For Gophers men’s hockey, blown leads show old wrinkles

Minnesota is 1-9 against in-state opponents over the last two seasons.

Gophers forward Brent Gates Jr. battles for the puck against St. Cloud State at Mariucci Arena on Oct. 21, 2016.

Image by Maddy Fox

Gophers forward Brent Gates Jr. battles for the puck against St. Cloud State at Mariucci Arena on Oct. 21, 2016.

by Mike Hendrickson

It was looking like a promising start to the weekend — and season — for the Gophers against St. Cloud State.

No. 7 Minnesota was up 5-2 in the third period Friday and 2-0 at the end of the first period Saturday.

But instead of starting the season with four wins in four games, the Gophers blew both leads against the No. 14 Huskies and now sit at .500 this season.

“Obviously it’s not a good feeling, but it’s still early in the season,” said senior forward Taylor Cammarata. “We let some chances get away this weekend, so not very happy about that.”

Friday’s collapse began when St. Cloud State scored three goals over an 8:24 span and tied the game with 1:13 left in the final regulation period.

Jake Wahlin scored his second goal of the season to give the Huskies the win in overtime.

“We quit playing,” said Gophers senior captain Justin Kloos after Friday’s game. “It was within our grasp.”

On Saturday in St. Cloud, the Gophers were up 2-0 at the end of the first period.

The Huskies scored two goals in 53 seconds and later won the game in the third period.

“It was a hard-fought game,” said Gophers head coach Don Lucia. “We played a pretty good game from start to finish, but [it was] really choppy at times.”

Last season Minnesota lost multiple times despite leading or tying in the third period. This pattern was continued in the Gophers’ two recent losses.

One of those games last season was against Minnesota State-Mankato on Nov. 14. The Gophers were up 2-0 in the third period, but lost in overtime 3-2 after two late goals in regulation.

“What happens before is irrelevant to what happens today,” Lucia said Friday. “It’s early in the season … I don’t know if our guys’ thought process was, ‘when it’s 5-2 let’s try to get more’ as opposed to, ‘let’s try to play the game the right way.’”

Another problem from last year that reemerged Friday and Saturday was Minnesota’s weak performance against in-state teams.

Last season the Gophers went 1-7 against in-state teams. The year before that, they went 4-6.

Minnesota has lost seven consecutive games against in-state teams.

Their schedule doesn’t get easier from here. The Gophers play eight more games until the end of November, seven of which come against ranked opponents.

“Last couple years we’ve had games slip away like this. Obviously it’s not fun for us,” Cammarata said Saturday. “Nothing we can do now. Just have to keep working.”