MINNEAPOLIS- The goaltender position is the great equalizer in hockey, which the Gophers experienced first-hand against the WCHA cellar dwellers in a comeback 2-1 win Sunday afternoon.
Minnesota State (3-19-2, 0-16-1 WCHA) goalie Brianna Quade came close to proving that the poker adage "chip and a chair" can translate to the ice rink, making 48 saves in a game where the chances were titled away from her team. Quade and the Mavericks defense led #3 Minnesota team for two periods despite being out-shot by an overall total of 50-8. (Shot attempts were 117-18 Gophers.)
Minnesota (19-3-0, 15-3-0 WCHA) defender Megan Wolfe ended the Mavericks' chance at a massive upset by scoring the game-winning goal for the second straight game. Hers came after co-captain Lee Stecklein broke the deadlock earlier in the third period.
"I'm just so proud of our team and our players and the way they battled here tonight. I'm not sure we could have played much better," said Minnesota head coach Brad Frost. "We talked a lot before the game about playing with a lot of passion and conviction and desperation today and I thought we did that."
A day after not being happy with the team's performance in the third period, Minnesota was much happier with everything in the first period except the only one that matters: the scoreboard.
Mavericks leading scorer Hannah Davidson made quick work of the team's power play. While Minnesota State head coach John Harrington was getting his second PP unit ready, she took six seconds after Gophers forward Cara Piazza was sent to the penalty box to get the puck past Sidney Peters.
Hers was one of the team's three shot attempts to Minnesota's 42 in the first period. It didn't matter. Minnesota State led 1-0 after the first period thanks to 18 saves by Quade.
"Brianna was terrific. She really was. Minnesota certainly had us running around and had our head spinning on the ice a couple times there, but Brianna Quade was outstanding in goal," Harrington said.
Minnesota, once again playing without one of the nation's top players in Hannah Brandt as well as Taylor Williamson and Paige Haley, went 0-3 on the power play during the first period. Minnesota State found success blocking shots and getting sticks in lanes to move pucks into the corners.
What the defenders did not get Quade did, denying point-blank chances by Sarah Potomak and Brook Garzone, along with a redirected tip by Sophie Skarzynski.
Still, the Gophers were not frustrated on the bench.
"I really think we didn't let frustration get to us today, which is great. I think it's easy when things aren't going your way maybe to let it happen, but we all just came together closer with each chance that they stopped or we missed and realized that it would come eventually," Stecklein said. "We had to do exactly what we were doing."
It came with Minnesota's fourth power play chance of the afternoon when Stecklein, normally a stay-at-home defender, tapped in a Kate Schipper pass on the back door to tie the game 6:22 into the third.
"She played great," said Stecklein about Quade, who came within two saves of matching her career high. "A huge credit to her because she played fantastic."
One of the few to do so against Minnesota State's defense, Wolfe's wrist shot got through traffic six minutes later. Peters, who made 7 saves, had her two toughest challenges late.
For Harrington, giving up only 5 goals in two losses this weekend to Minnesota's offense does come as a moral victory for his team.
"We have to take something like that because we haven't had any victories in the league. I just told our team after the game that I was proud of them and that it didn't show up in the left-hand column, the "W" column, as far as a win, but it showed up there as far as character and compete," he said.
Minnesota travels to St. Cloud State next weekend. Minnesota State hosts Ohio State.
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