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.”