MANKATO, Minn. — Special teams made the difference Saturday night as the Minnesota Golden Gophers (22-7-2 overall, 15-5-2 WCHA) edged the Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks (17-12-1 overall, 11-10-1 WCHA), 3-1.
The Gophers received outstanding play from junior goaltender Adam Hauser, who carried his dominance from Friday night into the second game of the series. Minnesota also got two goals from forward John Pohl and two assists from captain Erik Westrum, who had six points on the weekend.
MSU also had excellent goaltending from goalie Eric Pateman, but special teams hurt the Mavericks, who allowed a power-play goal in the first and went 0-for-7 on the power play themselves. The Mavericks were 0-for-15 with an extra man during the entire series.
“I thought we played better tonight, but not good enough,” said MSU head coach Troy Jutting. “You have to execute on the power play. We were 0-15 [on the power play] this weekend, and you’re not going to win games doing that. We’ve got to score on the power play. That’s the difference.”
Even though the Mavericks dominated the first period for the second night in a row, they were unable to capitalize, and Minnesota scored on its first shot of the night.
With a 4-on-3 advantage, Pohl tallied his second power-play goal of the weekend at the 3:52 mark. Pohl, who was positioned on the left side of the net, got the puck and fired it across the crease. The puck struck a defenseman’s skate and beat MSU’s Pateman on the right side. Minnesota, which has the nation’s best power play, went 1-for-8 on the man advantage.
“The puck came to me,” said Pohl, “and I was going to fire across hoping that [Westrum] was there. It just hit their guy’s skate and went in.”
Hauser stepped up in the middle of the period as the Mavericks came on strong, and even got a little luck to keep his team in the lead. Six minutes in, MSU defenseman Aaron Forsythe took a huge slapshot that Hauser stopped, but the rebound went right to forward Jerry Cunningham. Cunningham fired the puck underneath Hauser, and the puck hit the left post and deflected into the corner.
Minnesota State’s determination finally paid off as senior T. J. Guidarelli got his fifth goal of the year 13:19 into the period. Guidarelli took a nice pass from B. J. Abel in the corners and cut in on the goal from the right side. He moved across the crease untouched and slid the puck underneath Hauser to beat him five-hole.
The Gophers came out with better play in the second period, but neither team got many chances early as physical play kept offense at a minimum.
Hauser made his best save of the game six minutes into the period. With Ben Tharp off for hooking, MSU got a great chance on the power play as junior Nate Mauer passed from behind the net to a streaking Abel who found himself all alone with Hauser in front. Abel one-timed the pass, but Hauser made an unbelievable stop and allowed no rebound.
The Gophers dominated the period late, but it was Pateman’s turn to put on a show. Pateman made a great glove save on Jordan Leopold’s slapshot on the power play, and also stopped Westrum on a great chance in the slot, and Nick Angell with a nice slapshot, all in a two-minute span.
But MSU’s inability to get the puck out of its own zone led to Pohl’s second goal of the game. Off a faceoff win, Westrum took a shot from the top of the right circle, and the puck hit Pohl’s stick and deflected past Pateman for the eventual game-winner with 1:34 left in the period.
“The goal came off the draw,” explained Pohl, who called both of his goals “lucky.” “It went back to Paul [Martin], and Paul threw up to Westrum. I was just trying to turn and never saw the puck. I wasn’t trying to hit it, but the puck just hit my stick.”
Minnesota scored early in the third to put the game out of Minnesota State’s reach. Off a funny bounce in the Maverick zone, the puck flew high in the air. Pateman made one of his few errors of the night and came 15 feet out of the net to attempt to catch the puck in traffic. Pateman missed the puck, fell down, and Gopher freshman Jon Waibel was able to slide the loose puck into the empty net. The goal was Waibel’s first of his career.
Hauser made more key saves, including a brilliant stop of Cunningham’s backhand attempt on the power play, to keep the Gophers ahead for good. Penalties also marred MSU and they were never able to get back on track in the period.
“The big goal was the second one,” Gopher head coach Don Lucia said. “It was ‘Who’s gonna get that next goal?’ The goaltenders were outstanding and goals were tough to come by tonight.”
Lucia complimented Pateman’s performance and was very happy with Hauser’s “aggressive play,” even though he was unhappy with two penalties Hauser took by hauling down Maverick players.
Minnesota returns home next weekend to host Colorado College, while MSU-Mankato stays at home to play Michigan Tech.