MANKATO — Having a little time and space to make plays gave the Minnesota State men’s hockey team a one-game lead in its Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff series.
Not being able to navigate through Nebraska Omaha’s big trees on defense the next night meant there will be a Game 3 game tonight.
Omaha defeated MSU 2-1 before a crowd of 3,346 Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center to force a decisive game for a trip to the Final Five.
Minnesota State (23-12-2), which won Friday’s series opener in overtime, hasn’t been to the St. Paul event since 2003.
“They’ve got some big D over there,” said MSU forward Matt Leitner of UNO’s 6-foot-8, 6-7, 6-3 and 6-2 defensemen. “But it’s more on us to get in there and get it done.”
Omaha goalie John Faulkner stopped 34 Minnesota State shots and also got a little help and a little luck. His teammates blocked 21 shots, including nine in the third period. Meanwhile, MSU’s Teddy Blueger hit the crossbar with a wide-open look early in the third, and Dylan Margonari grazed a post in the first.
“I thought our compete level was good,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “Hit a couple of posts. I think we need to have a little bit better net presence. I thought we went in there for short periods, not long periods. And to score goals at this time of year we need to do that. …
“There’s a price you have to play to score goals. We’re just going to have to do that tomorrow.”
Minnesota State goaltender Stephon Williams stopped 25 of 27 shots.
Omaha’s first goal came on a scramble in front of Williams. Tanner Lane’s whack at the puck appeared to be going wide, but the goalie had lost his stick, and the puck caromed off the loose piece of lumber and into the net.