Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 1/26/13
MINNEAPOLIS Heading into last weekend, the Minnesota Gophers hockey team had earned the No. 1 ranking in the country based on impressive wins against Boston College (then ranked No. 1) and Notre Dame (No. 2 at the time) but wasn't even leading its own conference. In its final season in the WCHA, Minnesota didn't take the lead in the conference until last Friday's win against North Dakota and then held onto a share of first place after a tie on Saturday night. In all, seven teams were within three points of the lead in the WCHA, with the Gophers and St. Cloud tied at the top with 22 points. Losses such as Friday night at home to Minnesota Stateshouldn't come as a shock to followers of the WCHA. But losses like Minnesota's 2-1 loss also become tougher to withstand. Minnesota State's Brett Knowles scored with 44 seconds left to give the Mavericks (16-8-3, 10-8-1 WCHA) a 2-1 road win against the Gophers on Friday and pushed top-ranked Minnesota (17-4-4, 9-4-4) into second place and snapped the Gophers' unbeaten streak at 10 games. "Everybody you play is a good team and there's very little separation between anybody," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "You've got to make plays at critical points in the game and we didn't make enough plays tonight to win." With St. Cloud State beating North Dakota on Friday, the Huskies now lead the conference with 24 points. The Gophers and Nebraska Omaha are tied with 22 points and Minnesota State is third with 21 points. Minnesota and theMavericks finish a home-and-home series Saturday in Mankato. Nate Schmidt scored his fifth goal of the season for the Gophers. Freshman goaltender Adam Wilcox finished with 31 saves. However, Minnesota couldn't solve Minnesota State goaltender Stephon Williams, who had 37 saves, including 20 in the third period. "We were playing a little bit on our heels and Minnesota obviously showed tonight why they're No. 1 in the country," Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. "They put the foot to the floor and came after us in the third period. We handled it OK." Minnesota State handled it because Williams wasn't giving in to Minnesota's high-scoring offense. The Gophers owns the nation's top scoring offense and are fourth in the country on the power play. But Minnesota has converted one of its last 10 power-play chances and was 0 of 2 on Friday. Lucia agreed when told the power play looked a bit disorganized Friday. "It looked a lot of disorganized tonight," Lucia said. "It was not very good and it needs to be a whole lot better tomorrow. That was a key part of the game. They scored on the power play, one, and we didn't." The Gophers know very well they haven't converted on the power play lately and Schmidt said the players are pressing, even though they are still converting 24.1 percent of their chances for the season (28 of 116). "We're having a tough time getting into a zone and that falls on me," Schmidt said. "We're kind of struggling, teams are throwing different looks at us. It's killing us a little bit. Everything's a little bit harder, everyone's getting a little tense and we know that stat (1 of 10) actually." Schmidt says the offense needs to be better to support Wilcox. "We've been asking a lot out of a freshman goaltender," Schmidt said. "It's not like we have a senior goaltender, a lot of experience back there. He's been playing really well back there for us and we've been leaning on him a little too much and it's time for us to start pulling our own weight." Knowles scored with 44 seconds left after Wilcox let a rebound bounce out to Knowles in front of an open right side of the net. "I think the way both goalies were playing that's the kind of way it looked," Lucia said of the game-winning goal likely coming down to a rebound. "It probably wasn't going to be a clean shot." Like Friday's game, the WCHA is tight and one play can sway a game and the conference. "There's no weekends off in the WCHA," Schmidt said. "With how good the league is this year, a team like Mankato is going to come in here; if we have a lackluster first period that's what happens." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock announces retirement tour

Report: Durant gave Celtics list of players they need to sign

Las Vegas mayor all-in on Raiders relocation

Darrelle Revis reportedly once ripped Geno Smith: 'I own him'

Report: Walter Thurmond retiring from NFL at age of 28

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Fitzpatrick could sign for less elsewhere out of spite

Report: David Blatt to return to Europe, coach team in Turkey

Steve Kerr on Steph Curry: 'He looks like he’s 12'

Report: Ken Hitchcock to return as head coach of the Blues

NHL players in the Olympics may hinge on who picks up cost

Biyombo willing to take discount to stay in Toronto

Report: Pro Bowl moving from Honolulu to Orlando in 2017

2016 NBA Playoffs illustrate the value of a short memory

Khloe Kardashian dating Odell Beckham Jr?

Five MLB trades that make too much sense

Johnny Manziel is ‘hashing it out’ with rental car owner

2016's MLB All-Surprise Team after two months

Browner on Saints: I 'took that few millions' and ran with it

Bernie Sanders hopes to emulate Warriors’ comeback

Aaron Rodgers wants to produce documentaries after NFL career

Top eight storylines for the 2016 NBA Finals

Draymond Green, Steven Adams get tangled up

NFL stars who could retire after the 2016 season

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Defense could play a huge role in who wins the Stanley Cup

Speedy pace of the Penguins-Sharks Stanley Cup Final

How expanded instant replay has hurt the NBA

Best regular-season NBA teams not to win a championship

Every time an NBA team came back from a 3-1 deficit (and what it means for the Warriors)

How disallowed goals can change the course of NHL games

The five most disappointing MLB teams this season

QUIZ: Identify these NHL Hall of Famers by their nicknames

QUIZ: Name every winner of the Belmont Stakes since 1867

Sniping quotes highlight NHL conference finals animosity

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker