Better performance, but another loss for Tommies to Minnesota State
The Tommies scored the game's first goal, but less than four minutes later, the Mavericks owned a 2-1 lead.
MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. – The last time the St. Thomas men’s hockey team faced off against Minnesota State, the Tommies couldn’t manage any goals and struggled badly at both ends of the ice.
Thursday night’s battle went a little better as the Tommies were up 1-0 after the first period and only trailed 2-1 after the second, but the No. 2 ranked Mavericks blitzed UST for three goals in the third and came away with a 5-1 victory.
“I thought we competed really hard,” Tommies head coach Rico Blasi said. “I thought we forced them to earn everything that they got. We fell asleep a couple minutes in the second period and a couple minutes in the third period. But I thought we played, in stretches, some of our best hockey we’ve played all year. I was really happy with that. You can’t give the (former) No. 1 team in the country six power plays or they’re gonna bury you at some point. And you can’t turn the puck over.”
Right from the opening puck drop, the Tommies were having to keep the Mavericks at bay, but unlike the first time they faced MSU this year, they weathered the storm. Berger denied Minnesota State’s Julian Napravnik and Lucas Sowder on a power play just under seven minutes in, and with 7:40 or so remaining, a Mavericks shot rang off the pipe and out.
MSU’s best scoring chance came with around four minutes left when Nathan Smith was robbed by Berger right in front of the crease. Meanwhile at the other end of the rink, things were quiet until the 17:51 mark. With the Tommies on the power play, Joey Sofo sent a blast past Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay to put UST up 1-0. That was the only shot the Tommies had the entire period.
The lead didn’t last though. The Mavericks almost tied it with 16:31 left in the period, but the goal was waved off and then confirmed after a short review. Twenty-one seconds later though, MSU did tie it as Jack McNeely fired a shot past Berger for his first tally of the season. Three minutes after that, the Mavericks took the lead as Akito Hirose scored on the power play to make it 2-1.
UST, on the other hand, did add some shots to its total, but didn’t have any true scoring chances. The only decent ones came late in the period while on the penalty kill, but Tim Piechowski’s shorty attempt sailed high and John Schuldt wasn’t able to get a shot off on his attempt. He did draw a penalty though that carried over into the third.
However, the Tommies couldn’t take advantage of that power play, although Grant Loven almost tapped a wraparound past McKay. A couple minutes later, UST got another power play, but McKay made back-to-back saves on Trevor LeDonne and Loven and right before the penalty expired, Christiano Versich had a wide-open net, but couldn’t tap the puck in.
That missed opportunity would haunt the Tommies later as the Mavericks padded their lead to two on a Smith tally at the 9:05 mark and then to three goals with a Bennett Zmolek goal one minute later. Minnesota State’s Jake Livingstone then put the game away with a power play tally at the 17:28 mark.
Moral victories aren’t a thing in college hockey, but Sofo said the Tommies saw some positives in the loss as they kept up with the high-powered Mavericks through most of the game.
“I think our team really, since probably around Christmas, is heading in the right direction,” Sofo said. “Unfortunately, playing 55 minutes of good hockey doesn’t win you games, especially against a team like that. So, I think that we’ve gotta attempt to stay positive, take the good things and then try and play the full complete game. And then who knows?”
Minnesota State 5, St. Thomas 1
First period — 1. UST, Joey Sofo 1 (Sawchuk, Recchi) PPG 17:51.
Second period — 2. MSU, Jack McNeely 1 (Furry, Morton) 3:50; 3. MSU, Akito Hirose 2 (Smith) PPG 6:51.
Third period — 4. MSU, Nathan Smith 14 (Napravnik, Livingstone) 9:05; 5. MSU, Bennett Zmolek 2 (McNeely, Furry) 10:05; 6. MSU, Jake Livingstone 8 (Maass) PPG 17:28.
Power-play opportunities: MSU 2 of 5; UST 1 of 6
Penalties: MSU 6-12; UST 5-10
Goalie saves: MSU, Dryden McKay 12 (0-7-5); UST, Jacob Berger 29 (12-10-7)