Minnesota State splits series in Alaska

The Minnesota State Mavericks took the ice 2,442 miles from home in their away series with the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. The Mavericks split the weekend series, 1-1.

The first game of the weekend was a strange one for the Mavs, as they showed solid offense but had problems finishing at the net. They would ultimately lose 4-3 while outshooting the Seawolves, 43-17. This is definitely one the Mavericks would like to have back.

Early on, MNSU continued their trend of giving up the lead in the first period when Anchorage’s David Trinkberger fired the puck over senior Cole Huggins’ glove. Nicolas Erb-Ekholm made it a 2-0 game with a power play goal in the second period before MNSU’s shots on goal finally started to have an impact. Daniel Brickley sent a wrist shot into the back of the net, the first goal let up by Oliver Mantha on the day as the Mavs outshot the Seawolves 29-10 through two periods but found themselves down 2-1.

“We didn’t have some guys who have been around to step up tonight,” said Mavericks’ head coach Mike Hastings on game one’s struggles.

The sparks flew in the third period as UAA’s Mason Mitchell took back the two-score game on a give-and-go goal. But MNSU refused to give in, and Sean Flanagan help put them back in the game with a ricochet goal to make it a 3-2 game. However, late in the game, Tad Kozun finished the game off for the Seawolves on an empty-netter at the 18:07 mark. While Marc Michaelis scored a last second goal on a power play with Huggins out, the Mavs still fell 4-3 despite 40-plus shots on goal.

On Saturday, the fortunes turned for the Mavericks, as they scored first for the first time since January 14 off of a Zeb Knutson back-hander. Then, Brad McClure fired a top-shelf goal past Manthna later in the first period for a 2-0 lead. The biggest difference early in game two was the amount of passes before the shot, as MNSU played less hero hockey and spread the puck around more. This was also evident with how many shots on goal they ended with (27).

“Imperative, we’ve struggled with that over the last five to six games,” said Hastings of netting the opening goal for the first time in almost a month. “We’ve made it difficult on ourselves by playing from behind, but Zeb Knutson had a really good start and a really good night.”

In the second period, Knutson netted his second goal of the game on another nice feed to him on the right corner of the net that he promptly snuck past AAU to make it a 3-0 lead. The scoring continued in the third period, as C.J. Franklin grabbed an empty-netter to stomp the Seawolves’ hopes of a comeback mid-period. The final goal came on a one-timer from Sean Flanagan to seal the 5-0 win and give goaltender Aaron Nelson his second shutout win of the year. Nelson also made 13 saves, as he saw the nod over Huggins Saturday.

“I thought the line of C.J Franklin, Michaelis, McClure and Hunterbrinker had a nice game,” said Hastings. “…And Stepan, Knutson, all those are the guys that have been around longest for us and if we are going to have any success going forward we need them to play like they did tonight and I’m really happy for them.”

The Mavs rank third in the conference, securing a playoff berth after Saturday’s win, and the next few weeks prove crucial as they sit seven points behind Michigan Tech, who holds the second place spot. MNSU will take a hiatus this weekend before taking on Northern Michigan at home at the Verizon Wireless Center on February 17.

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