Struggles catch up to Gophers hockey team

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 3, 2012 - 11:57 PM

A late breakdown allowed Mankato to gain a surprising weekend split.


Minnesota's Brady Skjei kicks at the puck as Minnesota State, Mankato's Chase Grant, left, and Matt Leitner (18) defend during the first period of a college hockey game Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, in Mankato, Minn.

Photo: Pat Christman, Associated Press - Ap

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MANKATO - Born and raised in suburban Pittsburgh, Dylan Margonari can give you the ins and outs of the Flyers-Penguins rivalry. But the freshman learned very quickly just how much Minnesota State Mankato wants so badly to beat the mighty Gophers.

"Just all week, the vibe you get from the students, it was all week," Margonari said.

The 20-year-old became the toast of Mankato on Saturday night after scoring the tiebreaking goal with 3 minutes, 41 seconds left to help the Mavericks upset the No. 2 Gophers 5-3 at Verizon Wireless Center for their first WCHA victory.

"The best team won -- the most consistent team, probably the more desperate team," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "We had too many guys fighting it and we're not good enough for that to happen. The deserving team won the game."

The Mavericks, coming off a 3-2 loss to the Gophers on Friday in which they blew two one-goal leads and allowed three power-play goals, came out flying in the second game of the series. They outshot the Gophers 17-5 in the first 15 minutes and 19-7 entering the second.

To put that in perspective, the Gophers entered the game having given up 21 shots a game.

But the Gophers chased all weekend, falling behind by 2-0 and 3-2 on Saturday before Nate Condon tied the score with 7:20 left in the second period.

"Right from the start of the game, we were pretty lazy coming out," said Condon, adding that the coaches had to light into the team during the first intermission. "It was well-deserved. We came out slow. It shouldn't be on them to have to jump-start us. We were down almost the entire weekend, and that's not how you win games."

The Gophers did find their game and the Mavericks had to weather a furious storm in the second. But Phil Cook was dynamite, highlighted by a sensational save to rob Erik Haula in the waning seconds to keep the game 3-3 entering the third.

"He gave us a chance to win," Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said.

Added Lucia, "We could never get a go-ahead goal."

The Gophers were disjointed for much of the third, at one point taking back-to-back penalties -- the second being a too-many-men penalty.

Then, after the Gophers failed to score on a power play, Bryce Gervais came out of the penalty box, dumped the puck into the Gophers' end and went for a change. Margonari came off the bench and the Gophers never picked him up.

When center Ryan Reilly skated to the corner to help defenseman Seth Helgeson, left winger Tom Serratore never assumed Reilly's position and the center of the rink was left wide open. Max Gaede won the corner battle and fed Margonari for the goal.

"It's a great rivalry, and I'm glad to be a part of it," Margonari said. "I'm really excited for the upcoming battles between the two teams."

Haula had a goal and two assists for the Gophers for his 21st career multi-point game. His goal in the first period, after Josh Nelson and Zach Lehrke gave the Mavericks a 2-0 lead, was a thing of beauty.

With Matt Leitner draped over his back, Haula lunged for a pass by Christian Isackson in front of Cook, reached it and scored before crashing headfirst into the boards. Margonari took a penalty with 5 seconds left in the first, allowing Haula to hit Nick Bjugstad 56 seconds into the second for a 2-2 score.

Johnny McInnis made it 3-2 before Condon followed up his own shot for the tying goal.

"We were really good the first weekend of the year [against Michigan State]," Lucia said. "We've been very disjointed since. I don't think we've really found rhythm in our game, and I've felt like that for a few weeks now."


    Up next: 10 p.m. Nov. 9-10 at Alaska-Anchorage • No TV (1500-AM)

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