Twenty goals is a significant plateau in college hockey.
It’s a number only six players have reached so far this season, and Minnesota State’s Jean-Paul LaFontaine became one of them on Saturday night.
“It’s hard to do in college hockey. You know, it really its,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said after his team’s dominant 4-0 WCHA victory over Alabama Huntsville before a crowd of 3,987 at Verizon Wireless Center.
LaFontaine scored twice to hit the 20-goal mark and help the Mavericks win their fifth consecutive game and 11th straight at home.
The junior forward is the fourth MSU player to reach that milestone in the last decade. No Maverick has scored more than 20 since 2002-03 when All-Americans Shane Joseph and Grant Stevenson had 29 and 27 goals, respectively.
The Mavericks still have four games remaining in the regular season.
“To be honest, I’m just looking at 19-13,” LaFontaine said, citing Minnesota State's record, “and we hope to end up 23-13. That’s really all that matters.”
The victory, coupled with Ferris State’s 2-1 loss at Bemidji State on Saturday, put the Mavericks (19-13-0, 17-7-0 in WCHA) into a tie for first place in the conference. However, Ferris State has six games left in the regular season.
Against Huntsville, which has just one win and lost its 30th game Saturday, the ice was tilted in MSU’s favor the entire game.
The Mavericks outshot the Chargers 65-10, hitting the 60-shot mark for the first time since '02-03. And it would have been a blowout if not for the play of goalie Carmine Guerriero. His 61 saves were a Huntsville record.
“I thought we stayed on it for 60 minutes,” Hastings said. “The guys did a lot of right things tonight. … I liked the way the guys managed the entire 60 minutes. I thought we were able to distribute the minutes to everybody, and they weren’t irresponsible with those minutes.”
Stephon Williams, starting at home for the first time since Nov. 30, got the shutout win, as the Mavericks blanked the Chargers for the series. It was the sophomore's fifth career shutout.
Johnny McInnis and Chase Grant scored Minnesota State’s other goals. Matt Leitner and Zach Lehrke each had two assists.
LaFontaine’s first goal, which gave the Mavericks a 1-0 lead at 4:22 of the first period was also his 100th career point. The shot from the left circle came during a delayed penalty. Bryce Gervais and Leitner assisted on the play.
Leitner, who is also a junior, reached the 100-point plateau earlier this season and now has 112 career points.
“It’s a significant echelon for both Matt Leitner and J.P. LaFontaine,” Hastings said. “Scoring 100 points in college hockey’s hard to do.”
A little more than three minute after LaFontaine’s goal, McInnis scored on the power play, making it 2-0 with his 17th goal of the season.
Guerriero kept the score close, stopping 18 shots in the second period and 27 in the the third.
With 2:33 remaining in the second period, LaFontaine finally extended MSU's lead to 3-0 with his nation-leading 14th power-play goal of the season. Leitner picked up his 27th assist of the season on the play.
Chase Grant scored the Mavericks’ final goal, putting back the rebound of a Jon Jutzi shot with 3:48 to play in the game.
The Mavericks are idle next weekend and next play Feb. 28-March 1 at Lake Superior State.