MANKATO — MANKATO — The Minnesota State power play has been rolling pretty good of late. But with Bemidji State and its WCHA-best penalty kill in town, the Mavericks were going to need to find a way to score some even-strength goals.
Leave it to the seldom-used Michael Huntebrinker to score a big one.
The freshman from Chesterfield, Mo., and Waterloo of the United States Hockey League scored his first career goal at 2:30 of the second period, breaking a tie game and helping the Mavericks defeat the Beavers 5-2 Friday before a Verizon Wireless Center crowd of 3,526.
Huntebrinker was playing in just his eighth game this season. He missed most of the first half of the year with a broken wrist.
“When his bone was going to be fine, when he was going to be cleared, he made sure every other aspect of his physicality — his body, his conditioning — was at a point where he could contribute right away,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “And tonight he was good.”
Huntebrinker finished the game with four shots on goal, centering an energy-charged fourth line with Brett Knowles and Max Gaede.
“I just tried to stay positive and tried to do whatever I could to improve my game in work hard,” he said of his injury time. “It was nice to get that (first goal) out of the way).”
Huntebrinker’s goal broke a 1-1 tie, and the Mavericks scored four times in the third period.
Gaede took a check as he got the puck to Knowles for a 2-on-1. Knowles made a stretch pass through a defender to Huntebrinker’s tape, and the rookie zipped it by goalie Andrew Walsh.
“If we can get some contributions from that line and get some depth in our scoring we’re going to be a much better team,” Hastings said.
Jean-Paul LaFontaine, Zach Stepan, Zach Lehrke and Zach Palmquist also scored goals for the Mavericks. Stepan, LaFontaine and Palmquist also had assists. Matt Leitner assisted on two goals.
The Mavericks scored two power-play goals in the third period, but, despite the 48-28 shot advantage, goals didn’t come easy early on.
Goals didn’t come easy for either team early, but the Mavericks outshot the Beavers 48-28. Minnesota State scored four goals in the third period.
The Mavericks outshot the Beavers 14-10 in the first period but came out trailing 1-0.
Bemidji State freshman Brendan Harms scored the goal at 12:46. He was open at the left post and smacked in a pass from center Nate Arentz after an MSU clearing attempt caromed off Knowles’ skates and to Arentz’s stick.
LaFontaine scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season, tying the game at 3:14 of the second period. It was a rare even-strength goal for LaFontaine, who has 12 power-play goals this season.
Defenseman Brett Stern’s shot was stopped by goalie Andrew Walsh, but LaFontaine scooped up the puck and casually slipped it in behind Walsh.
Walsh finished with 43 saves.
The Mavericks’ Cole Huggins also was rock solid in goal, stopping 26 shots, including six while killing penalties in the second period. Huggins had two difficult stops in that stretch on Phillip Marinaccio – a pad save on a back-door play and a glove save on a close-range shot.
“Difference maker, period,” Hastings said.
Bemidji State was 0 for 4 on the power play.
“We knew the penalty kill was going to be big a big key for both teams this weekend,” said junior forward Chase Grant, one of the Mavericks’ top killers Friday. “Obviously, we’re really aggressive on our kill. We try to make plays and try to eat clock.”
Two and a half minutes after Huntebrinker’s goal, Stepan made it 3-1, firing back the rebound of a Jon Jutzi shot. The goal came in the final second of an MSU power play.
Lehrke made it 4-1 at 13:44, and Palmquist scored on the power play with 2:04 to play, a little more than a minute after Bemidji State’s Cory Ward cut his team’s deficit back to two goals.
“I think (the Beavers) are as committed as any team at what they do,” Hastings said. “They’re not going to give you out-number rushes; they’re not going to give you out-numbered situations at their net. They’re going to make you grind and go through. ... I respect how they play from the standpoint that it’s hard to play against. So if you’re not willing to do the hard things you’re not going to score against them.”
The Mavericks (16-13-0, 14-7-0 in WCHA) and Beavers will play again at 7:07 p.m. today.
Bemidji State 1-0-1—2
Minnesota State 0-1-4—5
Scoring: 1. BSU-Harms 6 (Arentz 5) 12:46
Penalties: Lehrke, MSU (boarding) 14:33
Scoring: 2. MSU-LaFontaine 17 (Stern 4, Stepan 6) 3:14
Penalties: Leitner, MSU (slashing) 6:29; Palmquist, MSU (holding) 13:21; Illo, BSU (high-sticking) 14:34; MSU bench (too many on ice) 17:00; O’Connor, BSU (holding) 19:51
Scoring: 3. MSU-Huntebrinker 1 (Knowles 3, Gaede 6) 2:30; 4. MSU-Stepan 7 (Jutzi 3, Palmquist 14) 5:00; 5. MSU-Lehrke 7 (Gervais 5, Leitner 21) 13:44; 6. BSU-Ward 17 (Prapavessis 16) 16:45; 7. MSU-Palmquist 3 (LaFontaine 17, Leitner 22) ppg 17:56
Penalties: Hansen, BSU (elbowing) 3:00; Marinaccio, BSU (roughing) 16:40; Grant, MSU (cross-checking) 16:40; Pedan, BSU (high-sticking) 17:39
Shots on goal: BSU 10-9-9—28. MSU 14-17-17—48. Penalties: BSU 5 for 10 minutes; MSU 5 for 10 minutes. Power-play opportunities. BSU 0 for 4; MSU 2 for 4. Goalie saves: BSU Walsh 14-16-13—43 (5 GA); MSU Huggins 9-9-8—26 (2 GA)
BSU called its timeout at 17:39 of the third period.
Referees: Kevin Hall, Mark Wilkins. Linesmen: Rick Nelson, Sterling Egan.