Mavericks split conference series with the Wildcats

The No.10 ranked Minnesota State Men’s Hockey team played host to unranked Northern Michigan this past weekend in Mankato. Sophomore goaltender, Keenan Rancier, shone in Friday’s game despite the Mavericks losing 3-2 in overtime. The Mavericks got revenge on Saturday as four different players scored in their thrilling 4-1 victory.

Having not played a game since Nov. 5, the Mavericks seemed hopeful to get their legs underneath them early in Friday’s game. Northern Michigan countered with a very aggressive tenacity, which helped them control the pace early.

Rancier was forced to make an acrobatic save early on NMU senior, Andre Ghantous, to keep the game locked at zeroes. The Mavericks seemed to pick up the intensity after Rancier’s save and the two teams battled back and forth for much of the period.

With just over six minutes remaining in the first, sophomore forward, Will Hillman, broke the tie as he tapped home a rebound past the Wildcat goaltender which gave the Mavericks a 1-0 lead. The Mavericks were able to hold off the Wildcats for the remainder of the period and took a 1-0 lead heading into the second period.

Minnesota State opened the second period with good offensive pressure and were given the game’s first powerplay nearly seven minutes in. The Mavericks struggled managing the puck early in the powerplay and gifted NMU senior Alex Frye with a breakaway that was stopped by Rancier.

Minnesota State was able to pot one later in the powerplay as senior forward, Lucas Sowder, redirected junior defenseman, Jake Livingstone’s, point shot. The Wildcats got one back with just under three minutes left in the period as junior forward Artem Shlaine hammered home a rebound past Rancier bringing the game to 2-1.

The Mavericks returned to the powerplay late in the second period with the hopes of changing the tides of a struggling powerplay they’ve seen so far during the game. But that wouldn’t last long.

Minnesota State head coach, Mike Hastings, discussed the lack of management his team gave during the game. “With Northern’s push and our lack of management during the back half of the second period, it got a little goofy,” Hastings said. “We’re gonna have to be a lot better tomorrow than we were tonight.”

Minnesota State gifted NMU senior A.J. Vanderbeck with a breakaway during the powerplay and he fired a clean wrist-shot past Rancer for a shorthanded goal that tied the game at 2-2 with 50 seconds left in the period.

With the teams knotted up at twos heading into the third, the Mavericks remained hopeful to remain undefeated on home-ice this season. Minnesota State and Northern Michigan continued to battle during the third period grind and remained tied heading into overtime.

MSU opened the overtime period on the powerplay but failed to convert. With 3:48 left in overtime, Northern Michigan appeared to have scored the game winner, but a delayed penalty against Vanderbeck nearly milliseconds before negated the goal and gave Minnesota State another powerplay. 

As the Wildcats killed the Maverick powerplay, Vanderbeck jumped out of the box and screamed for the puck. After he cought the pass, Vanderbeck fired the game-winner past Rancier which handed the Mavericks their first loss on home ice and first in CCHA conference play.

Livingstone briefly shared his thoughts following the game. “It was a tough one,” Livingstone said. “We gave them the game and they deserved to win.”

The Mavericks remained frustrated following their loss Friday night and looked to bounce back Saturday. Junior forward, David Silye, got Minnesota State on the board early in game two as he went top-shelf for the 1-0 lead.

Not long after, the Wildcats tied the game at ones as senior forward David Keefer beat Rancier on the glove side. Both teams were handed powerplays during the finals minutes of the first, but were unable to convert and took a 1-1 lead heading into the second.

The Mavericks got their chances early in the second after opening the period on the powerplay and being gifted another shortly after. Livingstone put the Mavericks up 2-1 during the second powerplay after a tic-tac-toe play from freshman forward Christian Fitzgerald and junior defenseman, Akito Hirose.

The Mavericks took the 2-1 lead heading into the third period, looking to close out the weekend with a split. Senior forward, Cade Borchardt, brought the Maverick lead to 3-1 early in the third as he tapped in a back-door feed from Livingstone. 

Minnesota State seemed to handle the pace of play better than Friday’s game. The Mavericks got an insurance marker with an empty-net goal late in the third from senior forward Ryan Sandelin.

The Mavericks took game two by a score of 4-1 and earned the series split with the Wildcats.

“I thought it was a good response by our group,” Hastings said. “We were as good as we needed to be on our special teams and going out and making an impact on the game.”

Header Photo: Jake Livingstone (23) scored the game winning goal in the second period Saturday, Nov. 19 securing the lead for the Mavericks. The Minnesota State men’s hockey team splits the two-game series against Northern Michigan. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)

Write to Karson Buelow at Karson.Buelow@mnsu.edu

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