Minnesota men’s hockey splits home-and-home series

The Gophers lost Friday’s game at Mankato 4-1 but won 1-0 Saturday.

Gophers forward Justin Kloos winds up a shot against Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Mariucci Arena.

Carter Jones

Gophers forward Justin Kloos winds up a shot against Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Mariucci Arena.

Drew Cove

The Gophers were happy to return home Saturday after a tough Friday matchup in Mankato.

No. 7 Minnesota (5-3-2) dropped the first game 4-1 at No. 15 Minnesota State-Mankato (8-5-1), but the Gophers answered back and shut out the Mavericks 1-0 at Mariucci Arena in the second game.

“Mankato is not an easy place to play,” said head coach Don Lucia. “I’m just glad we bounced back, and we won [Saturday].”

The Gophers went down to Mankato without having played a game in the previous two weeks, and despite the extra practice time, they couldn’t put together a victory.

Like other games this season, Minnesota fell behind early — this time by two goals after the first period.

“[The coaches] weren’t happy … and rightfully so,” said goaltender Eric Schierhorn. “We didn’t play well, and we got kind of embarrassed in their barn and came out absolutely flat and were flat the whole game.”

Minnesota scored one goal in the second period from forward Tommy Novak but allowed two more goals to make the final score 4-1.

The Gophers were severely out-hit in Friday’s game, and the physicality of the game was heavily tilted in favor of the Mavericks.

Possession numbers also favored Minnesota State, with the Mavericks winning almost twice as many faceoffs as the Gophers did. Mankato won 37 to Minnesota’s 20.

The Gophers were also out-shot 37-26 on Friday. Given their possession numbers, they didn’t give themselves great opportunities to be on the offensive side of the puck and get more shots.

On Saturday night, the Gophers’ fortunes changed.

Minnesota entered the night with new forward lines. The only two players who were on the same line Friday and Saturday night were forwards Connor Reilly and Tyler Sheehy.

The Gophers were able to hold on to a 1-0 lead to win Saturday’s game at home.

Captain Justin Kloos scored the onlygoal in Saturday’s contest, his third of the season and first since Oct. 28. The goal came early in the second period.

“I think it was good for the whole team,” Kloos said. “Personally, I had quite a few shots in the first eight or nine games … It was good to see one go in.”

Schierhorn rebounded Saturday from Friday’s poor performance. After he faced 27 shots and allowed four goals in Mankato, he faced 23 shots without allowing a goal at home.

The Gophers turned the tables on the Mavericks Saturday with a 38-23 shot advantage. They also won 33 faceoffs to Minnesota State’s 24.

“I just liked our effort way better tonight,” Lucia said. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win Friday night’s game, and that’s what I was disappointed in. The guys have done a good job bouncing back … We bent our knees. We battled harder.”