Men’s hockey Live Blog: Gophers vs. MSU-Mankato

by Max Sanders

FINAL-Minnesota gets a much needed two-points in a 6-2 rout of MSU-Mankato. The Gophers received goals from freshmen Nick Leddy and Josh Birkholz (who scored twice), as well as goals from White, Matson and Sacchetti. GOPHERS 6, MSU-MANKATO 2. 6:38 3rd-The Gophers add another goal less than a minute later. Brian Schack put a shot on net, and Taylor Matson was there for the clean up goal. The goal extends the Minnesota lead to 4, and Austin Lee has been replaced in the Mavericks net by freshman Phil Cook. GOPHERS 6, MSU-MANKATO 2. 7:10 3rd-Minnesota has officially put the game on ice. Nick Larson fired a shot from the outside, and Patrick White was there in front of the net for the put-pack goal. GOPHERS 5, MSU-MANKATO 2. 13:51 3rd-A crucial goal in the third for the Gophers. Cade Fairchild fired a shot from the blue line, and it was tipped off the skate by Sacchetti and went past the right leg of Lee. The goal doubles Minnesota’s lead to 2. GOPHERS 4, MSU-MANKATO 2. 2nd Intermission Re-Cap: Goals: Gophers 0; MSU-Mankato 1 (Pitlick) Shots on Goal: Gophers 7; MSU-Mankato 13 Penalties: Gophers 5; MSU-Mankato 3 Instant Analysis: Minnesota probably couldn’t have imagined a series against Minnesota-State Mankato in December would be a defining moment, but the Gophers headed into tonight in need of a win to salvage its season. Through two periods Minnesota is accomplishing its goal, though as they have all year Lucia’s squad has kept it interesting. After taking a three-goal lead in the first period, the Gophers allowed two goals to cut the lead to 1, where it remains heading into the final period. 00:00 2nd-An eventful second period comes to a close. The second period was highlighted by a huge mental error by Kangas. The goalie had the puck knocked back to him, and tried to pass the puck with a stick shot. Kangas completely whiffed, allowing the puck to roll past for a goal. The goal cut the Gophers lead to 1, where it remains heading into the third. For a team needing a win to possibly salvage its season, the mental mistake could prove extremely costly. Nevertheless Minnesota is 20 minutes away from a much-needed two-points, and will look to continue its relatively solid play. Birkholz has been the unquestioned star of tonight’s game, scoring two goals in the first period to stake Minnesota to its current lead. 2:10 2nd-After the whistle, a Mavericks player was directly in front of the Gophers bench, and fighting between the two teams ensued directly in front of the bench. The end result is seven players getting sent to the box, five for Minnesota and two for MSU-Mankato. White, Flynn, Budish and Schack are in the box for Minnesota. Flynn and Schack were each assessed two minories for roughing and fighting after whistle, giving the Mavericks a two-minute power play. 4:59 2nd-Minnesota will have the man-advantage, as Channing Boe is sent to the box. 5:40 2nd-Extracurricular activity sends Kevin Wehrs and Jerad Stewart to the box for roughing. 8:49 2nd-A huge mistake by Alex Kangas has the crowd at the Verizon Center on its feet. Kangas completely missed knocking away a shot by Tyler Pitlick, and the puck rolled slowly into the right side of the net, cutting Minnesota’s lead to 1. The goal is Pitlick’s second of the game. GOPHERS 3, MSU-MANKATO 2. 10:34 2nd-Power play opportunities for both teams are killed, leaving the score at 3-1 with five-on-five play. 12:52 2nd-The power play will now be four-on-four, as MSU-Mankato’s Erian Hayes is called for cross-checking. The Gophers will have 1:07 of a man-advantage when Ness is sent back on the ice. 13:59 2nd-A questionable call sends Minnesota’s Aaron Ness to the box, giving MSU-Mankato its second power play of the period, third of the game. Ness was called for tripping, although he looked to be playing the puck from directly outside the penalty box. Regardless, the Gophers will look to protect their two-goal lead a man down. 17:28 2nd-The Mavericks will be on their second power play of the night, as Minnesota’s Cade Fairchild is sent to the box for cross-checking. 1st Intermission Re-Cap: Goals: Gophers 3 (Birkholz [2], Leddy); MSU-Mankato 1 (Pitlick) Shots on Goal: Gophers 16; MSU-Mankato 6 Penalties: Gophers 1; MSU-Mankato 1 Instant Analysis: Minnesota has picked the perfect time to play its best period of hockey all season. After losing last night, both Lucia and players talked about a lack of effort, a lack of want. That clearly has not been the case tonight. Two Gophers players scored their first career-goals, the first coming from freshman Nick Leddy, playing his second game after missing the previous month with a broken jaw and concussion. Josh Birkholz continues a stellar weekend with two goals, including a highlight-reel shot with five minutes to go in the first period. Birkholz deked three Mankato defensemen and finished with a spectacular backhander past the high glove side of Lee. The Gophers need to play with a heightened sense of urgency for the rest of the game, as they cannot afford to let up and allow MSU-Mankato to fight back into the game. 00:00 1st-A dominant first period for the Gophers comes to a close. Led by Josh Birkholz’s two goals, Minnesota is responding to last nights embarrassment with a strong performance tonight, much like last weekend, when the Gophers came back and beat then No.8 Michigan State after losing the night before to Michigan. 4:11 1st-Yet another goal in an action-packed first period, this time by the Mavericks. Scoring for MSU-Mankato is Tyler Pitlick, his fourth goal of the year. The goal cuts Minnesota’s lead to 2. GOPHERS 3, MSU-MANKATO 1. 5:40 1st-A goal for the ages. Josh Birkholz stole the puck in the Gophers zone, and drove down all alone the length of the ice. During his drive down he deked several MSU-Mankato defenders, and fired a backhander high and past the glove side of Lee for the highlight-reel goal. GOPHERS 3, MSU-MANKATO 0. 8:51 1st-Minnesota had several good looks during its power play. Following a shot by Sacchetti, Patrick White was in perfect position for the put-back on the left side of the net, but the puck bounced above his skate. The Mavericks will now be on the man-advantage, as shortly after Minnesota’s power play ended Kevin Wehrs was called for hooking. 11:30 1st-The Gophers will get a chance to add to its lead, after MSU-Mankato’s Tyler Thompson is sent to the box for contact to the head. The penalty is just the Maverick’s second in the series thus far. 12:52 1st-Minnesota strikes again. Following a takeaway, Josh Birkholz starts a three-on-two fast break, and fires a shot from just outside the left face off circle and past the glove hand of Lee for the score. The Gophers could not have hoped for a better start to a game they simply have to win. GOPHERS 2, MSU-MANKATO 0.

13:38 1st-For the second time in as many nights, the Gophers strike first. Nick Leddy got his first career goal on a shot from just inside the blue line. GOPHERS 1, MSU-MANKATO 0.