Mavericks earn U’s respect with split

by Josh Linehan

For years the Minnesota men’s hockey team had one of the easiest recruiting jobs in the nation.
The Gophers only offer scholarships to Minnesota players. Consequently, young Minnesotans dream of being Gophers when they grow up.
Minnesota could point to the top five high school players in the state and have them show up in the fall. In fact, the last 13 Mr. Hockey award-winners from the state have attended the University.
So what happens to the hundreds of other skaters not chosen to wear maroon and gold?
They don’t hang up their skates and go root for the Gophers anymore. Instead, they attend one of three other in-state universities that offer Division I college hockey. And on Saturday night, 18 in-state hockey players led Minnesota State to a 6-5 overtime win over the Gophers.
Judging by the sounds from the Mavericks locker room afterward, the win was sweet vindication.
“I love it,” Minnesota State coach Don Brose said moments after the game. “No one is going to say ‘Mankato who?’ anymore. No one is going to say ‘doormat.’ It’s a tremendous win for our program.”
The game-winner was banged in off a rebound by Minnesota State senior and Warroad native Andy Fermoyle, who has scored only seven goals in his Mavericks career.
Here’s the catch: Of those seven goals, Fermoyle has three overtime game-winners, arguably the three biggest goals in the program’s history. The first came against Ferris State, and gave Minnesota State its first Division I win. The second was last season’s postseason shocker, giving the Mavericks an overtime win over league champion North Dakota in the first round of the playoffs.
“This definitely boosts us,” Fermoyle said. “We had never beaten Minnesota, so it’s nice to be able to do it. It shows we can compete with the big boys.”
The win was vindication for the Mavericks, who tied the Gophers twice at Mariucci Arena last year and played well enough to win Friday night, only to watch the Gophers cling stubbornly to a 3-2 lead for the win.
It also cements Minnesota State’s role as WCHA giant-killers, having taken at least one game from Wisconsin, North Dakota, Colorado College and Minnesota this season.
The Minnesota loss came after an overtime defensive lapse almost identical to the last time the Gophers were beaten in overtime, at St. Cloud.
Gophers coach Don Lucia was frustrated after losing an overtime game where a tie would have kept Minnesota ahead of Minnesota State in the standings. A win would have given the Gophers the tiebreaker over the Mavericks as well.
“I told the guys we had to play percentage hockey, and that we’d take the tie,” Lucia said. “We’ve lost two like that, and if it continues, we just won’t forecheck in overtime. We’ll just keep all five guys back.”
The game-winning play came just after Minnesota finished killing off Dan Welch’s five-minute major for butt-ending which carried into the extra session.
As the home crowd rose to its feet to cheer Minnesota’s penalty-kill effort, the Gophers moved into the offensive zone. Erik Westrum fed the puck across to an open Dave Spehar, who was stopped by Minnesota State goaltender Erik Pateman. The crowd went silent as Fermoyle corraled the rebound and fed ahead to Aaron Fox.
The Gophers left three men in deep, proving to be their downfall. After Adam Hauser stopped Fox’s chance in close, Westrum was a step behind Fermoyle who dove and slipped the puck in the net.

Two-line passes
ù Welch’s misconduct was the second on Minnesota in three weekends. Lucia said he didn’t see the play, but felt it had to be justified.
“I told Dan I didn’t know any referee who would call that with three minutes left in a tie game if it wasn’t justified. It’s a selfish play,” Lucia said.

ù Erik Westrum has scored at least one point in the Gophers’ last 16 games, the fifth-best streak in Gophers history.

ù Minnesota backup goalie Pete Samargia will be out three to five weeks after injuring his knee in practice last week. Samargia will have surgery Friday. Walk-on freshman Erik Young will be Hauser’s backup in the interim.

Josh Linehan covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]