As Adam Eisele wrapped around the net to score the game-winning goal in overtime of Friday’s matchup with St. Cloud State, Maverick players and fans alike were able to finally let go of their loss in the NCAA Regional Tournament.
After seven months of preparation, the Minnesota State men’s hockey team avenged its season-ending loss to the Huskies. Their 3-2 overtime win was their first of the season, and head coach Luke Strand’s first collegiate victory behind the bench.
But it was not easy. The Mavs fell behind 2-0 in the first 25 minutes, fought to tie the game at two and eventually came away with a win in a thrilling home opener.
St. Cloud struck first with 7:04 remaining in the first period as Verner Miettinen fed Barrett Hall for a forehand shot to make it 1-0. As the period changed the Huskies still held the lead, adding onto it with another goal from Joe Molenaar to give them a two-goal advantage.
Less than two minutes later, the Mavs scored their first goal of the season and began their comeback. Lucas Sowder put the Mavs on the board, scoring the 19th goal of his career and first of the season.
“It’s exciting,” Strand said in a press conference after the Mavs’ 3-2 victory. “We went through the exhibition without scoring. Everyone’s a little bit holding their breath and then when Sowder scored, a lot of things busted open. For the older guys, they’ve got a torch to carry and I think they showed it out there tonight.”
Following another near score and Maverick power play, Brett Moravec found himself in the spotlight after he checked the “first collegiate goal” box to tie the game at two.
The game remained tied, but the Huskies gave Mavs goaltender Alex Tracy all he could handle with multiple shots on their third power play of the night. In the game, MSU outshot the Huskies 27-23.
“It was a little bit of a bend-don’t-break moment,” Strand said. “I thought as the third came and emotions came in, we still fended off their push. Hats off to Trace (Tracy). He did an excellent job and then our defense got some exits and ate some pucks when we needed it down the stretch.”
Tracy kept the Huskies quiet the rest of the way as Eisele and the rest of the Mavs paved the way to their first win of the season. As the crowd erupted, fans were rewarded with the win they came for.
Despite the win being a triumph on its own, a sweep would make their weekend much sweeter.
The next day, those wishes came true as the Mavs toppled the Huskies 5-1. Highlighted by Sam Morton’s two goals, the Mavs dominated the first two periods.
“I think we are building in the right direction,” Morton said following the game. “We are just trying to put our best foot forward, making strides, building team chemistry, and working hard for each other every day.”
Providing the 0 in the Mavs 3-0 lead was again goaltender Alex Tracy, who had 19 saves after two periods. On the other side, the Huskies were pushed to change to a freshman goalie following three Maverick scores. The goalie change was enough to fend off the Mavericks until late in the third.
The Huskies scored their lone goal of the game early in the third, cutting the lead to two. Later in the third, the Huskies would pull their newly inserted goalie. The Mavs capitalized, scoring twice in the final three minutes to close out the series sweep. Morton, Kaden Bohlsen and Brian Carrabes each had two-point nights for the Mavs as they cruised to a 5-1 victory.
“It was a big test,” Strand said. “We hadn’t had a back-to-back yet so that was test number one. We played the right way and we had to learn how to play with a lead for the first time as well. I think those two were encouraging moments. I was happy with the way we got out of the gate and I’m proud of the guys. They are finding ways to be a team and be happy and excited for each other.”
The Mavs host the University of Massachusetts next weekend.
Header Photo: In their first game since March, the Mavs stormed back from a two-goal deficit to win an overtime thriller over St. Cloud State. They would complete the sweep with a 5-1 win the following day. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
Write to Hayden Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org