The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

February 10, 2014

Mavs show killer instinct against Beavers

Team now ranked second nationwide in power play; penalty-kill is fifth

MANKATO — Two weeks ago, the Minnesota State men’s hockey team gave up three power-play goals to St. Cloud State in a loss at the North Star College Cup, and there was some worry about the penalty kill.

Turns out, that might have been an anomaly.

Over the four games since then, the Mavericks have killed off 19 of their opponents’ 20 power plays, including all 11 in this past weekend’s sweep over Bemidji State.

During the second period Saturday, Minnesota State had to kill off 7 ½ consecutive minutes of penalty time, a stretch that included more than 90 seconds of 5-on-3 time split into sections at each end of a major penalty.

“A couple of things,” coach Mike Hastings said of the penalty kill. “Matty Leitner took a couple of bullets (blocking shots). You look at (Friday) night, and (Bryce Gervais) did the same thing. (Bemidji State’s Matt) Prapavessis can shoot it.”

Hastings rattled off a list of penalty killers by their jersey numbers, mentioning Leitner, Gervais, Chase Grant, Teddy Blueger, Brett Knowles “and our whole defensive corps.”

“The veterans have to drive the boat, and the young guys feed off that,” said Leitner, who ranks fourth in the nation in blocked shots by forwards with 39, including three against the Beavers. “It’s a big energy thing, knowing we’re going out there and playing for each other. Everybody got the job done.”

Goaltender Cole Huggins stopped 14 shots in the series during the penalty kill, proving the old adage that a team’s goalie sometimes has to be its best killer.

On Friday, Grant had his moments in that role, fending off up to three opposing players as he held the puck along the wall short-handed.

“It was like the old peewee days,” he said. “Just try to eat clock.”

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