Mavs hockey unable to sweep the Tommies

The Minnesota State men’s hockey team split its home-and-home series against St. Thomas over the weekend, winning 4-3 on the road in overtime Friday but losing 4-2 at home Saturday.

With the split, St. Thomas reclaims the top spot in the CCHA standings. The Tommies sit with 34 points while the Mavs have 32. 

Friday’s game was a thriller. Even though the Mavericks were on the road, plenty of Maverick fans were in attendance. With that came an energy boost for the Mavs. 

MSU took an early lead scoring two goals in the first nine minutes, courtesy of Connor Gregga and Brett Moravec. The Mavs second goal was their 20th power play goal of the season. 

After a dominant first period for MSU, the Tommies came out firing in the second. They erased the lead within the first nine minutes. The rest of the period remained scoreless, setting the stage up for an electric third period. 

Despite a strong effort, the Mavs were unable to solve St. Thomas goaltender Aaron Trotter, who came up with save after save to keep the Tommies in the game. The Tommies struck first with five minutes remaining in the period on a power play to take the lead against the Mavericks. 

The Tommies led with one minute remaining when the Mavs pulled their goaltender. Josh Groll scored with 33 seconds remaining to equalize for the Mavs and send the game to overtime.

The Mavs instantly took control of OT and dominated the Tommies. Zach Krajnik circled around the net and backhanded a pass across the goal to Kaden Bohlsen who fired the winning goal for the Mavs. 

“For the longest time it was an even game,” head coach Luke Strand said. “We started to let it slip through our fingers but I was proud of the guys for sticking with the plan late for as long as it took to get the equalizer. That was a huge goal Groller scored for us.”

“It’s so tight. They (St. Thomas) took advantage of the errors we made tonight so we have to clean up our game because we know every point is so important. I hope it’s packed at our place tomorrow,” said Strand.

And it was. Nearly 5,000 fans attended Saturday’s rematch. With a packed house and a must win game for the top of the conference, the stakes were high. 

The Tommies got things rolling early when Cooper Gay scored in the first minute of the game after a failed clear by the Mavs. 

Mistakes caught up with the Mavs again in the first period when they turned the puck over behind the net. This time Liam Malmquist capitalized, making it 2-0. 

“I’d love to play a perfect game, too,” said Strand after the game. “Sometimes you play a perfect game and you’re still behind. The miscues they took advantage of, and put the back of the net to their credit.”

The second goal was the wake up call for the Mavericks as they began getting more looks at goal, which led to a Josh Groll goal that was ruled out due to contact with the goalkeeper. 

The Mavs wasted no time responding with Brian Carrabes scoring on the power play. 

The game was a very chippy and contested affair with both teams receiving penalties. The Tommies ended the period on a five minute power play after Josh Groll received a major for hitting from behind. 

The Tommies took control instantly with a 4:30 power play, as Gay scored his second of the game two minutes into the second period. 

The Mavs began to get it going and put pressure on the Tommies. Josh Groll struck again against the Tommies, finding the rebound and scoring his seventh goal of the season. 

MSU attacked and tried to find the equalizer, but failed to convert anything into a goal with Trotter denying the Mavs anything. The Mavs finished the period with 23 shots to the Tommies 12. 

The same trend followed in the third period for the Mavs. Trotter was the outlying difference in the game, having one of the best performances on the rink. He made two crucial saves, which included making a stop on Sam Morton’s breakaway chance, and diving across the crease to stop Adam Eisele. 

“I just thought he was very solid, he was very good,” said Strand about Trotter. “I think he gave them opportunities for momentum throughout their own game because he was making big stops. I thought he was timely.”

Mack Byers sealed the game for the Tommies after golfing the puck down on an empty net for a 4-2 win. 

“It’s definitely not the way we want to start games but I liked our resiliency and just our determination to come back and play to the last minute,” said Brian Carrabes after the game. “In the last seconds everyone put their best effort forward and it’s the kind of outcome that sucks.”

The Mavs moved to a 10-6-2 conference record after the series split, and a 14-10-4 overall record. Next up for the Mavericks is a two-game series at Michigan Tech.

“We don’t want to chase outcomes; we want to chase play,” said head coach Luke Strand. “I think we’re going to find ourselves doubling up their chances, getting looks. Trotter played excellent in net but we chased the game because our miscues were right on their tape. But I was proud of the guys’ response. I think we stuck to the right things and continued to fight the right way.”

Header Photo: The Minnesota State men’s hockey team split its home-and-home series against St. Thomas over the weekend, winning on the road in overtime Friday but losing at home Saturday. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

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