Daniel McElroy ® Sports Editor |
Photos by Mansoor Ahmad ® Photo Editor |
“It’s the rivalry.”
Those are the three words that head coach Mike Hastings had to describe the series and type of play in the Mavericks sweep against the No. 12-ranked Bowling Green Falcons.
The Mavs (11-2-1) moved up to rank No. 3 in the country after they took a 4-0 win on Friday and 5-1 on Saturday in their home series against the Falcons (16-6-0).
The first five minutes alone showed just how hard of competitors these two teams are. Following an icing call immediately off the center ice faceoff to start the game, the next whistle didn’t come until almost nine minutes of play, when McKay consumed a shot from the slot in his chest.
The Mavericks found the first goal of the game in the second period after taking advantage of a powerplay opportunity after BGSU’s Max Johnson took an interference penalty in the offensive zone. MSU’s Sam Morton came out of the box and handed the puck to Julian Napravnik, who entered the zone with Jake Livingston and Nathan Smith in an odd man rush. Napravnik dropped the puck behind himself for Livingstone to pass it across the ice for Smith’s one-timer goal, his third of the year.
Minnesota State took the second goal of the game following a five minute major from Bowling Green, as Livingstone and Zmolek cycle around the top of the zone, when Zmolek finally fired a shot from the point that got deflected from Dallas Gerads to take the 2-0 lead.
Walker Duehr then gave the Mavericks a 3-0 lead after skating behind the net, searching for a pass, but ended up taking a shot for himself and finding the top left corner past Bowling Green’s Eric Dop.
In his first game back since his injury, Riese Zmolek made it look easy, casually skating into the zone, making a move past every Falcon defender, just to backhand it past Dop’s glove side, making it a 4-0 game for the Mavs and sealing the win.
Junior goaltender Dryden McKay continued his string of stellar performances in this shortened season with his seventh shutout of the year, and his 21st shutout of his career, moving himself into second place in the NCAA all-time shutout leaders, being tied with former Bemidji State goaltender, Michael Bitzer, and just five shutouts away from tying Ryan Miller for the most NCAA all-time shutouts.
“Every time we play it’s a battle,” head coach Mike Hastings said after the game. “Whether you talk to [Bowling Green head coach] Ty [Eigner], his staff, myself, our staff, our players, I think we’ve got a lot of respect for each other.”
One might argue that the respect that coach Hastings is referring to, now only goes one way.
With 30 seconds left in the third period of Saturday’s game, Bowling Green’s Will Cullen entered the zone chasing Jared Spooner, when Cullen threw Spooner into the boards head first. An unaffiliated news source for the Bowling Green Falcons hockey team tweeted following the play, “I always try to remain as neutral as possible. But Cullen’s hit on that play should earn him some games off. Embarrassing play.” The hit resulted in a full-line brawl between the two teams, with plenty of discussion going on between the players on the benches. The play alone ended with 72 minutes in penalties, including three 10 minute game misconducts and a disqualification against Cullen. This was Cullen’s third game misconduct on the season, earning him a one-game suspension at the least. The Maverick Captain Zmolek was also booted from the game for fighting with the Falcons’ Sam Craggs, while defending his teammate in the altercation.
The events that led up to that point is what built up the frustration for the Falcons, including five goals from four unique scorers, including three goals in under three minutes to end the second period.
The scoring started with Shane McMahan’s first career goal, as he grabbed the puck behind the net from a deflected shot, circled out to the bottom of the faceoff circle, and ripped his shot off the inside of the top left corner post, to take an early 1-0 lead just five minutes into the first period.
The scoring would quiet down until late in the second period, when Ryan Sandelin took a questionable interference call at the six minute mark and the Mavericks killed the penalty successfully. Sandelin immediately got out of the box and took a pass from Smith. Sandelin took the puck to the top of the faceoff circle and went top shelf on Zack Rose, giving the Mavs a 2-0 lead.
Just over a minute later, Smith did a fantastic job killing time behind the net and making several moves on the Bowling Green defenders, as he found a passing lane to the front of the net, giving Jared Spooner his second goal of the season on a one-timer.
Another one minute and thirty seconds later, the Mavs find themselves in a two-on-one odd man rush, with the iconic duo of Elk River natives Jaremko to Lutz taking a 4-0 lead, with Minnesota State scoring three goals in the final 3:15 of the second period.
Following the Mavericks barrage of goals, Bowling Green swapped goaltenders and sat Rose on the bench, and brought Dop back to end the weekend for the Falcons.
With just three minutes into the third period, Lutz came off the bench and into the Falcons zone in a hurry, turning the puck over, grabbing it for himself, and fired it past Dop for his second goal of the night and seventh of the season.
With nine minutes remaining in the third, junior Brendan Furry took a five minute major penalty for checking from behind. The Falcons took advantage of their extended man-advantage with a goal from Connor Ford, assisted by Brandon Kruse and Max Johnson.
The Mavericks closed out the night with a 5-1 win and a sweep against a top ten team in the country.
Minnesota State allowed only one goal across two games against the top goal scoring team in the league, who coming into the weekend, were scoring an average of four goals per game.
“Last night combined with tonight, I thought Dryden McKay, when we did break down he was there for us, especially early tonight,” Hastings said following the game.
Regarding how the game ended on Saturday night, Hastings commented, “It’s not good. We’ve got to protect players and hopefully that happens,” he said with a concerned look and an unimpressed facial expression.
Concerning the health of Spooner who got hit, all Hastings had to say, again, was “not good.”
The Mavs closed out the weekend with eight unique goal scorers, including Lutz tallying two of his own to put himself as the Mavericks leading goal scorer with seven.
Smith added a goal and two assists on the weekend, Napravnik tallied two assists, and Borchardt recorded one assist, to put all three of them at 16 points on the year, all leading the Mavericks in points.
McKay stopped 50 of 51 shots he faced this weekend and improved his overall record to 11-1-0, lowering his goals against average to .84 goals allowed per game, and brought up his save percentage to .959.