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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Men’s Hockey: No. 2 ISU Mankato breaks away from St. Thomas in the third period

The two-month break between Thursday night and the last time the St. Thomas men’s hockey team played the series against Minnesota State, Mankato served as Tommy’s yardstick.

In November, the teams played a home series in which the Mavericks won 9-0 and 5-0. Despite their 2-22 record, Tommy and coach Rico Blasi were hoping to show that the team was making legitimate progress.

Indeed, the Tommys were much more competitive this time around, losing 5-1 to the Mavericks at St. Thomas Ice Arena. The Mavericks took a 2-1 lead in the third period.

Minnesota State improved to 22-5 overall and 16-3 in the CCHA, while Tommy fell to 2-23 and 2-17 in the CCHA.

The two teams will play again Saturday night in Mankato, an outdoor game at the Mavericks Football Stadium as part of Minnesota Hockey Day.

St. Thomas picked up his second win of the season last Saturday at Ferris State, splitting the series. The Mavericks split the series in Northern Michigan, with the loss dropping them from 1st to 2nd in the national rankings.

The Mavericks entered the game ranked first in the nation in wins (21) and goals (103) and ranked second in goals against average (1.27), highlighting the difficulties the Tommys faced.

Senior Jacob Berger got the start at Tommy’s goal. Making his 11th game of the season (compared to senior Peter Tom’s 18), Berger performed well, helping Tommy stay in the game late despite being trailed by a wide margin.

Berger spent two seasons with Minnesota State before moving to St. Thomas last season.

“Tommies” scored a goal with their shot on goal in the game. Although this is not unusual, there was time for this: in the first period, there were just over two minutes left. Minnesota State ended the period with a 12-1 shooting lead, but Tommy had a 1-0 lead.

St. Thomas senior left winger Joey Sofo scored his first powerplay goal of the season when he beat Minnesota State goaltender Dryden McKay on a kick from the blue line.

The Mavericks drew 1-1 early in the second period when defenseman Jack McNeely, a senior from Lakeville, beat Berger with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle.

Minnesota State scored again three minutes later when defenseman Akito Hirose scored a powerplay goal.

The Tommys had a couple of power plays early in the third period, but failed to score the game-breaker despite decent pressure on McKay.

Minnesota State extended their lead to 3-1 at 9:05 of the period thanks to a Nathan Smith goal. 59 seconds later, the Mavericks were hit again by a goal from Bennett Zmolek.

A power play goal by Jake Livingston of Minnesota ended the scoring.

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