Mankato, MN – You had to figure a mistake would prove costly in the battle of college hockey’s two top-ranked teams. On Friday at the Mayo Health System Event Center, a mistake by the Huskies did them in as the Mavericks Nathan Smith scored the game-winner on the power play with 1:05 remaining in period two as the Mavericks edged the Huskies 1-0 in a key early-season non-conference game.
With a 1-0 lead entering the final period, Minnesota State (3-0-0) then leaned on senior goaltender Dryden McKay and he didn’t let them down as he shut down the potent Huskies in the final 20 minutes to earn his second shutout of the season and 26th of his career tying Michigan State’s Ryan Miller for the NCAA career mark for shutouts.
This was doubly sweet for McKay who has had his troubles facing the Huskies yielding 10 goals in the last two contests including allowing a late goal in the Frozen Four Semi-final against the Huskies last April to end their season. McKay was particularly good in period one as the Huskies outshot the Mavericks 7-4 stopping several goalmouth opportunities and again late in period three as the Huskies feverishly battled to tie the contest.
“Special teams was the difference in the game tonight,” commented head coach Mike Hastings. “Your best penalty killer has to be your goaltender. If we want to keep winning hockey games you’re going to have to be good on special teams. Tonight we were able to get a power-play goal and keep killing penalties.”
The game started well for the Huskies who held the Mavericks without a shot on goal for about the first six and a half minutes of the first period. A penalty to MSU’s David Silye 11:21 into the period gave SCSU the first man-advantage of the game but their power play which scored eight times vs St. Thomas last weekend couldn’t produce a shot on goal. Sam Hentges was stuffed on the doorstep by McKay with 5:36 remaining in the period and it was beginning to look like McKay was on his game. Appropriately, the first period ended in a scoreless game with SCSU outshooting the Mavericks 7-4.
Minnesota State certainly was the better team in period two and started the period reeling off 11 shots on goal in the first 10 minutes before the Huskies had their first shot on goal. The Mavs started finding cracks in the SCSU defense and had a glorious opportunity with Wyatt Aamodt breaking in one on one with Hrenak but Hrenak was up to the task with a big save.
The teams traded Penalties with SCSU’s Fitzgerald for hooking at 12:37 and MSU’s Akito Hirose for interference at 14:41 but both teams had successful penalty kills. McKay came up big on a short-handed goal mouth opportunity by Chase Brand to keep the game scoreless and Fitzgerald placed the puck off the post during the Hirose penalty. But, a high sticking penalty to the Huskies Luke Jaycox with 2:24 remaining proved costly for the Huskies. First-year defenseman, Jack Peart fanned on a clearing attempt, the Mavericks took control of the puck and Smith beat Hrenak for the lone goal of the game with 1:05 remaining in period two.
In a strong period for the Mavericks, they outshot the Huskies 15-5 and entered period three with a one-goal lead.
McKay and the Mavericks defense tightened up in the final period outshooting the Huskies 10-8 and they nearly extended their lead to two goals placing a shot off the post with 1:46 remaining in regulation. Penalties to SCSU’s Seamus Donohue and MSU’s Nathan Smith with 1:38 remaining had the teams skating four on four and Hrenak was pulled at 18:38 of the period for an extra attacker but the Mavericks held on for the 1-0 win.
” If you are fortunate to win on Friday against a team like St. Cloud, they are going to re-group and they are going to be better so we’re going to have to be better, noted Hastings in a postgame interview. “Both teams will go back and get some rest and get after it tomorrow so it should be a great challenge for us.”
In a record-breaking game for McKay, he stopped all 20 shots he faced for his 26th career shutout as his record improved to 3-0-0. David Hrenak also had a strong game in goal turning aside 28 of 29 shots.
SCSU was 0 for 2 on the man-advantage with the Mavericks penalty kill perfect at 100% over three games. MSU was 1-2 on the power play. SCSU won the battle in the faceoff circle winning 27 of 47 faceoffs. Kevin Fitzgerald led both teams winning 13 of 18 faceoffs.
Game Note: Senior forward Sam Hentges left the game with an injury with 2:24 left in period two and did not return.
The teams return to the ice on Saturday with a 6:07 PM CT faceoff.