Heartbreak at home: Tommies fall to Mavericks in OT, drop out of first place

St. Thomas’ Luke Manning gets tangled up with Minnesota State’s Campbell Cichosz during the first period of a game Feb. 2 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

By Ryan Stieg 

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — For the first time in its short span in Division I, the St. Thomas men’s hockey team had a first place fight in its home rink, but the Tommies couldn’t deliver a knockout blow.

Heading into Friday night’s battle with Minnesota State, the Tommies were tied for first with the Mavericks in the CCHA standings at 30 points apiece. The two top teams traded punches throughout, but it ended up being a tough loss for UST as Mankato tied the game with less than a minute remaining and Kaden Bohlsen scored in overtime to lift the Mavs to a 4-3 win. Mankato got the extra point for the OT win and now leads UST by one point in the standings.  

St. Thomas goalie Aaron Trotter flashes his glove to rob Minnesota State’s Sam Morton of a sure goal during a game Feb. 2 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

UST has been hit hard with injuries with some of its defensemen being forced to play forward to fill in some gaps in the lineup, and Tommies head coach Rico Blasi said that he was proud of his team for fighting through adversity.  

“There’s not much you can do when you have limited numbers in practice, so we had to kind of modify a little bit,” he said. “But we worked hard, and we played a good game tonight, and they played a good game. When it goes into overtime like that, anything can happen.” 

Connor Gregga got things started offensively for Mankato in the first period as he sent a shot from the high slot that squeaked past Tommies goalie Aaron Trotter at the 2:56 mark to make it 1-0. Later at the 9:48 mark, Brett Moravec redirected a shot by Brian Carrabes past Trotter to make it 2-0 Mavericks. UST had some decent chances late in the period while on the power play, but Mavs goalie Alex Tracy kept them at bay and maintained the 2-0 lead.  

St. Thomas’ Liam Malmquist celebrates his second period goal during a game against Minnesota State Feb. 2 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

In the second period, the Tommies answered back. At the 5:34 mark, Liam Malmquist blasted a shot past Tracy on an offensive rush to cut UST’s deficit to 2-1. About four minutes later, Mack Byers tied things up for the Tommies. After Trotter sent a long stretch pass to Ryan O’Neill, the forward sent a cross-ice pass over to a streaking Byers in the slot, who then deked out Tracy and buried the puck in the back of the net to tie the game at 2-2. Later in the period, UST appeared to take the lead on a great individual effort by O’Neill, but after a review, the goal was waved off after the Tommies were ruled offsides.  

“Give them credit to come out really hard and push the pace a little bit,” Blasi said. “We weren’t ready for that, but we got ourselves out of it and Trotter made some big saves. And then we started to get our legs and started to be a little bit more physical and that gets you into the game.” 

The game stayed tight throughout the third period before Cooper Gay broke the tie for the Tommies at the 15:50 mark when he roofed a shot over Tracy on the power play to make it 3-2. The Mavericks pulled Tracy with a minute left in the game and with 33 seconds left, Josh Groll tied the game at 3-3. It was a close play and after a long review, it was determined that there was no goalie interference when Trotter tried to cover the puck before it crossed over the line.

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