Mavericks split season opener against Gophers

The Minnesota State men’s hockey team split a weekend series with the University of Minnesota, with the Gophers taking the opener in Minneapolis Friday and the Mavericks winning at home Saturday.

Led by freshman forward Jimmy Snuggerud’s first career goals, the Gophers won 4-1 Friday. The following night, Ryan Sandelin was the hero when he potted his first goal of the season late in period three to lift the Mavericks to a 3-2 win. 

Both teams started out strong during Friday night’s action, but the Mavericks appeared to control much of the first period. However, a late surge by Minnesota turned the tides, and Snuggerud tapped in his first collegiate goal with just over a minute remaining in the period which put the Gophers up by one.

It didn’t take long for Minnesota to net another one. Just over five minutes into the second, Snuggerud fired one from the high slot that made it past sophomore Maverick goalie Keenan Rancier, giving the Gophers a 2-0 lead.

With nearly 10 minutes remaining in the second, junior Maverick defenseman, Akito Hirose, appeared to have cut the Gopher lead in half with a snipe from the left circle. But after a successful Gopher challenge, the goal was reviewed and called back for goalie interference.

With momentum on the Gophers’ side, the Mavericks were able to escape the second period only down two goals. Early in the third period, the Maverick fans were finally given something to cheer about as junior Maverick defenseman Jake Livingstone lit the lamp and cut the lead to just 2-1.

After some back and forth action by both teams, the Gophers took to the powerplay looking to add to their lead. And they wouldn’t take long, as Snuggerud wired a slapshot from the left circle, giving him the hat trick and the Gophers a 3-1 lead. 

Minnesota remained in control for the remainder of the third period, adding an empty-net goal and taking care of business by a score of 4-1. Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings commented following the game about things he saw and what needed to change heading into Saturday’s game.

“I really liked the way some of our young guys played,” Hastings said. “I liked Fitzgerald and I liked Wheeler. We’ve just got to do a better job being harder to play in the paint and some of those areas.”

Following the game on Friday night, the two teams had a quick turnaround to make the drive down to Mankato. Saturday’s game in the Key City got out to a similar start as Friday’s game, with back and forth action for much of the first period.

In similar fashion to Friday night, Snuggerud put the Gophers on the board late in the first period, this time with a short-side snipe that beat Rancier over his right shoulder. Minnesota retained the 1-0 lead heading into the second period. 

Early in the second period, the Mavericks received a crushing blow, as junior Maverick forward David Silye was given a major and a game misconduct penalty for checking from behind, sending him to the locker room for the rest of the night. But much to the delight, the Mavericks were able to kill off the major penalty and watch momentum shift to their side.

After a faceoff win by the Mavericks late in the second period, freshman Maverick defenseman Cambell Cichosz walked the blue line and sent a shot that beat Minnesota senior goalie Justen Close, tying the game up 1-1. The physicality started to pick up late in the second period, as each team took every opportunity they could to lay a big hit.

Early in the third period, the Mavericks took the lead as junior Maverick forward Josh Groll potted a rebound after a shot came in from the point. But their lead wouldn’t last long, as junior Gopher forward Mason Nevers finished off a tic-tac-toe play just over a minute later, tying the game up 2-2. 

The nerves started to settle in for both teams as the game clock kept ticking down past the ten minute mark of a tied game. The Mavericks were able to get several good scoring opportunities on a powerplay late in the third but to no avail.

With about six minutes remaining in the game, senior Maverick forward Sam Morton was able to win a puck battle and pass across to Sandelin who was turning into the slot. Sandelin was able to catch the pass and fire a shot past Close which sent the crowd into a frenzy and gave the Mavericks a 3-2 lead.

The Mavericks switched into a defensive mode for the remainder of the game, trying to turn away any Gopher shot that got to Rancier. But with each save and blocked shot, the crowd got louder and louder.

To the elation of all Maverick fans and players, the final horn sounded, concluding a hard-fought game and ending with Minnesota State defeating Minnesota by a final score of 3-2. Hastings commented following the game about his team’s effort on Saturday night.

“Minnesota’s a really good hockey team and we thought it was gonna be a physical battle, and it was,” Hastings said. “I like the way we stuck around and didn’t go away.”

The Mavericks will be back in action Oct. 14 and 15 as they play host to Minnesota Duluth. Start times are set for 7:07 p.m. on Friday and 6:07 p.m. on Saturday.

Header Photo: The two nationally ranked teams fought hard this weekend splitting the 2022-23 season opener. The Maverick’s next game is against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs this Friday and Saturday in Mankato. (Julia Barton/The Reporter)

Write to Karson Buelow at Karson.Buelow@mnsu.edu

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