By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
Minnesota State sophomore center Zach Lehrke scored two goals on Saturday night, but it probably would have taken a hat trick to dig himself — and his team — out of a first-period hole.
The Mavericks lost 3-2 to fifth-ranked Minnesota at Mariucci Arena, extending their winless streak to seven games. The Gophers scored all three of their goals in the first period, including an early power-play goal that stemmed from Lehrke’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty just 40 seconds into the game.
“I just got frustrated, I guess, with (Erik) Haula,” Lehrke said about giving the Minnesota center a shove after the whistle. “Even last night he was getting in my head a little bit. I just gotta control that. …
“We came out flat-footed. We didn’t worry about what we had to do, and we worried about what they were doing.”
Lehrke scored a power-play goal in each of the final two periods in a Mavericks comeback that fell just short.
“You never make up for a stupid penalty,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said. “Yeah, you scored two goals, had a nice game, but that’s a stupid penalty. You can’t do that. … Kids are going to make mistakes but you can’t have that.”
Minnesota State also failed to score on two breakaways and missed five in the weekend sweep.
Goalie Kent Patterson gloved a Justin Jokinen chance early on to preserve the Gophers’ 1-0 lead, and he turned away Matt Leitner with his blocker late in the second period.
“Credit their guy in net,” Jutting said. “But you change momentum when you score on things like that, and you build momentum when you stop plays like that. That was a big part of the weekend.”
Minnesota ended up with a 3-0 lead after the first period, getting goals from New Prague’s Seth Ambroz, senior captain Taylor Matson and fab freshman Kyle Rau. Rau’s goal, his 11th of the season, came with 79 seconds remaining in the period.
“We dug ourselves a little bit too big a hole there,” Jutting said.
Austin Lee stopped 12 of 15 shots in the first period and then all 27 he faced the rest of the way for a 37-save night. Patterson stopped 26 of 28 MSU shots.
The two teams combined for 22 penalties, and Lehrke converted on two of the Mavericks’ nine power-play chances. Jean-Paul LaFontaine assisted on both goals, one at 2:32 of the second period and the other at 4:00 of the third.
With less than five minute remaining in the second period, Patterson got a piece of a Leitner breakaway.
“Yeah, dumb luck and he’s a great goaltender. Obviously, His numbers show it,” Leitner said.
“We were shooting, which you always like to do. But it seemed like he was challenging us a little more, so maybe a deke would have worked better. But they had guys coming back hard.”
For the second night in a row, Minnesota clamped down on defense late in the game and hardly gave MSU a sniff at a game-tying goal in the final minutes.
Minnesota State (3-12-1, 2-9-1 in WCHA) is now 0-6-1 in its last seven games. The Mavericks also had a six-game losing streak this season.
“I’m worried about the next game,” Jutting said. “The winless streak, with the things that have gone on with our hockey team this year, don’t bother me.
“We just played an excellent hockey team two nights in a row in their building and battled them to the end both nights. We’re getting better.”
The Mavericks will return to Mankato and host a nonconference series against Alabama-Huntsville on Friday and Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center.
Minnesota State 0-1-1—1
Scoring: 1. UM-Ambroz 3 (Budish 13, Matson 7) ppg 2:37; 2. UM-Matson 5 (Condon 8, Ambroz 2) 8:25; 3. UM-Rau 11 (Alt 6, Budish 13) 18:41
Penalties: Lehrke, MSU (unsportsmanlike conduct) :40; Elbrecht, MSU (rouging) 5:03; Bjugstad, UM (goalie interference, roughing) 5:03; Hayes, MSU (unsportsmanlike conduct) 5:59; Helgeson, UM (unsportsmanlike conduct) 5:59; Larson, UM (holding) 9:13; Serratore, UM (boarding) 16:10; Dorr, MSU (slashing) 18:45; Rau, UM (slashing) 18:45; Hayes, MSU (tripping) 19:36
Scoring: 4. MSU-Lehrke 4 (LaFontaine 4, Zuck 4) ppg 2:32
Penalties: Holl, UM (cross-checking) 2:03; Boyd, UM (interference) 5:19; Marshall, UM (interference) 18:41; Palmquist, MSU (roughing) 18:57
Scoring: 5. MSU-Lehrke 5 (LaFontaine 5, Leitner 7) ppg 4:00
Penalties: Rau, UM (roughing) 3:01; Hansen, UM (slashing) 3:30; Hayes, MSU (tripping) 4:43; Alt, UM (roughing) 8:29; Cooper, MSU (holding) 8:48; Hayes, MSU (cross-checking) 8:48; Rau, UM (embellishment) 8:48
Shots on goal: MSU 14-10-4—28, UM 15-16-9—40. Penalties: MSU 9 for 18 minutes, UM 13 for 26 minutes. Power plays: MSU 2 for 9; UM 1 for 5. Goalie saves: MSU Lee 12-16-9—37 (3 GA); UM Patterson 14-9-3—26 (2 GA).
MSU called its timeout at 19:41 of the third period.
Referees: Don Adam, Tiim Walsh. Linesmen: Tony Czech, Jeff Schultz.