MINNEAPOLIS — A leg injury forced Connor Reilly to watch every game from the stands last season. This year, the redshirt freshman is getting the opportunity to make an impact on the ice.
Reilly scored Minnesota’s third goal in the Gophers 4-1 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato on Friday night at Mariucci Arena. His brother Mike had the game-winning goal.
“It was pretty miserable, to be honest,” Connor Reilly said of sitting out last season. “It’s not easy sitting in the stands and eating hot dogs and popcorn next to your parents while your teammates are competing out there and playing.”
Connor Reilly saw his first action on the power-play unit in Friday’s game, and didn’t miss when he got a one-time pass from Sam Warning; Mike Reilly also had an assist on the goal. Coach Don Lucia said it was the first time since 2004 that two brothers have scored in the same game for Minnesota. Connor Reilly said that the goal broke a 20-month goalless streak.
“It was awesome, just kind of reminds me of the old days,” Mike Reilly said about the two brothers being part of the same goal. “It’s pretty special.”
Minnesota dominated the first two periods of Friday’s game and built a solid 3-0 lead in the process. Justin Kloos scored at the midpoint of the first and Mike Reilly launched a laser from the point to give the Gophers a two-goal lead right before the end of the period.
“I don’t even know how it went in,” Mike Reilly said. “But it was definitely big going into the period like that. … It gets some momentum going.”
Minnesota State played better in the third, and Zach Palmquist shot the puck past his high school teammate Adam Wilcox. The game, however, was never in doubt.
“The last 10 minutes, we showed a little bit of our youth,” Lucia said. “That’s to be expected, and Minnesota State’s a good team. They kept coming, and brought it right down to the wire.”
Connor Reilly’s power-play goal was a welcome sight for the Gophers, who have struggled with the extra man this season. Minnesota went 1-5 with the extra man and had five shots.
“We can still do a better job of not turning pucks over on the power play,” Lucia said. “But we were a plus one on the power play, and that’s a step in the right direction.”
Wilcox gave up one goal on 35 shots; Mavericks netminder Cole Huggins gave up three goals and had 26 saves.
“I thought Huggins was the difference that allowed us to even stick around,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “We started playing on our toes in the back half of the second period and the third period. They’re too good of a hockey team to give a lead to.”