ST. PAUL, Minn. — One night after Minnesota and Minnesota State combined for 19 power plays but only one man-advantage goal, the Gophers turned on the power en route to a 6-3 win at the inaugural State of Minnesota Hockey Showcase.
Fifth-ranked Minnesota scored four power-play goals, including Jordan Schroeder’s first two collegiate tallies, and broke the game open in the third period to coast to a win after playing four straight overtime contests against the No. 12 Mavericks.
“It took us a period to get going tonight,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “Obviously the power play was big — much better tonight in getting some pucks through, and that was the difference in the game.”
“The power play was huge tonight,” said Gopher defenseman Cade Fairchild, who assisted on four goals. “When that thing’s clicking, it’s going to be tough to stop.”
Despite the loss, Minnesota State head coach Troy Jutting saw some good things from his players.
“Believe it or not, I thought it was one of the best games we’ve played all year … other than on the shorthanded situations,” said Jutting, whose team outscored Minnesota at even strength.
“I think tonight was the fewest penalties we’ve taken all year,” he added. “But if you go to the box eight times against a team that has skilled players like Minnesota does, they’re going to get you.”
And they did. With the Gophers trailing 2-1 midway through the second period, Schroeder scored the first of four straight Minnesota goals, firing the puck home from high in the right circle on a cross-ice pass by Fairchild.
On the power play again three minutes later, David Fischer gave Minnesota its first lead of the game at 14:48, taking a pass high in the zone from Aaron Ness and easing his way toward the net before unleashing a pinpoint blast through a mess of bodies.
The puck landed just inside the left post to produce Fischer’s first goal of the season, Ness’ first point as a Gopher and a 3-2 Minnesota advantage.
Minnesota extended its lead to two at 11:41 of the third, with Mike Carman redirecting a shot by Fischer over MSU netminder Mike Zacharias (32 saves) for a 4-2 score and some breathing room for the first time on the weekend.
Finally, after a Kael Mouillierat penalty, the Gophers put the game away with their fourth power-play goal of the evening. Schroeder did the honors once more, knocking home a cross-crease pass from captain Ryan Stoa.
With the outcome essentially in the books, MSU’s Jerad Stewart scored with just under two minutes to play, and Ryan Flynn added the empty-netter for Minnesota to account for the final score.
“It’s kind of a relief,” said Schroeder about getting his first pair of goals, although he leads the team with six assists. “The past couple of games I had some chances, but it was a team effort.”
The first period didn’t bear much resemblance to Friday night’s choppy shotfest, with only four penalties. Much of the period was played in the neutral zone, with few grade-A chances and most of the shots coming from the perimeter.
The Mavericks opened the scoring at 2:34 of the second period with a rebound goal. Rookie winger Mike Louwerse put it through the five-hole of Alex Kangas (25 saves) to give MSU a 1-0 lead.
But penalties to Minnesota State’s Brian Kilburg and Ben Youds gave Minnesota a five-on-three shortly thereafter, and the Gophers took advantage with Ryan Stoa’s sixth goal of the year.
The Gopher captain worked a two-man play with defenseman Cade Fairchild that ended with Stoa putting away a hard-angle shot at the five-minute mark. The assist was Fairchild’s first of four on the evening, after scoring just one point in the Gophers’ first five games.
On a subsequent five-on-three of MSU’s own, Louwerse promptly converted again, scoring off the rebound of Kurt Davis’ point shot for his second goal of the game and fourth of the season.
Another brief two-man advantage ensued for Minnesota State, but to no avail. The Gophers started their turnaround shortly thereafter, thanks to their reactivated five-on-four offense.
“The power play can be streaky,” said Lucia. “You can go 0-for-10 one night and get four the next.”
Both teams see action next weekend, with Minnesota (4-0-2, 4-0-2 WCHA) hosting New Hampshire in a nonconference series and Minnesota State (3-2-1, 1-2-1 WCHA) making the long trek northwest to visit Alaska-Anchorage in WCHA play.