The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 30, 2013

Mavericks ousted in NCAA tournament

TOLEDO, OHIO — For almost a week, Minnesota State men’s hockey coach Mike Hastings talked about Miami being one of the best defensive teams in the country.

On Saturday, the Redhawks came as advertised.

Playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years, Minnesota State was shut out for the first time all season and lost its Midwest Regional game 4-0 at the Huntington Center.

Miami goaltender Ryan McKay stopped 20 shots and kept MSU scoreless on four power plays. But the Mavericks must have felt like they were playing against six goaltenders, as the fifth-ranked Redhawks blocked 28 shots.

“I’m a big believer in guys that end up blocking shots do it because they want to,” Hastings said. “I’ll call it a commitment level. And that’s not a slight on our guys at all. That’s a compliment to Miami and their commitment to defending.”

Minnesota State trailed 1-0 after two periods, but had been one of the best third-period scoring teams in the country all season. The Redhawks, the regular-season champions of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, didn’t give the Mavericks any room, though. They limited MSU to just four shots in the period, and the Mavericks didn’t get their first one on net until 12 minutes had elapsed.

By then it was 3-0, as Marc Hagel and Cody Murphy added on to Curtis McKenzie’s second-period goal.

“I think their goalie should give their D-men a little pat on the back,” MSU’s goal-scoring leader Eriah Hayes said. “They saved them tonight.”

Meanwhile, Minnesota State was down to five defenseman early in the game.

Senior Evan Mosey received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a knee-to-knee hit on Jimmy Mullin at 12:32 of the first period. It was MSU’s only penalty of the game, but it came at a price.

The Mavericks killed off the penalty, allowing just two shots to get to goalie Stephon Williams, but they were unable to take much momentum from the kill.

“You expend a lot of energy when you go down to five (defensemen) and you’re killing a five-minute major,” Hastings said. “There weren’t a lot of whistles during it. There were extended periods of time when we had to be out there defending, and I think it sapped some of our energy.”

Minnesota State mustered just two shots on goal during its power-play opportunities. Its best look came early in the game when forward Zach Lehrke ripped a shot off the crossbar. Late in the period, MSU defenseman Josh Nelson hit the crossbar with a shot from the point.

“(The Mavericks) are obviously here for a reason, and it was a great game and 0-0 after one,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “That game could have gone either way.”

With two more power plays to work with in the second period, the Mavericks appeared to be in position to score the game’s first goal. But Miami got it at the 11:04 mark on a 3-on-1 play started by Riley Barber as he came out of the penalty box. MSU defenseman Brett Stern couldn’t handle the trio coming at him, and Austin Czarnik set up McKenzie for a top-shelf goal.

“That first period we were still trying to find our legs,” McKenzie said. “(The goal) was almost a relief. Everyone got a little more confidence when that puck went in. Things started going our way from there.”

Just 2:30 into the third, the Mavericks failed to backcheck on a Redhawks rush, and Hagel tapped in a cross-crease pass from Blake Coleman for the 2-0 lead. At 9:24, Murphy chipped the puck over Williams during a scramble in front of the goal. Williams stopped three shots on the play before the puck finally got past him.

Williams finished with 22 saves. Miami’s last goal was an empty-netter by Max Cook. Czarnik, the CCHA Player of the Year and a Hobey Baker Award finalist, got his second assist on the play.

Miami (25-11-5) will face St. Cloud State at 3 p.m. today for a trip to the Frozen Four.

Minnesota State’s best season in a decade ends with a 24-14-3 record.

“Obviously it’s not the ending that we wanted,” MSU defenseman Tyler Elbrecht said. “But Miami’s a great team, and you’ve got to give them credit for today.”

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