The Minnesota State Mavericks netted 12 goals over their two-day stint against the Northern Michigan Wildcats to tally their fourth home sweep of the season in their final regular season games at the Verizon Wireless Center.
“The guys had a really good week and backing up [Friday] night’s performance was important,” said head coach Mike Hastings after the weekend was through. “We showed some soft spots but we kept coming. I thought we did a good job with the puck, and I just thought we kept picking each other up when bad things happened.”
From the start of the first period on Friday night, the Mavericks offense was explosive. The Wildcats did have the occasional burst, like Denver Pierce hitting both pipes on a breakaway miss that bailed out MNSU goaltender Aaron Nelson. MNSU continually marched into the crease early, leading to Zeb Knutson’s goal from out front, which broke the Wildcats goaltender Atte Tolvanen’s five-game shutout streak. The Wildcats stayed right with MNSU on an equalizing goal off of Zach Diamantoni’s stick. The Mavs stayed right on top of the Wildcats defense, however, and Parker Tuomie was able to grab his sixth goal of the season. Max Coatta caught the pipe once but got all net late in the period to put the Mavs up 3-1 going into the second period.
After a mess of penalties that had both teams in the box to start the second, the Wildcats’ Shine stepped into the spot light with his 17th goal on the season, bringing the Wildcats within one. But the Mavericks offense was far from done, as they grabbed a shorthanded goal off of Nicholas Rivera’s tip-in to pull ahead by two scores yet again.
“We got beat two times early in the game and we made some mistakes,” said Wildcat head coach Walt Kyle. “Good job by them and we have to reload and get it done.”
The Wildcats started out the third period on the penalty, giving the Mavericks an early shot to potentially put the game away. Brad McClure wasted no time in grabbing the power play goal, displaying five goals for the Mavericks, and netting McClure his 14th of the season. Late in the third, Diamantoni netted his second of the day on a beautiful flick to the top shoulder of Nelson, after breaking away and finding open ice, to bring them back within two. With 1:16 remaining, the goalie for the Wildcats was pulled, almost resulting in an empty-netter out of a face-off, if not for a great effort and save from Rylan Yaremko.
The Mavs started the weekend off right with a win despite some penalty trouble, as they ended with five, to keep grabbing points before playoff hockey.
“We just wanted to play quality- we just wanted to make sure we were making plays when they were there,” said Hastings of the goaltender and defense for the Wildcats. “And when they weren’t, try to get pucks to him in traffic, no different then when we are playing any of the other goaltenders in this league.”
The next night found the Mavs and Wildcats locked in another scoring bonanza in the Verizon Wireless Center as MNSU tried to gain six points for the rankings on the weekend.
The first period started out all Minnesota State but without the goals to show for it, until a late power play off of a roughing on the MNSU goaltender gave them the extra man. Brickley cashed in on the power play with a deep shot from the point to take the lead. The Wildcats were able to comeback with an opportunity of their own as they went on a power play deep in the period, leading to a quick score as Loggins netted his eighth on the year. The Mavs regained the lead on the double put-back by Gerard right out in front of the crease. Then it was the Wildcats’ turn with a top shelf breakaway goal from Luke Voltin, with under three minutes to play. A mere 10 seconds later, Zach Stepan snatched the Mavericks’ lead back with a shot driving to the goaltender on Tolvanen’s glove side to go up again.
“It’s big, they’ve been working hard all year and you like to see them get rewarded for doing the things during practice,” said C.J. Franklin of the young talent making plays over the weekend. “And it helps a team as well in games like this when they have three or four points, it’s good for them and good for the team.”
The Mavericks picked up right where they left off by quickly gaining a two-score lead off of the stick of Knutson to start the second. The Wildcats stayed in the game, however, by quickly scoring on a power play goal from freshman Darien Craighead. The fireworks would not stop, as Rivera threaded through defenders on a two-on-one break away that ended with a goal as the puck went in-and-out of Wildcat goaltender Tolvanen’s glove to find the back of the net. The Wildcats were able to climb back to a one-score deficit on a power play goal from Troy Loggins, his second on the night, leading to the pulling of Nelson after a .636 save percentage night in favor of Cole Huggins in the net. Penalties would be big for the second straight night, as the teams combined for 10 before the second period expired.
“I thought that [Stepan’s] was a really big goal to give us the two-goal cushion,” said Coach Hastings after the high scoring, back-and-forth game. “And I thought that [fourth] line was the line that carried us early, and when we can play with four lines that makes us better.”
Why stop the trend now? Franklin netted a power play goal in first minute of the third period to grab a 6-4 lead. Midway through the period, the Mavericks found the back of the net for the seventh time as Michaelis found a crease on the left side of wildcat territory with plenty of space to drive and score, effectively icing the game at 7-4. That secured the sweep for the Mavericks as they climbed to a meager four points behind Michigan Tech and the second spot in the conference.