Gopher Hockey Swept in Mankato

(image credit: @gopherhockey on Twitter)

Rem Pitlick spent the final 35 minutes trying to make up for a kicked puck. Despite early success and coming close twice more in the closing minutes, the unfortunate play was the deciding one in Minnesota’s third straight loss.

In a night where special teams played a major role, Minnesota State (7-1-0, 0-0-0-0 WCHA) used both its power play and penalty kill in a 2-1 victory. The Mavericks, playing at home Saturday with the series moving to Verizon Wireless Arena, scored twice during an 80-second span of the second period to sweep its in-state rival for the third time in program history and first since 2010.

“That’s an old grizzled team over there that plays that way every single night. We need to learn that,” said Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko about his team’s opponent. “The first part of the season with Duluth and the exhibition games we saw some good things. And then tonight we saw some good things. We need those two worlds to collide.”

The frustration from Friday didn’t make the trip, only the disappointment from the result.

After Pitlick scored in the first period to give the visiting team a 1-0 lead, Parker Tuomie tied the game 3:46 into the second period with his fifth goal of the season seven seconds into a power play.

Minnesota (1-3-1, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten) went on the power play on the ensuing shift, however, the Mavericks were able to score shorthanded. Jake Jaremko shot the puck at Gopher goaltender Eric Schierhorn, making his first start of the season. Schierhorn got the stop, but the puck rebounded to a trailing Pitlick, whose skate kicked it into the net.

“There’s not much to describe. I made a mistake and I apologized to Eric,” he said. “That can’t be happening. There’s not much I can do. I just have to move forward.”

Both teams spent much of Saturday on the power play. Minnesota took seven penalties while having five power plays of its own. Spending much of the game on special teams made it difficult for both teams to get in a flow during even strength play, which showed in both teams combining for 35 total shots.

The Gophers, changing up all four forward lines after Friday’s 5-1 loss, ended up without an even-strength goal for a third straight game.

“We got a couple guys in there that hadn’t played, but throughout our lineup a lot of guys were bringing some energy and determination,” Motzko said. “Whether we want to admit it or not, that’s something this team had to learn. We got to continue it.”

Schierhorn finished his 100th career start with 20 saves.

“It was a little tough to get into it at first. I only had eight shots through two periods,” said Schierhorn. “I was a little shaky, I need to work on my rebound control, but once shots started coming in the third I started settling in more.”

Minnesota State goaltender Mathias Israelsson made 12 saves plus got help from a goalie’s best friend that doesn’t score up on the scoresheet. Pitlick twice hit the post in the third period.

The second came in the final minute off a faceoff with Schierhorn pulled.

“It’s unfortunate. I wanted those to go in and help our team and obviously help Eric out too,” Pitlick said. “I felt bad for earlier, but that’s just the bounces hockey can give you sometimes. Hopefully, they will go in sometimes later in the season for us.”

Following its first two-game series of the season, Minnesota continues a stretch of playing every weekend until the end of the first half. The Gophers open Big Ten conference play next weekend in Madison against Wisconsin, who was swept by North Dakota

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(image credit: @gopherhockey on Twitter)

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