MANKATO, Minn. — In October, it’s only fitting that baseball comparisons are used, even in hockey.
After stopping 34 of 35 shots in a 2-1 win for Providence (3-0-0) over Minnesota State, sophomore goalie Bobby Goepfert was being compared to one of MLB’s greats.
“It’s like having Pedro (Martinez) on the hill,” said sophomore Torry Gajda, who scored the game winner. “When he’s in the net, you know it’s going to be a great night.”
But instead of throwing bullets, Goepfert was stopping them. After allowing a goal early in the first, Goepfert was impenetrable and fueled his team’s come-from-behind victory in front of 3,417.
“Certainly on the road you’re going to need good goaltending,” said Friar coach Paul Pooley. “He gave us a lot of confidence, there’s no question.”
“He was unbelievable,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said. “We had a lot of great chances. He played a great hockey game.”
Goepfert’s best save came in the second period with the game tied 1-1. While the Mavericks (0-1-0) were on the power play, a shot came from the point and missed before bouncing back on the left side.
Maverick freshmen Lucas Fransen snuck in from the blue line and had a wide-open net. However, Goepfert leaped to his right and knocked the puck away just in time.
“As soon as the shot missed the net, I saw everybody turn, so I got up as quick as I could,” Goepfert said. “And by the time I got up, he put it in the air, and I was fortunate enough to get my leg on it.”
Everyone in the arena was impressed by the save, including the coaches.
“He makes the saves that he should make, and every now and then he makes the saves he shouldn’t,” Pooley said. “That was one tonight where he maybe shouldn’t have, but he does. And that’s why he’s a good goaltender for us.”
“I think at times when a goalie is having a night like that … you’ve got to be real good, and you’ve got to be a little bit lucky,” Jutting said.
Goepfert’s solid play gave the Friars, who were outshot 35 to 28, a chance to win, which they did on Gajda’s goal in the third.
With 10:03 left in the game, senior Jonathan Goodwin passed the puck from behind the net to Gajda in front. The forward put the puck past MSU’s Jon Volp and into the right side of the net.
“It was a great play by Goodwin,” Gajda said. “He took the guy with him behind the net, and I kept my stick down. Then I saw an opening and took it.”
“I had a ton of shots, and I knew one of them was going to go. It was just a matter of when,” added Gajda, who had four shots in the first period and six in the game.
The Mavericks, who haven’t started the regular season with a win since the 1998-1999 season, came out strong and took a 1-0 lead at the 4:08 mark of the first.
The goal was a mirror image of what happened numerous times last season. Shane Joseph, the nation’s top returning scorer, received a pass at center ice and split two Providence defensemen. He deked Goepfert to the ice and slid the puck inside the right post. Freshmen David Backes and Kyle Peto earned their first collegiate assists on the goal.
“He’s electric,” Pooley said of Joseph. “At times, he just toys with you.”
Goepfert made amends for the goal and kept MSU scoreless the rest of the period. He robbed Joseph on five more shots in the first, and he stopped sophomore Ryan McKelvie’s breakaway attempt by stacking the pads late in the period.
“The first period, he held us in there,” Pooley said. “We gave up a lot of shots, and we bent but didn’t break largely because of him.”
Junior Chris Chaput notched the equalizer early in the second. Peter Zingoni attempted to put the puck in on a wraparound, but it slid across the crease and onto Chaput’s stick. He lifted the puck past Volp at 3:32 of the period.
Jutting, who is 0-4 in regular season openers as a coach, didn’t blame the loss on the fact that the Friars already have two games under their belts.
“I think it definitely helps to play two games already and be in that environment,” Jutting said, “but I thought in a lot of ways we played a very good hockey game. You’ve got to score goals, though, if you’re going to win. I think when you get the number of quality chances we did, you have to score. Providence is a very good hockey team.”
“We did a lot of things good out there. We made a couple of mistakes, and they capitalized on them,” Joseph said. “We had a lot of chances, and they had a really good ‘tender.”
The two teams will finish the nonconference series Saturday night with game time set for 7:05 p.m.
“We had a bunch of chances, and tomorrow we’ve just got to look at getting to the net and putting those chances in,” Joseph said.