Senior forward Kyler Kupka was the hero Friday, as his lone third period goal propelled St. Cloud State to its 3-2 win over the Minnesota State University, Mankato men’s hockey team. On Saturday, fifth-year forward Grant Cruikshank proved to be the difference-maker as he put up two goals and powered the Huskies to a 4-3 win, earning the series sweep over the Mavericks.
The Mavericks had a quick start Friday night as they controlled the pace of play and earned a powerplay just over three minutes into the game. The Huskies were able to kill off the penalty, but still spent a lot of time in their own defensive zone for the majority of the early first period.
With about seven minutes remaining in the period, the Huskies found a good burst of energy thanks to their fourth line, who peppered Maverick goaltender Keenan Rancier with shots, but to no avail. Their work paid off over a minute later, as senior forward Zach Okabe wheeled around the left circle and fired a shot past Rancier to give the Huskies the all-important first goal of the game.
Some back and forth action by both teams took the game to the end of the first period with the Mavericks down by a goal. Minnesota State would be gifted its second powerplay of the game early in the second period.
It wouldn’t take long for the Mavericks to convert on the powerplay, as senior forward Sam Morton redirected a shot-pass by junior defenseman Akito Hirose to tie the game up at 1-1. Nearly seven minutes later, junior defenseman Tony Malinowski would register his first point of the season as he wired a slapshot past the St. Cloud goalie for the 2-1 lead.
Once again, the Mavericks seemed to dictate the pace of play for the next several minutes, and kept the Huskies in their own defensive zone for the majority of the period. But to counter, the Huskies found a short burst of energy late in the second and Cruikshank finished off a great passing-play from Okabe to tie the game up at 2-2 heading into the third period.
With a powerplay to start the third period for the Huskies, their momentum easily carried over from late in the second. With a loose scramble in front of the Maverick net, Kupka was able to find the puck and bury it into the back of the net for the 3-2 lead for St. Cloud.
The Mavericks controlled for the majority of the third period, and kept firing shots at the St. Cloud goaltender, but to no avail. The Huskies came up solid during the third period and handed the Mavericks their second loss of the young season.
With a quick turnaround, the Mavericks juggled up lines and started freshman goaltender Alex Tracy on Saturday night, looking for a different outcome than the prior night. Saturday’s game got off to a rocky start for both teams, as there were five penalties handed out within the first eight minutes of action.
With about 12 minutes remaining in the first and the Mavericks on the powerplay, St. Cloud grad-student Micah Miller found a quick burst of speed and flipped a pass across to Cruikshank who tapped it into the back of the net for the shorthanded goal.
But the Mavericks would answer back quickly. With a scramble in front of the Husky net nearly two minutes later, junior forward David Silye buried the loose puck past St. Cloud goaltender Dominic Basse to tie the game up at 1-1.
Strong play by both teams kept the game deadlocked at ones heading into the second period. As the story of the weekend would say, the Mavericks started out strong during the second period, but a quick burst by the Huskies would negate those efforts.
As Miller wheeled into the Mavericks’ defensive zone, he sent a harmless shot from the tops of the circles that hit Tracy’s glove and trickled into the back of the net for the 2-1 lead. And the Huskies’ offense kept humming as senior defenseman Ondrej Trebal sent a shot from the point that got deflected past Tracy by senior forward Chase Brand, giving St. Cloud a 3-1 lead nearly two minutes later.
Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings took his timeout following the Huskies’ third goal to calm his team down and try to regroup. This proved to be effective as junior forward Josh Groll found the back of the net for the Mavericks only four minutes later, cutting the Huskies’ lead to just 3-2.
The game remained at 3-2 heading into the final frame. With just under seven minutes into the third period, Morton was able to deke his way past a Husky defenseman and fire a short-side snipe past Basse which tied the game up at 3-3.
St. Cloud started to pick up momentum late in the third period and spent a lot of time in their offensive zone. That work would pay off with just over three minutes to go, as Cruikshank fired a shot past Tracy that gave the Huskies a 4-3 lead.
With very little time remaining, the Mavericks tried to piece together a comeback, but fell short by a final score of 4-3. With the Mavericks’ loss, they turned to 3-3 on the season.
The Mavericks will be back in action this weekend as they host Bowling Green on Friday and Saturday to start the thick of their conference play this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. Friday and 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Header Photo: Minnesota State’s Men’s Hockey team traveled to St. Cloud for a two-game series against the Huskies. Minnesota State dropped both games. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)
Write to Karson Buelow at Karson.Buelow@mnsu.edu