Mankato, MN – After being shut out by Dryden McKay and the MSU Mavericks 1-0 on Friday, coach Brett Larson told me pre-game they needed to find a way to get some pucks past McKay on Saturday. Indeed they did, scoring twice in the first 6:26 of the contest to take a lead they never relinquished in a key 3-1 win over #1/2 Minnesota State University Mankato at the Mayo Health System Event Center in Mankato, MN.
Keep in mind, it hasn’t been an easy task for any team to earn a win in this rink over the past three seasons with the Mavericks winning 54 of 58 games during that span. So, yes, despite the frustration of Friday night’s game the Huskies once again found a way to victimize Dryden McKay who tied an NCAA career record for shutouts with 26 on Friday. In fact, it’s the Huskies who are one of the few teams to have consistent success against the senior goaltender scoring 13 goals against him in less than three full games.
Saturday’s win was particularly encouraging as the Huskies scored three times without senior Sam Hentges, one of their top forwards, out of the lineup. Hentges suffered an upper-body injury in Friday’s game and left the ice with little more than two minutes remaining in period two and did not return. With considerable depth at forward, the Huskies inserted first-year forward Mason Salquist in the lineup, and last week’s NCHC Rookie of the Week promptly scored his first career goal as a Husky on one of his first shifts of the game.
“You knew St. Cloud was going to make a push,” said MSU head coach Mike Hastings. “I thought they came out and played with a pace that we didn’t handle very well. I thought they were a little harder than we were. I wish we could have done a little more to involve the crowd we had in the building and draw some energy from that.”
“Kudos to St Cloud,” said Hastings. “We knew they were a good team and they deserved to win tonight. They are very well-coached and disciplined.”
The Huskies got out of the blocks quickly in Saturday’s contest and wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as Nolan Walker took the puck off the wall and exploded down the ice beating MSU’s Jake Livingstone wide and tossing the puck on goal where it went off the skate of Akito Hitosi for the Huskies first goal and an early 1-0 lead.
Next, and just 3:26 later, the newly constructed line of Robert Morris University transfer Aidan Spellacy, sophomore Joey Molenaar, and freshman Mason Salquist charged down the ice into the MSU zone. Spellacy dropped the puck to Molenaar who made a nifty toe drag and threw the puck on goal with Salquist burying the rebound for his first career goal. In just two games, the feisty Salquist, a Grand Forks native may have the North Dakota Fighting Hawks rue the day they let Salquist leave town.
The Huskies ended period one outshooting the Mavericks 8-6 but most importantly were dictating the pace of the game and entered period two with a two-goal lead. However, an unsportsmanlike penalty to Easton Brodzinski at 18:12 had him in the penalty box for the first eight minutes of period two.
A closely contested second period saw a total of four penalties, two on each side, and it created opportunities on each side. With Brady Ziemer in the penalty box for roughing at 10:57, the Mavericks sniper, Julian Napravnik placed a shot off the post nearly closing the lead to a goal. A penalty to the Mavericks Lucas Sowder at 17:57 gave the Huskies a late man-advantage opportunity and they quickly converted with a goal by Veeti Miettinen, his first of the season. Stationed at the top of the left circle, Miettinen received a pass from Perbix and placed a shot off the skate of Jake Livingstone and past McKay for an SCSU three-goal lead.
With a three-goal lead entering period three, the Huskies were intent on tightening up their defense and dumping the puck into the Maverick zone often making the MSU defenseman chase the puck and use up energy. Most importantly, the Huskies kept the mostly partisan crowd of 4,800 out of the game despite the Maverick’s concerted effort to get back into the contest.
Down by three goals, McKay was pulled for an extra attacker with 3:31 remaining and they ultimately got a puck past Hrenak with 3:10 remaining in the contest. But, the Mavericks thought they scored 15 seconds earlier as Julian Napravnik placed a shot that deflected off the crossbar and post setting off the goal horn and the crowd before being waved off. With the Huskies out of sorts during the commotion, Napravnik sent another shot from the right circle on goal and Reggie Lutz buried it at the goalmouth to close the margin to two goals. But, that was the closest they could get as the Huskies held on for the 3-1 win.
In a closely contested game between two of the top teams in college hockey, the Mavericks outshot the Huskies 23 to 19. SCSU goaltender David Hrenak had an outstanding weekend stopping 22 of 23 shots on goal to improve his record to 3-1-0. The Mavericks Dryden McKay stopped 16 of 19 shots on goal to see his record fall to 3-1-0.
The Huskies converted 1 of 4 man-advantage opportunities while the Mavericks were unable to convert in 4 opportunities. In the faceoff circle, the Mavericks won 34 of 58 faceoffs.
The Huskies return to action next weekend with a home-and-home series with the University of Minnesota.