The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 22, 2013

Mavericks sweep UAH for seventh straight win

By Shane Frederick sfrederick@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — For the second night in a row, Minnesota State found itself in a close game against Alabama Huntsville.

And for the second night in a row, the Mavericks pulled away thanks to its power play.

Minnesota State scored three power-play goals, including two late in the third period to defeat the Chargers 4-1 in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game at the Von Braun Center.

It was the seventh win in a row for the Mavericks (11-7-0, 9-3-0 in WCHA).

“Our power play bailed us out again,” coach Mike Hastings said in a phone interview afterward. “I don’t want to belabor that, but we weren’t doing that early (in the season).”

Jean-Paul LaFontaine had a goal and an assist, and Johnny McInnis had two assists. Jordan Nelson, Matt Leitner and Chase Grant also scored goals.

The Mavericks outshot the Chargers 46-18, and goalie Stephon Williams stopped 17 shots, including an early short-handed breakaway, for the win.

“He was sharp,” Hastings said of Williams, who was starting for the first time in three games. “He looked like he was back into it. He looked like he was back in a zone. ... He was aggressive when he needed to be aggressive, and he made some timely saves.”

Similar to Friday’s game, the Mavericks had trouble scoring despite a lopsided shot advantage. They led 2-0 on a first-period power-play goal by LaFontaine in the first period and an even-strength goal by Nelson in the second.

But Huntsville (1-17-0, 1-11-0) got on the board with just 34 seconds remaining in the second period on a goal by Brandon Clowes.

It remained a one-goal game until things turned a bit ugly.

Huntsville committed two major penalties for hits from behind, and both Matt Knowles and Zach Stepan needed some assistance to get off the ice.

The Mavericks made the Chargers pay for the penalties. Leitner scored a 4-on-3 power-play goal with 5:18 remaining in the game to make it 3-1, and 66 seconds later, Grant scored a 5-on-3 goal to make it a comfortable three-goal cushion.

Minnesota State has swept three straight series, outscoring their opponents 24-9 in those games and 27-11 in the seven-game streak.

The Mavericks will return to Mankato today and will play the U.S. Junior National Team in an exhibition game on Tuesday at the Verizon Wireless Center.

Stepan is on the U.S. roster.

Minnesota State’s next regular-season game is Jan. 3 at Alaska.