The No. 1 Minnesota State men’s hockey team has successfully completed their first series during the absence of junior forward Nathan Smith and head coach Mike Hastings due to the Beijing Winter Olympics. The Mavericks traveled east for their matchup, taking on Bowling Green on away ice.
The Falcons came into the series sitting fourth in the CCHA standings with a conference record of 10-7-1 which netted them 30 points in conference play. That sat far behind the top-ranked Mavs, who are above and away the favorite to win the CCHA at this point, who came in 17-3-0 in the CCHA for 50 points.
Game one of the series kicked off on Feb. 4 with MSU getting on the board first only 2:56 into the first period. Senior defenseman Andy Carroll got his second goal of the season after carrying the puck into the offensive zone and lifting the puck past the BGSU goaltender’s left shoulder.
The remainder of the first period ended scoreless with Minnesota State bringing the 1-0 lead into intermission. Another one-goal period was in store, as junior center Brendan Furry got on the board on the power play after trickling a slow puck through the netminder’s five hole to go up two.
As the third period went underway, the Falcons pulled back within one goal when Nathan Burke scored a wrister past senior Dryden McKay’s left side after receiving a pass from the blue line. It was not enough, however, with Furry scoring on an empty net in the waning seconds of action to give the Mavericks a 3-1 lead.
Bowling Green held the shot advantage in this one, winning the margin 28-25. This was only the second time the Mavs had been outshot by a team this season.
As Saturday rolled around the two teams returned to the ice to settle the series in game two. A scoreless opening period granted way for improvement in the second, and the Mavericks did just that.
Junior winger Ryan Sandelin lit the lamp first, burying a one-timer from the left circle only 1:29 into the period. Just a short time later Sandelin found the back of the net again, rifling a shot from senior Reggie Lutz’s pass at the 3:55 mark.
The Mavs did not stop there, as senior winger Julian Napravnik scored on a nifty dangle past Falcon defenders before eventually squeaking the puck past the goaltender’s skate to give MSU a 3-0 lead. The two teams headed into the final period of play and the Mavericks continued their scoring ways on a wraparound goal by Lutz for his tenth goal of the year.
Furry got another one before the end of play, scoring on the power play after ripping a shot between the Falcon goaltender’s pad to make it 5-0. The remainder of the period ended scoreless, with McKay collecting his ninth shutout of the season on a 19 save outing.
McKay now stands 27-4-0 on the year with the win and has extended his shutouts record to 33 with the blank on the scoreboard. With two wins this weekend while allowing .5 goals against and having a save percentage of .979, McKay earned his fifth CCHA Goaltender of the Week honor of the season.
The Mavericks now sit at 27-5-0 overall and 19-3-0 in the CCHA with the series sweep, and will resume play with a home series against Bemidji State after a week off. Bowling Green falls to 13-12-3 overall with the loss and 10-9-1 in conference play.
With a convincing sweep, the Mavs remained atop the USCHO coaches poll for the second straight week and the tenth time this year. MSU has now won their past seven games and have also won 16 of their last 17.
Header Photo: Junior center Brendan Furry (13) upped his season point total to 33 with three goals against the Falcons.