With the scored tied 1-1 late in the third, the Mavericks were right where they wanted to be against a tough Gopher squad. With under a minute remaining, Mankato forward Brett Knowles found the puck on his stick after a big rebound by Adam Wilcox and slammed it home into an open net, giving the Mavericks a 2-1 lead.
“I couldn’t see the shot, I just saw it hit someone in front me and I went down and it hit my pad right to the back door guy for the open net,” said Wilcox of the go-ahead goal.
Despite 20 shots on net by Minnesota in the final frame, the Mavericks were able to keep the game close until the very end, something coach Mike Hastings was pleased with.
“We fought through a lot in that third period,” said Hastings. “I thought the guys played well and we found a way to get one at the end.”
Although Minnesota State scored the game-winner late in the game, a slow start by the Gophers made things much easier for the Mavericks.
“There’s no weekend off in the WCHA, there really isn’t with how good the league is this year,” said Minnesota defenseman Nate Schmidt. “A team like Mankato is going to come in here and if have a lackluster first period, that’s what happens. The first and second periods we were sloppy and just didn’t ever have a chance to pull away from the game.”
The Gophers managed just eight shots on net and no goals in the first but were also able to keep the Mavericks scoreless. Minnesota took the lead at 7:48 of the second on a Schmidt goal off a perfect pass from Nate Condon.
“It was a nice play,” said Lucia of the goal. “That line played with good energy.”
Just as it looked like Minnesota was going to take control of the game, Minnesota State’s Johnny McInnis lit the lamp on the powerplay for the Mavericks to tie the game at 1-1.
With the teams deadlocked heading into the third period, Minnesota turned up the pressure, recording 20 shots on net, more than their previous two periods combined.
“I think our energy got better as the game went on,” said Don Lucia. “The third period was a good period. We got good surges; we had some opportunities. We just couldn’t get that next goal.”
Minnesota State hung around until they caught their break, a wide open rebound to Knowles who scored the game-winner, just his second of the season. The Gophers put pressure on in the final minute but were unable to find the back of the net, falling 2-1 to their in-state foe.
Following the loss, Minnesota will look to come out stronger in tomorrow’s rematch at Mankato.
“[This game] wasn’t the same intensity as the week before against North Dakota,” said Wilcox. “We’ve just got to bounce back, put it behind us, and forget about it.”
Saturday’s game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. from the Verizon Wireless Center and will be broadcast on FOX Sports North.