MANKATO – A night after failing to score four goals for the first time in the last night games, the No. 1 Minnesota men’s hockey team returned to its offensive ways on Saturday, besting No. 14 Minnesota State 4-1 to salvage a Western Collegiate Hockey Association split with the Mavericks.
Four different Gophers tallied for Minnesota (18-4-4, 10-4-4 WCHA) including Justin Holl, who snapped a 42-game goal drought midway through the first to put the visitors up 1-0 with an unassisted goal.
Nate Schmidt and Zach Budish would add power-play goals for Minnesota, which went 2-for-3 while on the advantage after being held without a power-play goal in the last two games and going one for its last 10 heading into Saturday night. Schmidt – the top scoring defenseman in the nation this year — sent the Gophers into the first intermission with his sixth goal of the season at 18:11 after being set up by Budish and Kyle Rau.
After a scoreless second period, Budish knocked in his ninth of the year at 12:59 of the third period after being set up by Erik Haula in another power-play opportunity for the Gophers. While Minnesota’s power play lines found the net twice on Saturday, the penalty killing lines held the Mavericks’ power play off the board on two chances. Minnesota leads the WCHA in both power play and penalty kill and ranks among the top 10 nationally in both categories.
Minnesota State (16-9-3, 10-9-1) briefly rallied when Zach Lehrke slipped a rebound past Adam Wilcox at 12:59 of the third and nearly cut the game to a one-goal deficit moments later when Johnny McInnis deflected a high shot into the net. McInnis’ goal was eventually waved off by officials after it was determined the forward knocked the puck in with his hand.
Minnesota, which outshot the home team 29-27 in the win, added an empty-net goal from Haula at 16:28 to seal the win with Rau picking up his second assist of the night. Rau led both teams with two points in the win.
Wilcox put together another solid performance in goal for Minnesota on Saturday after seeing his 10-game unbeaten streak snapped the night before. The rookie improved to a WCHA best 17-3-4 this season with a 26-save night on Saturday. Stephon Williams moved to 13-7-2 in the loss for Minnesota State after making 25 saves.
The Gophers are off next weekend and return to action on Feb. 8-9 at St. Cloud State in a battle of the top two squads in the WCHA.