MINNEAPOLIS — Down three after one period of play Friday night, the top-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers took control with five straight goals, then saw the Minnesota State Mavericks produce some magic of their own.
The Mavericks scored the last two goals of regulation, forcing a 5-5 tie that was nowhere near over until the last second ticked off the clock in overtime.
Leading 4-3 entering the third — thanks to goals on four consecutive power plays in the second period — the Gophers took a two-goal lead at 7:40 with their fifth power-play goal of the game. Defenseman Alex Goligoski scored off a slapshot from the point, with Evan Kaufmann picking up the single assist on what looked like an insurance goal.
The Mavericks were nowhere near ready to call it a night, however. At 12:56 of the third, Jon Kalinski netted his second goal of the game, firing a nifty, twisting backhander past Gopher netminder Kellen Briggs to make it 5-4 Minnesota.
After Gopher Mike Carman went off on a penalty with two minutes left in regulation, MSU’s Joel Hanson netted his second goal of the game, tying it up at 19:07 to send the matchup to overtime.
In the extra session, both teams had chances at half-open nets, and loose pucks lay tantalizingly free. Neither squad could capitalize, though, leaving the result a hard-earned draw.
“I’m very, very proud of our kids,” said Minnesota State head coach Troy Jutting, adding, “I thought we played well all night long. … We didn’t give up an even-strength goal all night.”
“To be honest, I was [surprised],” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia of the Mavericks’ late surge. “I thought once we gained the lead, especially to make it 5-3, that the game should have been over. But that’s to [the Mavericks'] credit.”
Along with a stunning series of momentum reversals, the game had ugly moments, including a melee in the second period during which MSU starting netminder Dan Tormey suffered a serious hand injury.
After Minnesota narrowed the lead to 3-1 with a power-play goal by Kaufmann, the Gophers went back on the man-advantage after Ryan Stoa forced MSU’s Steve Wagner into a hook just before the halfway point of the second period.
Seconds later, Minnesota’s Blake Wheeler crashed into Tormey with his skates up. Minnesota State captain Chad Brownlee leaped on Wheeler’s back, and a fracas ensued.
By the time the officials sorted it out, three more players from each side were in the box, including Wheeler and Brownlee, each of whom picked up 10-minute misconducts as well.
Tormey, meanwhile, suffered a severe cut to his left hand from Wheeler’s skate. Jutting identified the injury as a severed tendon and said that surgery was expected.
“He’s done for however long that takes,” said Jutting.
With the Gopher power play back on after the matching penalties, Carman centered to captain Mike Vannelli, whose wrister beat replacement goaltender Mike Zacharias to his right at 11:49 to narrow the lead to 3-2.
And on yet another power play, Kyle Okposo stuffed the puck five-hole to tie the contest at 3 at 13:33, extending his point-scoring streak to nine games with his team-leading 11th goal of the season.
The parade of penalties continued when MSU’s R.J. Linder threw a shoulder into Mike Howe along the boards and was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for checking from behind. Ben Gordon gave the Gophers their first lead of the night, tapping a Jay Barriball pass into the net at 16:45.
Early in the third period, MSU’s Kurtis Kisio put the Mavericks down a man yet again, plowing into Gopher netminder Kellen Briggs to give Minnesota its sixth power play of the game. But Zacharias kept the Mavericks in the game, sliding to stop a blast by Okposo that threatened to open a two-goal Gopher lead.
In the opening 20 minutes, the Mavericks dug quite the hole for the Gophers, scoring three times on just seven shots on net. MSU first got on the board after a giveaway behind the Gopher net, when Kevin Huck fed Hanson alone in front. Hanson’s one-timer beat Briggs to his blocker side at 10:22.
MSU doubled the lead when sophomore winger Jon Kalinski deflected home a point shot by Wagner at 13:23. And in the final minute of the period, Wagner cleaned up a loose puck just outside the crease for his fourth goal of the season, extending MSU’s lead to 3-0 at 19:01.
That set up Minnesota’s second-period rally, fueled by the power play.
“I thought we did some things we wanted to do all night,” said Jutting. “The thing is, you can’t do those things when it’s five-on-four.”
And what did Lucia say to his charges after what looked like a disastrous opening 20 minutes?
“That they had a week full of Michigan sunshine going up their rear ends, to be quite honest,” said Lucia, referencing the Gophers’ sweep of last weekend’s College Hockey Showcase, which included an 8-2 romp over Michigan Saturday.
For the evening, Minnesota totaled 33 shots on net to Minnesota State’s 35, the first time this season that the Gophers have been outshot.
Minnesota and Minnesota State will rematch Saturday night at the Midwest Wireless Center in Mankato to complete the home-and-home series.