The Gophers, atop the WCHA standings with an 8-2-0 record, face visiting Minnesota State Mankato, tied for 11th place at 2-7-1, this weekend. Should be an easy Gophers sweep?

Think again. The Mavericks are 5-1-0 against Minnesota since January 2009.  A stunning reversal, considering the Gophers were 28-3-6 against MSU before then.

Why the turnaround? Exceptional defense is one reason. Minnesota State, in winning five of the last six games against the Gophers, has held Minnesota to two goals twice and one goal three times.

In those five wins, the Mavericks have outscored Minnesota 17-7, although their two victories last season were both by one goal. ... And two of the three other recent MSU wins were by two-goal margins only because of empty-netters.

A recap of the past six Gophers-Mavericks games:

2010, Dec. 3-4 at Verizon Wireless Center

Minnesota State 3, Gophers 2

Comments: Mavericks take leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in opening period and 3-1 in the seventh minute of the second period. ... Adam Mueller scores the game-winning goal and has an assist on the first goal. Mike Dorr, a former Gopher, has a power-play goal in between.

Gophers outshoot MSU 35-24 but Phil Cook has 33 saves and the visitors are zero-for-five on power play while Mavericks are one-for-two. ... Alex Kangas was in the nets for Minnesota

Minnesota State 2, Gophers 1

Comments: The Mavericks scored on a power play with 49 seconds left in second period to take a 1-0 lead, then got an unassisted goal in the middle of the third period. The Gophers scored 39 seconds later. All goal-scorers in this game are gone.

The Gophers outshot MSU 50-32, but Phil Cook stopped 49 shots, 22 in the third period. ... The Gophers were zero-for-six on the power play, the Mavericks one-for-six. ... Kent Patterson had 30 saves in losing his first road game of the season after a 4-0-0 start.

2009, home and home series, Dec. 4-5

Minnesota State 3, Gophers 1 at Mariucci

Comments: Jake Hansen gave the Gophers a 1-0 lead midway through the first period, but the Mavericks scored in the 16th minutes. It remained 1-1 until MSU scored at 12:25 of the third period and the visitors got an empty-net, insurance goal with 31 seconds left.

The Mavericks outshot the Gophers 42-26, including 18-4 in the opening period. It was their third win in a row in this rivalry after winning three total in their first 37 meetings. ... Kent Patterson had 39 saves for the Gophers, Austin Lee 25 for MSU.

The Mavericks were one-for-five on the power play, the Gophers zero-for-one. The Mavericks committed only one penalty, the Gophers five.

Gophers 6, Minnesota State 2 at Verizon Wireless

Comments: The Gophers took a 3-1 lead in the first period, scoring their first two goals 2:13 apart. They also had two goals 32 seconds apart in a three-goal third period. Nico Sacchetti and Taylor Matson each had a goal for the Gophers.

The Gophers outshot the Mavericks 32-22, including 16-6 in the opening period. Lee had 24 saves for the Mavericks. Alex Kangas was in the nets for the visitors. There were 19 penalties. The Gophers were zero-for-three on the power play, the Mavericks zero-for-four.

2009, home and home, Jan. 30-31

Minnesota State 6, Gophers 2 at Verizon Wireless

Comments: The Mavericks scored five goals on nine shots in the second period to break this game open. One goal was on a power play, one short-handed. Mike Louwerse, a senior on MSU this season, had a goal and two assists. This was the Mavericks'  first victory over the Gophers by more than one goal in their all-time series.

Kent Patterson played the third period, in relief of Alex Kangas, and stopped all five shots he faced.

Minnesota State 3, Gophers 1 at Mariucci

Comments: This victory completed the Mavericks' first sweep ever of the Gophers. The Mavericks scored two first- period goals and added an empty-netter in the last minute.