The#1 Minnesota State University, Mankato Mavericks came out of the gate strong. They controlled the play against the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers for the first ten minutes of the game. And leaped out to an 8-1 shots on goal advantage. They even victimized Gopher freshman Steve Johnson into an early tripping penalty and hit a post behind Gopher goaltender Adam Wilcox. The Mankato crowd brought a small but vocal group of fans.
To their credit, the Golden Gophers weathered the early storm, largely due to Wilcox's efforts early on.
Maverick Captain Chase Grant took a tripping penalty at 9:36 of the first period. The ensuing Gopher power play was UGLY. They couldn't complete passes, misplayed pucks in the offensive zone, and allowed Mankato short-handed rushes (which the Gophers backchecked admirably, I guess).
At one point after the powerplay expired, Seth Ambroz attempted to dump a puck deep into Mankato territory, and flipped it nonchalantly into the stands. This was an ugly first period all around.
The most disappointing aspect of the period was the Gophers inability to sustain any presence in the offensive zone or get pucks close to the net.
Improbably, based on how the period was progressing the Gophers got on the board first. With just over two minutes remaining in the period, Seth Ambroz picked up a rebound from Steve Johnson's shot and tucked it under the crossbar. Leon Bristedt was credited with the second assist.
Shortly afterward, Mankato's Bryce Gervais took a nifty pass from Matt Leitner in the corner and tapped it past Wilcox. It was Mankato's 13th and final shot of the period. The first ended 1-1.
If you're interested in Corsi, it wasn't a pretty period for Minnesota. Attempted shots favored the Mavericks by a margin of 20-12, which is 62.5 for you mathematicians out there. It showed on the shot chart, where the majority of Mankato's shots were right from the top of the crease while the Gophers managed only TWO shot ATTEMPTS from beneath the faceoff dots.
Just wow. pic.twitter.com/gQzWhb2bfq— TDG's DK5 (@Dark516Knight) January 24, 2015
Gervais picked up his second goal of the at 2:26 on a rifle shot over Wilcox's blocker. Leiter picked up his second assist of the game, with a second assist going to Casey Nelson. The Mavericks now led 2-1, and it felt like it could be much more.
Just as I was pondering how Mankato was pounding the puck down the Gophers' throats, Mankato picked up a delayed penalty. In the ensuing 6-on-5, Michael Brodzinski scored on a screened shot from the point that trickled between Stephon Williams' legs to tie the game. Assists went to Ryan Reilly (making just his tenth appearance of the year) and Brady Skjei.
The ensuing powerplay didn't lead to anymore scoring but did allow the Gophers to close the shots-on-goal gap.
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The Mavericks stole the lead back when Dylan Margonari hit CJ Franklin (Winnipeg Jets) on a long stretch pass which led to a breakaway and goal. The Mavs lead once again, this time 3-2.
They stretched that lead to 4-2 on a powerplay with about five minutes left in the second Jon Justzi scored on yet another odd-man rush where the Gophers defenders didn't play the puck, or the open man. Mike Reilly sort attempted to body Jutzi away from the rebound, but whiffed. As the puck came off the back wall, Jutzi popped it in from the side of the net. That score would hold through the end of the period.
Minnesota out-attempted the Mavericks in the second, and managed to get four shots from the edge of the crease.
Needing a strong third period, the Gophers did not come out of the locker room well. Through 11 minutes of play in the third, the Gophers did not have a shot on goal. In a desperate situation, they were not playing like a desperate team. The Gophers got their first shot on goal of the period at 14:55.
The officiating at this point began to decline. The Gophers were robbed of two powerplays by a ridiculous embellishment call and a holding the stick call that were assess coincidentally at the same time as two obvious holding penalties called against Mankato. I disagree with embellishment being a penalty philosophically, and I don't think I've ever seen a holding the stick penalty called on a player who had an opponent draped on his back.
That doesn't take away from the Mavericks' accomplishment tonight. Minnesota was thoroughly outclassed, and they really didn't start playing until about five minutes left in the third period. They showed very little grit or determination through most of the game. They lost races to pucks. They didn't pass well. They impose their forecheck.
They had an opportunity to turn their season around, and they didn't show up for most of the game.