The Huskies won the three-game series this past weekend at the Verizon Center, sending the Mavs home
For the first time since November, the Minnesota State Mavericks men’s hockey team dropped back to back games, getting bumped out of the WCHA playoff race by the visiting Michigan Tech Huskies.
Things started out great for the Mavericks during this three-game series, starting out with a win 2-1 on Friday night over the Huskies at the Verizon Center. However, the Huskies roared back with 4-2 and 2-1 wins to bounce the Mavericks out of contention for the WCHA tournament.
Despite the Mavericks starting the series with another win, marking their third straight in the postseason, a 2-1 victory seeming a bit slow paced for a team that just scored 14 goals in two nights on Alaska, but it was still a victory for them on Friday night.
MSU posted 28 shots on goal while both Jared Spooner and Jake Jaremko (power play goal) found the back of the net. It was as well as a quiet offensive night could have gone for the Mavericks.
“At this time in the year, games are hard to finish,” said MSU head coach Mike Hastings to reporters following the game. He commented on the slow offensive night for the Mavericks on the heels of explosive offense against Alaska. “The 2-0 cushion was a big step to getting us some room, but you knew Tech was going to make a push.”
But the game was enough to give Michigan Tech a devastating blueprint for success later in the series. The Huskies had already started to dig in on defense, giving up a sparse amount of shots from outside, staying clean in the penalty column and forcing MSU to live on a light goal count.
Tech played like Bemidji State played the Mavericks to close out the regular season, with superb hockey that watched them score four goals on 21 shots, taking a 2-1 lead in the opening period and building on it with goals in every one of the following periods. They also played clean hockey, with only three penalties that yielded a late, second-period Dallas Gerads goal. The combination of forcing the Mavericks to shoot outside contested shots and giving them only a few opportunities to take advantage of resulting in a huge victory for the Huskies.
But MSU was still home, in postseason hockey, with an offense that posted over 130 regular season goals.
What followed was an absolute brawl on Sunday night, as both teams (literally) scratched and clawed for a victory to advance.
Both teams racked up an incredible amount of penalties early in the game, combining for 12 of the 13 total in the first and second periods alone. The scrappy match was low scoring and brutal, waging war for three periods with the only flashes of offense coming from Zeb Knutson and Jake Jackson in the second stanza to tie the game 1-1. After slugging out the game, the teams were headed to overtime.
Following the battle that was the opening three periods, Jackson sealed a win for the Huskies with his second goal of the night at the 15:57 mark of the OT period. The goal knocked off the Mavericks, sending the Huskies to the WCHA finals and putting MSU on the couch.
“I thought they played well over the weekend, though they played well again tonight, I thought their goaltender was the difference in the series and so I want to commend them and wish them luck,” said
Hastings following the disappointing finish to the weekend. “This was tough for our seniors, for this to be their last game at the Verizon, but there is another day and that will be the NCAA Tournament.”
The top performer on the weekend was no question, Patrick Munson. Munson at net for Michigan Tech was key for the Huskies this weekend, finishing the weekend with a 41-save night to make the next round and totaled up 72 saves and two wins in both games he started. He helped propel the team over the heavily-favored Maverick hockey team.
With the loss, the men’s hockey team now awaits to see who their next opponent will be in the tournament. The Mavericks are now 29-9-1 overall and will await the announcement of the NCAA postseason field, which is scheduled for March 18 when the 16-team bracket is unveiled.