The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

March 11, 2014

Frederick column: To pull or not to pull (the goalie) — that is the question

When it comes to risk management, Mike Hastings and Mel Pearson put on their actuary hats on Saturday night as Minnesota State and Michigan Tech played into overtime.

Both teams had big incentives to win the game.

The Mavericks needed a victory to clinch a share of the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA champions and get the No. 1 seed for the first round of the conference tournament. The Huskies needed a win to get home ice for the playoffs, something they haven’t had in more than 20 years.

The teams ended up in a 1-1 tie, each falling a point short of its task.

Both coaches had a reason and a few chances to pull his goaltender for an extra attacker and try to win the game, whether that was at the end of regulation or in overtime. Each coach said the strategy was considered but, in the end, felt the risk outweighed the reward.

Pearson probably had the most incentive to play 6 on 5 with a home series on the line.

“We talked about it as a staff, but had we given up an empty-net goal … we would have been traveling to Fairbanks (Alaska),” Pearson said. “Plus, it would have been tough walking out of here without at least a point with how well we played.

The Huskies instead will go to Bowling Green for the best-of-three playoff series that starts Friday. A series against a better Alaska team not only would have required extensive travel from Houghton, Mich., it would have started on Thursday.For Minnesota State, a win would have sparked a celebration at the Verizon Wireless Center, one more than 4,000 people who attended the game hope to be part of. The Mavericks would get to (eventually) raise a trophy as well as a banner.

With 13 seconds left in overtime, Hastings used his timeout, drew up a play on his whiteboard and sent five forwards out for an offensive-zone faceoff. He left goalie Cole Huggins in his net, however.

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