The Minnesota State Mavericks hosted the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs on an unusual Tuesday night game that pitted the two in-state rivals against each other for the second time this season, with the Mavericks holding off the Bulldogs for a tight 1-0 victory.
The win was the second time in as many games the Mavs were able to exact some revenge after early season stumbles. They are fresh off a 5-2 victory over St. Cloud State, a team that bested them in the season opener 4-0. After a 3-1 loss to Duluth in late November, the Mavericks surged past them and were able to bounce back with victories over two out of conference rivals. MSU also showed the growth the team has made over the course of the season toughing out a win in a defensive, low scoring game. A skill they had not shown prior to their triumph over UMD.
“You have to stick with it, it’s not easy, you saw it was 3-1 when we lost in their building and (Shepard) was good there, you look at their season and they’re a young group of defensemen that is growing every weekend, so you know it is going to be hard to score goals against them,” said Mavericks head coach Mike Hastings after the game, discussing his team’s grit in a tight game and against a tough defense. “These games are very important, we’ve talked about it in the past, we are trying to get better in out-of-league play. Starting out the season losing to St. Cloud and then going on the road and losing to Duluth, we put ourselves a little behind the eight ball and the two opportunities we had to get back, we really needed them.”
In a highly contested game, with both sides playing elite defense and tensions running high, the toughness as a unit that MSU has developed over the course of a season shown through. Early on, MSU should the offensive edge, with nine shots on goal to the UMD five, along with pushing the Bulldogs into their own end for most for the first period.
While MSU had the more crisp offense and stayed in front of the Duluth offense, not giving them many clean looks at all, the offense of the Mavericks was hampered by early penalties and finished with four. The Mavericks killed two penalties to start the game, but could not turn the great defense into a goal on UMD’s goaltender: Hunter Shepard, who finished with 23 saves.
It was a scrappy game, with the Bulldogs getting sent to the box twice in the each of the final two periods and several skirmishes broke out following plays. However a drive from the right side of Shepard finally slipped past him, as Parker Tuomie found the back of the net for the seventh time this season. The game winner hit home with 2:36 left in the second period and plenty of time left for Bulldogs.
However, the MSU did something they had not this season: standing stout in a very low scoring game and held off the Bulldogs onslaught. Connor LaCouvee was good for his second shutout of the season on 15 saves and the Mavericks continued to apply pressure on the Bulldogs defense.
Despite only finding the net once on 24 shot on goal, or failing to convert on the power play or Zeb Knutson missing an empty netter from just feet out with under a minute to play, the Mavericks were able to sidestep everything, winning on great defense and persistent offense. The maturity of the
Mavericks weathered some missed opportunities and a great second period push (six of their 15 shots on goal came in the second) by the Bulldogs to get the victory.
With a 19-7 record, the Mavericks next opponent is the USA National Team Development Program, which comes to town on Jan 27.