By Shane Frederick
MARQUETTE, MICH. —
If Friday night’s loss at Northern Michigan was a low point for the Minnesota State men’s hockey team this season, Saturday night was the first step out of the hole.
“We had a meeting (Saturday) morning and talked about how (Friday) was not acceptable,” sophomore forward Bryce Gervais said. “To a man, we were not doing our job. Everybody did their job tonight.”
Behind a dominant special teams effort that included two power-play goals and two short-handed scores, the Mavericks defeated Northern Michigan 5-1 to snap a three-game losing streak and get a much-needed WCHA series split.
“I thought tonight was a really important game,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said.
Junior center Matt Leitner had a hand in four of the Mavericks’ goals, scoring one and assisting on three others, and Johnny McInnis scored a pair of goals.
The Mavericks’ penalty kill was superb. Not only did they kill off seven Wildcat power plays, but they allowed just two shots to get to goalie Cole Huggins when playing down a man, and Gervais and Chase Grant scored short-handed goals.
Northern Michigan’s lone goal came on an Erik Higby penalty shot late in the second period that made it a 3-1 game.
The Wildcats had a chance to cut MSU’s lead to one goal with a power play early in the third period at the Berry Events Center crowd of 2,298 ready to explode.
Instead, Leitner flipped the puck high in the air from deep in the Mavericks’ zone and put it on the tape of Gervais’ stick. With one defenseman on him, Gervais zipped into Northern Michigan end and lasered a quick, low shot under goalie Mathias Dahlstrom’s glove for the 4-1 lead.
“I had time to get it out and gave Bryce a chance to make a play," Leitner said. "The guys killing penalties have offensive skills. It’s not what we’re looking at first, but if we get a chance, we’re not afraid to take advantage.”
Said Geravis of Leitner: "He's such a good playmaker."
Gervais was strong on the penalty kill throughout the game, using his quickness at both ends of the ice to disrupt the Wildcats' power play.
“That one’s an answer,” Hastings said of Gervais’ goal. “I think it’s justice when you have someone put in the effort that he put in tonight and be rewarded. That’s a heck of a play.”
It was just the second short-handed goal of the season for the Mavericks. Grant scored the team's third with 6:45 left in the game.
The Mavericks fell 5-2 on Friday night, and, as they did in the series opener, they scored first.
McInnis redirected a point shot by Zach Lehrke with 1:45 remaining in the first period.
Unlike Friday, Minnesota State built on the lead.
The Mavericks went up 3-0 in the second period. McInnis scored at 7:08, just seconds after a power play ended, and Leitner put back a rebound at 15:31 after goalie Mathias Dahlstrom made a diving save on Jean-Paul LaFontaine.
“(Leitner) answered the bell,” Hastings said. “Matt Leitner was good. Johnny McInnis, the leadership group, the veterans, they all did a really good job of having a bounce-back game.”
The Mavericks outshot the Wildcats 30-17. Huggins stopped 16 shots for his 11th win of the season.
The Mavericks (15-13-0, 13-7-0 in WCHA) will return to Mankato and face Bemidji State Friday and Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center.
Minnesota State 1-2-2—5
Northern Michigan 0-1-0—1
Scoring: 1. MSU-McInnis 14 (Lehrke 13, Leitner 18) ppg 18:15
Penalties: LaFontaine, MSU (holding) 1:34; Kaib, NMU (holding) 7:37; Grant, MSU (hooking) 14:29; Siemer, NMU (charging) 17:54; Gaede, MSU (charging) 18:29; Jones, NMU (roughing) 18:29.
Scoring: 2. MSU-McInnis 15 (LaFontaine 15, Leitner 19) 7:08; 3. MSU-Leitner 9 (LaFontaine 15, Palmquist 13) ppg 15:32; 4. NMU-Higby (penalty shot) 18:23
Penalties: Thompson, MSU (cross-checking) 2:05; Lindores, NMU, major (boarding) 2:05; Seckel, NMU (elbowing) 7:45; Stepan, MSU (slashing) 9:30; Shine, NMU (hooking) 13:53; Blueger, MSU (interference) 16:20; Vigier, NMU (cross-checking) 17:32; Palmquist, MSU (tripping-penalty shot awarded) 18:23
Scoring: 5. MSU-Gervais 7 (Leitner 20, Foguth 2) shg 3:30; 6. MSU-Grant 5 (Flanagan 7) shg 13:15
Penalties: Flanagan, MSU (hooking) 2:04; Stern, MSU (roughing) 12:02; Gervais, MSU (holding) 14:06; Higby, NMU (roughing) 14:06; Shine, NMU (tripping) 17:55
Shots on goal: MSU 9-12-9—30. NMU 7-5-5—17. Penalties: MSU 11 for 22 minutes; NMU 9 for 21 minutes. Power-play opportunities. MSU 2 for 7; NMU 0 for 7. Goalie saves: MSU Huggins 7-4-5—16 (1 GA); NMU Dahlstrom 8-10-7—25 (5 GA)
Referees: Pete Friesema, Kevin Longseth. Linesmen: Paul Tunison, Dan Juopperi.