He was tall, wearing a dark suit. And he was talking to me at the bathroom.

I was drying my hands. He was washing his. "Was this representative of the way they usually play?" he asked after the Gophers' 4-2 victory over Minnesota State on Friday,

Not expecting that question, or any question from this stranger, my brain locked for a second. Was he asking me if I was a representative of the Gophers? No, that wasn't it.

I fumbled with an answer. "No. This was not like they usually play," I said. "This was not one of their better games."

If the Gophers always played like this, they would probably be 3-11-1 -- like the Mavericks are. Instead, on a night they brought their 'B' or 'C' game to the rink, the maroon and gold found a way to win. Kudos to them for that, at least.

But this game was hard to watch. Erik Haula said it looked boring. He scored the game-winning goal. Not going to argue with him. The crowd was announced at 9,500. But it was only about two-thirds full. The Wild played at the same time. Some people either went to the X or stayed home to watch them on TV.

Hard to argue with their decision. The Gophers played down to the Mavericks' level. The home team had 30 shots on goal, the visitors 28. Both teamns were one-for-five on the power play. The Mavs had 10 shots with a man-advantage, the Gophers only six and they allowed MSU two shots with a man short and several great chances.

THREE STARS

Picked the stars of the game were:

* Haula, the first star: Ninth goal of season, second in two games, two shots on goal, plus-1, was 14-5 on faceoffs.

* Nick Larson, the second star: Gophers fourth line winger had second goal on his only shot on goal.

* Jean-Paul Lafontaine, Minnesota State, third star: Scored second Mavs goal, on power play; it wasa his eight goal of the season. Only freshmen with more going into this weekend was Kyle Rau of Gophers with 10. Five shots on goal, minus-1.

 SHOCKING SCORES

No. 1-rated Merrimack (9-1-1) is no longer unbeaten. Providence edged Merrimack 3-1 in overtime.

Alabama-Huntsville, 1-14-1, won its first game by edging Nebraska Omaha 3-1. That won't help the red Mavericks in the PairWise ratings.

Northeastern crushed Notre Dame, tied for No. 2 in one national poll, 9-2. And Boston College, the other No. 2, fell 5-3 to Boston University. Doesn't anyone want to be No. 1?

By Monday, Minnesota Duluth, if it can sweep Michigan Tech, could be No. 1 or the No. 4 Bulldogs will at least move up. They are 9-0-2 since being swept early by the Gophers.