The fifth-ranked Minnesota men’s hockey team escaped with a 3-2 win over WCHA adversary and in-state rival Minnesota State in a penalty-filled affair on Saturday night at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers (13-4-1, 10-2-0 WCHA) posted three goals in the opening period and held on for a one-goal victory by holding the Mavericks (3-12-1, 2-9-1 WCHA) to one goal in each of the final two frames.
For the second straight night, UM opened the scoring early in the first period.
After MSU’s Zach Lehrke took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty 40 seconds into the game, freshman winger Seth Ambroz broke through with three seconds to go on the man advantage. After Zach Budish threw the puck in front, Ambroz chipped a rebound over the head of Maverick goaltender Austin Lee.
The Gophers, who allowed Minnesota State to erase two leads in a 4-2 win on Friday, would not allow MSU to tie the score on Saturday.
Captain Taylor Matson extended the Minnesota lead 8:24 into regulation by beating Lee through a screen on a quick turnaround shot from the left circle.
Freshman Kyle Rau buried his 11th goal of the season shortly before intermission to make it a 3-0 game. Defenseman Mark Alt found the converted left winger all alone in front and set up an easy tap-in goal with a cross-ice pass.
Rau's tally, the eventual game-winner, ended up putting the rookie forward in a tie for the national lead in game-winning goals.
Minnesota State made the game more interesting in the second period when Lehrke broke through Gopher netminder Kent Patterson after the senior goalie had stopped all 14 of the Mavericks’ first-period shots, including a nifty glove save on a Justin Jokinen breakaway.
Lehrke recorded the first of his two power-play markers on the night by sliding a shot through numerous bodies and under Patterson two and a half minutes into the middle stanza.
The Park Rapids, Minn.-native struck again at the four-minute mark of the third period by converting on a one-time feed from Jean-Paul Lafontaine with Rau and Jake Hansen in the penalty box for the Gophers.
The shot that resulted in the Mavericks’ second goal was only one of four shots Minnesota allowed in the final 20 minutes of regulation and UM held on to its 13th victory of the season.
Minnesota State had nine power plays—three in each period—on the night. Minnesota had five man advantage opportunities, all of which were under two minutes in length.
The sweep helped the Gophers avenge two losses handed to them by the Mavericks on the road almost a year ago to the day (Dec. 3 and 4, 2010). In eight regular-season home series against MSU all-time, the Gophers now have an 11-1-4 record.
UM will look to keep up its winning ways when its seven-game homestand continues next weekend against Michigan Tech at Mariucci Arena. Minnesota will face the Huskies at 7 p.m. on Friday and at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Around the Rink: Connor Reilly
A native of Chanhassen, Minn., Reilly has collected 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 114 career games with the Gophers.
Border Battle on Deck
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Lettieri has played in all 20 games this season for the Gophers while ranking tied for second on the team with 11 goals and third on the team with 20 points.