The 19th ranked Minnesota State Mavericks men’s hockey team swept the 17th ranked Michigan Tech Huskies last weekend in a two-game series that has them starting the season off fast and strong.
After starting off the 2015 season with five consecutive losses, the Mavericks attempted to reverse course for the start of the 2016 season. The Mavericks were able to sweep Michigan Tech in a two-game home stint where Minnesota State outscored the Huskies 7-1, shutting out Michigan Tech in the second game of the series. Mavericks’ Head Coach Mike Hastings was happy with the results over the weekend, and the performance of Senior goaltender Cole Huggins. The Centennial, Colorado native made 45 saves and earned Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) defensive player of the week for his contributions.
“Yeah, we’ll take that,” Hastings said. “I think [Michigan] Tech made a push. I thought Huggins was good, he stopped the ones he should and a couple he shouldn’t and we’re going to need him to be that type of goalie for us.”
In the first game of the series, the Mavericks got off to a very fast start scoring three goals in the first period, two by way of the power play. Scoring in the first period was center CJ Franklin and forward Zeb Knutson with two goals in the first. The three goals in the first gave the Mavericks the momentum and they rode it all the way until the third period, where Michigan Tech started to make a late push that Hastings mentions.
“I think you could see as the game wore on they had a bit more push. I think you could tell it was their third game as the game wore on, but I thought we had some guys show a lot of fortitude there with us getting into penalty kill trouble,” Hastings said.
The power play was a major component in the first win of the 2016 regular season, but the second game was all about the Senior Huggins. In three periods, Huggins saved 25 shots earning him his 11th career shutout as the Mavericks beat Michigan Tech 4-0. In two games, Huggins has saved 44 of 45 shots and posts a .978 save percentage, while averaging .50 goals against on average. Not a bad way to begin a season.
The Mavericks played well in their first two games and were able to stomp out the late push by the Huskies, although penalties were a real issue for Minnesota State in their first two games. In the second game alone, Minnesota State and Michigan Tech totaled 42 minutes of time in the box. However, Hastings thinks that it’s just a product of the changes the league and the NCAA are making and the adjustment period of the players adapting to the change in style.
“The league and the way the NCAA is they want to enforce the standards, so we got to adjust to that. We have to learn from what we saw tonight and make sure that we don’t repeat those offenses and go out and play,” Hastings said. “Hopefully our league can continue to develop the idea of a skating game and we’re going to have to do a better job tomorrow then we did tonight as far as staying out of the box.”
As players try to adjust to the changes being made and the uptick in sensitivity by the referees, leaders on the team are going to have to step up while the Mavericks run such a young lineup while some of the upperclassman get healthy. As the season develops, Hastings will be looking to see if the leaders of this team can emerge and this weekend was a good start.
“With having five freshmen up front we need some of the leaders to assert themselves and I thought they did,” Hastings said. “CJ Franklin might not have had a lot of offensive opportunities, [yet] I thought he was effective in the offensive zone. He defended [and] he was hard to play against. Brad McClure I thought asserted himself and played very well and we need guys to step into that role that might not have been in that role last year. So it was great to see upperclassmen step up.”
Up next, the Mavericks are scheduled to play St. Cloud State at home in a WCHA rivalry match up. Minnesota State will attempt to continue and add on to their two-game winning streak at home. The Puck drops at 7:07 p.m. this Friday and Saturday on October 14th and 15th at the Verizon Wireless Center. Go and get your tickets and come out to support your Minnesota State Mavericks as they face a historic rival in St. Cloud State.