The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 15, 2013

No. 1 Gophers defeat Minnesota State 4-1

By Shane Frederick
sfrederick@mankatofreepress.com

---- — MINNEAPOLIS — For half of the game Friday night, the No. 1-ranked Minnesota men's hockey team put on an impressive display of passing and shooting, one Minnesota State often seemed too content to sit back and watch.

“I thought we played passive,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said after his team's 4-1 nonconference loss. “I don't want to play passive.”

Minnesota often played keep-away with the Mavericks in front of its home crowd of 9,697 at Mariucci Arena as it built a 3-0 lead by the midway point of the second period.

"I don't think a passive style is conducive to what we do," Hastings said.

Justin Kloos and brothers Mike Reilly and Connor Reilly scored the Gophers pretty goals, with two set up by senior winger Nate Condon, while Mavericks freshman goaltender Cole Huggins did his best to keep the game within reach.

“We came out sluggish,” Mavericks defenseman Zach Palmquist said. “They were all over us right away. … We put ourselves in a hole right away, and it did seem like they were toying with us a little bit.”

Palmquist scored Minnesota State's lone goal, making it a 3-1 game at with 7:12 remaining in the third period.

At that point, the Mavericks finally had some life.

After getting outshot 13-8 in the first period and 24-19 through two frames, Minnesota State had a 16-6 advantage in the third. But Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox held off the late charge.

Wilcox finished with 34 saves. The biggest of the game came during an MSU power play about six minutes before Palmquist's goal, as he stretched out to make a kick save on a point-blank shot by Johnny McInnis after a perfect behind-the-net feed from Matt Leitner.

"We've got to get that last 2 percent," Hastings said. "We've talked about that a lot."

The Mavericks pulled Huggins for an extra attacker with 2:39 remaining in the game, but couldn't get any closer. Seth Ambroz added an empty-net goal for the Gophers with 27 seconds to go.

"We have to have the mentality to know that we can play with these guys," Palmquist said.

But with their offensive struggling over the first part of the season, playing catch-up doesn't suit the Mavericks very well.

Despite MSU's passive play early, it appeared it would get out of the first period down by just one goal.

However, with 1:27 to play, they weren't able to clear the zone, and Condon settled a loose puck and tapped it to Mike Reilly, who quickly ripped a shot over Huggins' shoulder from the high slot for a 2-0 lead.

"In their building, one can turn into two can turn into three if you're not careful," Hastings said. "Through the first half of the game (Minnesota) carried the pace; they carried the play. I thought Huggins was the difference to allow us to stick around until that point. ... They're too good of a hockey team to give the lead to."

After the Mavericks' first power-play early in the second period failed to produce any action, the Gophers made it 3-0 on Connor Reilly's power-play goal at 8:40 of the middle frame. Reilly slapped in a cross-ice pass from Sam Warning before Huggins could get to his left post.

Palmquist's goal was his first of the season, set up by Jean-Paul LaFontaine. LaFontaine was taken down near the left post but managed to poke the puck to the slot where Palmquist was open for a shot. Max Gaede also assisted on the play.

"We've got to do a better job of getting pucks to the net," Palmquist said. "We didn't do a good job of getting to the dirty areas."

The Mavericks (4-5-0) and the Gophers will play again at 7:10 p.m. tonight.