should be.
Based on what he’s thinking, it’s a good thing they’ve got another game on Saturday night, because there are quite a few things that need fixing for his 10th-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers after Friday night’s 5-1 loss to the 4th-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
“We weren’t a very good hockey team tonight. If you were at the game, you saw it,” Motzko said.
“Thank goodness we get to play again, because we need to keep running out there right now and to work our way through it.”
It was a great night all around for MSU, and not just because they defeated Minnesota for the fifth time in seven meetings. Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, by now a well-known alumnus of Minnesota State where he played Division II college football, received a game jersey from head coach Mike Hastings in the visitors locker room before gametime. The Mavericks got two goals and two assists from Marc Michaelis and a goal and two assists from Charlie Gerard as part of an eight-point night from their top line. This is a deep team capable of putting goals up in bunches.
“[We] got off to a pretty good start. One thing we’ve had some issues with in this young season is our starts,” Hastings said.
Minnesota State got the scoring started just under six minutes into the contest as Dallas Gerads found a small opening on the near stick side of Gophers goaltender Mat Robson. Minnesota was able to tie it on a power-play goal by Brent Gates eight and a half minutes later, but MSU only needed one minute for their own response, reclaiming the lead on a Charlie Gerard goal.
“I thought our push-back right away after that allowed us to get some momentum back,” Hastings said.
Mankato quickly increased their lead to two 32 seconds into the second period as Nick Rivera buried a beautiful centering feed from Julian Napravnik right behind Gophers goaltender Mat Robson. That goal seemed to take the wind out of Minnesota’s sails for a while, but with about four minutes left in the second period they finally started to put pressure in the MSU zone and on goaltender Mathias Israelsson.
“We had a stretch in the second period where we started to see our game. Got a little life on the bench,” Motzko said.
The Gophers were unable to build on that momentum, however, as they failed on a power play early in the third period and the Mavericks got yet another deflating early-period goal as Marc Michaelis got a feed in the left circle from Gerard and scored, getting his first goal of the game and third point. Hastings thought that goal was the biggest one of the night for his team.
“Things can start unraveling if you’re not careful here,” he said. “For us to extend that and make that play, I think it’s the difference.”
Michaelis added his second goal and fourth point with under three and a half minutes left to cap the night’s scoring. With MSU on a penalty kill, the puck was sent to the neutral ice, and as it skittered into the Minnesota zone, goaltender Eric Schierhorn made a big mistake and raced to play the puck, but Michaelis beat him to it, deked him in the high slot and scored into an empty net.
If Minnesota intends to get a split of this series, they will need to build on the few things they did right on Friday, which won’t be easy since the series shifts down south on Highway 169.
“Put everything in this game in the garbage can. Thank goodness we get to play tomorrow, and let’s come back with a better effort tomorrow,” Motzko said.
Israelsson made 24 saves for the Mavericks to earn the victory. Robson made 17 saves before being pulled with nine and a half minutes left in favor of Schierhorn, who stopped one of two shots. Motzko said he put in Schierhorn just to give him some minutes.
Minnesota (1-2-1, 0-0-0 Big Ten) and Minnesota State-Mankato (6-1-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) will drop the puck at 7:00 CT on Saturday night at the Verizon Center in Mankato.
MSU goal at 5:56: Dallas Gerads (3). Assisted by Charlie Gerard (4) and Marc Michaelis (5).
MINN power-play goal at 14:33: Brent Gates (2). Assisted by Clayton Phillips (5) and Tommy Novak (2).
MSU goal at 15:41: Gerard (3). Assisted by Parker Tuomie (8) and Michaelis (6).
MSU goal at :32: Nick Rivera (2). Assisted by Julian Napravnik (2) and Jared Spooner (6).
MSU goal at :59: Marc Michaelis (4). Assisted by Charlie Gerard (5).
MSU shorthanded goal at 16:36: Michaelis (5). Unassisted.
Power plays: MSU 0-5, MINN 1-7.
Shots on goal: MSU 23, MINN 25.