By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
Brett Stern watched the first five minutes from the bench and hoped he could be a difference maker when he got out on the ice for his first shift Saturday night.
“A big hit, a shot on net, something to get the crowd into it,” the Minnesota State sophomore defenseman said.
How about a goal?
Stern’s first collegiate goal opened the floodgates on a 6-1 MSU victory and series sweep over Bemidji State before a crowd of 3,699 at the Verizon Wireless Center.
While the first goal of a blowout victory — one in which the visiting team had just two shots on goal as the second intermission approached — might not seem significant, Stern’s goal came at just the right time.
“For the first five minutes (the Beavers) were playing keepaway,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “I thought the biggest save of the game was the first one Stephon (Williams) makes, and we come back and score a goal.”
Williams stopped 17 of 18 shots, including a point-blank stop on Bemidji’s Danny Mattson just two minutes into the first period, as Minnesota State (7-5-2, 5-5-0 in WCHA) won its fourth game in a row. Six different players scored goals for the Mavericks, and freshman center Teddy Blueger assisted on three power-play goals.
But it was Stern who surprisingly got things going. The third-group defenseman came into the game with just two points in 31 career games. He doubled that with the goal and a later assist.
“That’s the best game Brett Stern has played since I’ve been here,” Hastings said. “It’s no secret that if we can get him to play that way it allows us to distribute those minutes away from (Josh Nelson, Tyler Elbrecht and Zach Palmquist) a little bit.”
Stern fired a shot on net and a scramble ensued in front of goalie Mathieu Dugas. The puck eventually squirted out in the slot, and Stern rushed in and fired into the net.
“It’s been awhile,” he said. “But for me it’s more about plus-minus and a good stick these days, rather than in high school when they were looking for me on the power play. I’m guessing the last thing coach (Hastings) is thinking about is sending 27 (Stern’s jersey number) out there.”
From there, the game took place almost exclusively in the Bemidji end of the rink.
The Mavericks scored two goals in each period. Johnny McInnis, Chase Grant and Josh Nelson all scored power-play goals from Blueger. Matt Leitner and Eriah Hayes had the other MSU goals.
McInnis and Hayes each had an assist for a two-point game. Jean-Paul LaFontaine and Dylan Margonari each assisted on two goals. Grant’s goal, which made it 3-0 at 15:10 of the second period, was his first since scoring a hat trick in Minnesota State’s season-opening game on Oct. 12 at Alabama Huntsville.
When Leitner scored to make it 4-0, the Mavericks had as many goals as the Beavers had shots on Williams. After two periods, MSU had outshot Bemidji 26-6 (shots ended up 32-18).
“Our defensemen did a good job of not creating Bemidji’s offense,” Hastings said. “And that’s a big thing for us, taking care of the puck.”
Bemidji State ended Williams’ bid for a second straight shutout with 6:53 remaining in the game. Danny Mattson scored the power-play goal. Williams, a freshman, had a shutout stretch of 152 minutes, 18 seconds over three games.
The Mavericks host Alaska-Anchorage on Friday and Saturday.
Bemidji State 0-0-1—1
Minnesota State 2-2-2—6
Scoring: 1. MSU-Stern 1 (Hayes 4, LaFontaine 9) 5:59; 2. MSU-McInnis 5 (Blueger 4, Margonari 4) ppg 12:21
Penalties: Boehm, BSU (boarding) 10:48; Areshenko, BSU (holding)
Scoring: 3. MSU-Grant 4 (Blueger 5, Margonari 5) ppg 15:10; 4. MSU-Leitner 4 (Elbrecht 2, Stern 2) 17:00
Penalties: Rendle, BSU (holding) 5:57; Ward, BSU (boarding) 15:00; Brewer, BSU, major/game misconduct (kneeing) 17:40
Scoring: 5. MSU-Nelson 3 (Blueger 6, McInnis 4) ppg 3:09; 6. MSU-Hayes 8 (LaFontaine 10, Knowles 5) 7:23; 7. BSU-Mattson 2 (George 7, Prapavessis 4) ppg 13:07
Penalties: McInnis, MSU (holding) :45; Wacker, BSU, major/game misconduct (contact to the head) 2:22; Jutzi, MSU, major/game misconduct (checking from behind) 8:05; Lehrke, MSU, major/game misconduct (checking from behind) 11:45
Shots on goal: BSU 2-4-12—18. MSU 18-8-6—32. Penalties: BSU 8 for 38 minutes; MSU 5 for 32 minutes. Power-play opportunities. BSU 1 for 3; MSU 3 for 7. Goalie saves: BSU Dugas 16-6-4—26 (6 GA); MSU Williams 2-4-11—17 (1 GA).
Referees: Tom Sterns, Chris Perrault. Linesmen: Matt Tyree, Rick Nelson.