You’ve heard of deja vu — the sense of having experienced an event before. Friday night at Mariucci Arena, Minnesota and Minnesota State delivered deja vu-vu-vu.
For the fourth straight game between the two teams, the fifth-ranked Gophers (3-0-2, 3-0-2 WCHA) and the No. 12 Mavericks (3-1-1, 1-1-1 WCHA) went into overtime. MSU goaltender Mike Zacharias tied a career high with 47 saves and Cameron Cooper scored his first career goal in the third period to help the Mavericks overcome three separate Gopher leads and gain a 3-3 tie.
“I’ll be surprised when it’s not [overtime], the way it’s been going,” said Minnesota State head coach Troy Jutting. “We battled back all three times to get the tie. … I thought Minnesota played well, but we watched them play for two periods.”
The previous three OT games all had decisive finishes since they came in the first round of last season’s WCHA playoffs, in which Minnesota pulled out a series win after dropping the first game.
“The disappointing thing for us is that we had a couple of leads in the third period and they didn’t stand up,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, whose team was ahead 2-1 after 40 minutes.
Zacharias’ starring performance was even harder than it sounded. His helmet came off three times during play, twice thanks to Gopher shots, and he was also run down by his own defenseman on a play that nearly led to a Minnesota goal.
The final lost helmet almost ended Zacharias’ night. In overtime, a Gopher shot hit Zacharias in the mask and knocked it off, and the bareheaded netminder took an inadvertent stick across the forehead from teammate Kurt Davis — the same player who had knocked Zacharias to the ice earlier in the contest.
The cut bled freely, requiring a hasty cleanup on the ice and nearly forcing a change in net for MSU. But after a delay as he got bandaged up at the Maverick bench, Zacharias headed back out to finish the job. After the game, six stitches were required to close the wound.
“The puck hit me in the head, my straps fell off … and then I took a stick in the forehead,” said Zacharias. “I don’t even know whose stick it was.”
Apprised that it was Davis, Zacharias quipped, “Of course.”
Early in the third period with Minnesota up a goal, MSU was quick to draw even. A scramble off a rebound netted the Mavericks the tying goal at 1:53 of the third period, as Jason Wiley shoved a puck in the high slot through traffic after Minnesota netminder Alex Kangas (26 saves) stopped the initial shot.
Freshman center Jordan Schroeder made the play on the next Gopher goal, picking a puck out of midair in the defensive zone and heading up the boards to feed captain Ryan Stoa, whose fifth goal just squeezed past Zacharias. The assist was Schroeder’s third of the game and sixth of the young season.
Once again, though, the Mavericks responded. Cooper was the answer man for MSU, picking up a loose puck high between the circles after a scrum along the back boards. Cooper’s shot through bodies eluded Kangas to the glove side for his first career goal and the 3-3 tie at 10:27.
The tone was set early on, as the four-man officiating crew was not shy about sending players off, leading to a game that was entertaining at times but nearly free of flow for long stretches.
In the first period alone, 22 shots on net and seven power plays somehow failed to result in a goal. MSU’s Jerad Stewart took an unusual five-minute major for grabbing the face mask at 10:19, but a bid by Gopher freshman Aaron Ness for his first career goal hit the pipe, as did a Patrick White shot.
A subsequent pair of penalties on Minnesota gave the Mavericks a stretch of five-on-three, and another penalty to end the first and one more a minute into the second put Minnesota State on a second two-man advantage. That one ended like the first, without a goal.
During an all-too-brief moment of five-on-five hockey, the Gophers broke the deadlock at 4:54 of the second period. Jay Barriball did the honors, putting away a nifty pass from Schroeder at point-blank range. Standing unmarked at the back door, Barriball had plenty of time to let the puck settle before stuffing it home.
The Mavericks answered at 9:13 with a softie by Davis, who took one stride across the blue line before letting go a fluttering waist-high shot that somehow evaded Kangas’ glove to knot the score at 1.
Minnesota retook the lead at 13:55 on its fifth man-advantage. Defenseman Cade Fairchild earned his first goal of the season, a blast through traffic from the right point. The power-play goal was the only one of the night for either team despite a total of 19 power plays.
The teams rematch Saturday night at 7:30 CT at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., the second game of the first-ever State of Minnesota Hockey Showcase. They will be preceded at 4 p.m. by the opener as St. Cloud State takes on Minnesota Duluth.