Scoring goals is a great feeling, Minnesota State men’s hockey coach Mike Hastings said.
“One of the best feelings you can have in your life as an athlete,” he said Friday night on a video posted on the Mavericks’ website. “And they’re hard to get.”
On Sunday, the Mavericks returned to Mankato after 12 days and four games in Alaska. They took a red-eye flight out of Anchorage shortly after their game ended on Saturday night. On Monday, they were on the Verizon Wireless Center ice trying to improve in the goal-scoring department — something that didn’t come easily against the Seawolves and goalie Chris Kamal.
Minnesota State was swept in a WCHA series at Alaska Anchorage on Friday and Saturday, falling 2-1 and 3-1 despite significantly outshooting the Seawolves — 28-10 and 36-16.
“It still comes down to scoring,” Hastings said after Monday’s practice.
During their seven-game winning streak prior to the holiday break, the Mavericks averaged nearly four goals per game.
The Mavericks finished 1-3 on the Alaska trip — they had a 4-2 loss and a 6-4 win against Alaska Fairbanks a week earlier — and slipped to third place in the league standings, one point behind Bowling Green and five behind first-place and No. 2-ranked Ferris State, this coming weekend’s opponent. The Mavericks are also two points ahead of Bemidji State and four in front of Anchorage, putting them in a real dogfight of a league race for the remainder of the regular season.
“We did a lot of things right, just not enough,” Hastings said of the Anchorage series. “There were positives on some ends and negatives on others. ...
“Is there an issue in competitive edge? Maybe the last 3 percent.”
Zach Stepan and Zach Lehrke scored the Mavericks’ only goals against the Seawolves. Lehrke assisted on Stepan’s goal on Friday, and the team’s leading scorer, Jean-Paul LaFontaine, had the single assist on Lehrke’s goal on Saturday. It was LaFontaine’s 20th point of the season. Matt Leitner had a seven-game point-scoring streak snapped.
“For guys who have (scored goals) a lot, it can become as addictive as anything,” Hastings said. “They don’t hope for it; they expect it.”
Hastings is preaching that his players get into traffic a bit more and work at getting second and third opportunities on rushes.
Ferris has the WCHA’s top goaltender, C.J. Motte, and top defense, allowing just 2.09 goals per game.
“It’s hard to score goals at every level right now,” he said on the video. “I’m not going to say we didn’t work hard. We didn’t work hard enough in those dirty areas, in those hard areas where you’re going to get beat on. ...
“We’ve got to pay a little more of a price to get to those areas and finish some pucks.”