Gophers sophomore defenseman Steve Johnson is in the lineup for the second straight night after missing four consecutive games with a lower-body injury.
Johnson skated with fellow sophomore Jack Glover in Friday night's 4-0 shutout victory at Minnesota State Mankato and contributed an assist in his first game back. Johnson's presence also helped solidify three strong defensive pairings that will be paired together again for Saturday night's 7 p.m. series finale at Mariucci Arena.
"It was Steve Johnson's first game in a couple weeks and I'm sure he got more comfortable as the game went on. So now all the sudden you have three pairs [of defensemen] you trust," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "I thought our 'D' dug in and our puck support is getting better with added practice. A good hard-fought win on the road."
The Mavericks outshot the Gophers 31-25, but many of the 31 shots on goal weren't quality scoring chances. The Mavericks were also unable to convert on five power-play opportunities while the Gophers' penalty kill was impressive.
"The penalty killing did a good job and blocked shots," Lucia said. "If there was a breakdown, [goaltender] Eric [Schierhorn] was there to clean it up."
The Gophers are going for their second sweep of the season tonight. They swept Northeastern in the third week of the season and have been turning things around since then. The Gophers have won four of their last five games and improved to .500, 4-4, with Friday night's win.
Friday replay: Scorers finally show up for Gophers in 4-0 victory over Mavericks, plus reaction from Lucia and junior forward Taylor Cammarata.
Read more about how the Gophers and Mavericks hope to continue their rebound efforts after slow starts. Also watch video of Lucia and Schierhorn previewing this weekend's series.
• Series Preview: Gophers vs. Minnesota State Mankato
- Friday, Gophers won 4-0
- 7 p.m. Saturday at Mariucci Arena (FSN-Plus, 1500-AM)
Gophers at a glance: The Gophers offense has taken off since scoring just one goal in the first three games. They’ve scored 19 goals over the past five games led by forwards Hudson Fasching and Leon Bristedt. Eleven different Gophers have scored at least one goal. Junior defenseman Michael Brodzinski leads the team with seven points (two goals). The Gophers lost to then-No. 1 Minnesota State Mankato in the North Star College Cup last season. “We lost to them last year, so I think there’s a lot of guys on our team coming down [to Mankato] that want to get revenge,” Bristedt said. “It’s a rivalry and we’re really pumped for this.” The Gophers have won six of the past 10 meetings.
For more on Minnesota State, read full series preview.
• Gophers' Saturday lines
Forwards (left wing, center, right wing)
Connor Reilly, Justin Kloos, Tyler Sheehy
Leon Bristedt, Tommy Novak, Hudson Fasching
Brent Gates Jr., Vinni Lettieri, Taylor Cammarata
Ryan Norman, Darian Romanko, Jack Ramsey
Defensemen (left, right)
Nick Seeler, Ryan Collins
Steve Johnson, Jack Glover
Jake Bischoff, Michael Brodzinski
Eric Schierhorn, Nick Lehr, Ryan Coyne