By Shane Frederick
The Free Press
MANKATO — It took a little while to get going, but the ninth-ranked Minnesota State men’s hockey finally got to put on a show for a home crowd.
“We’ve got a good thing going here,” said forward Johnny McInnis, who had the game-winning goal and an assist in Friday night’s 4-2 victory over Michigan Tech.
Before an audience of 3,591, the Mavericks won their third game in a row and their 19th of the season but their first at the Verizon Wireless Center since Jan. 5.
They overcame an early major penalty and 1-0 deficit and got timely goals by their two red-hot players, Eriah Hayes and Matt Leitner.
“We controlled the momentum,” said McInnis, who now has five game-winners. “I think we do a good job of that.”
The Mavericks got off to a shaky start as Max Gaede was called for a major boarding penalty less than two minutes into the game. Alex Petan took advantage and put Michigan Tech up 1-0 at the 4:35 mark.
“I think we survived, giving one up and not giving two up,” coach Mike Hastings said. “We had some pushback.”
Minnesota State’s Dylan Margonari tied the game with a power-play goal at 13:41, and then the Mavericks started to heat up.
Hayes continued to display impressive effort that is sure to get him all-conference honors and gave the Mavericks their first lead of the game just 67 seconds into the middle period.
The senior got stuffed on a wrap-around attempt but then chased down his own rebound above the circles and fired a low laser shot behind goalie Pheonix Copley. It was Hayes’ team-leading 17th goal of the season.
“I think he’s learning to take some of his attributes and use them more often,” Hastings said of the 6-foot-4 right winger. “He’s using that big body to get second and third opportunities, and he had some traffic in front.”
The Huskies tied the game on another Petan power-play goal at 10:38. The high shot handcuffed goalie Stephon Willams and fluttered in behind him.
But McInnis bailed out his goalie, exactly three minutes later, with a low rocket shot from just inside the blue line that rang the far post and went in.
“(Copley) gave me some room, and if I get the chance to shoot, I’m going to shoot,” McInnis said.
A week ago, McInnis was benched for a good portion of a game for a bad play Minnesota Duluth, but he had his mojo back on Friday in his home rink.
“Johnny was very good tonight,” Hastings said. “He had energy in our pregame skate, he had energy in the locker room and energy on the ice. And he was rewarded for that.”
Getting an assist from McInnis, the Mavericks’ leading scorer, Matt Leitner, showed some patience and some niftiness with the puck to make it 4-2 at 3:31 of the third period.
Collecting the rebound of a Chase Grant shot, Leitner dangled the puck until Copley committed and then tucked the puck in behind the goalie. McInnis also assisted on the goal for a two-point game.
Minnesota State outshot Michigan Tech 36-22, including a 16-7 advantage in the third period. Williams stopped 20 shots for his 16th win of the season. Copley, who is also a freshman, made 32 saves.
The Mavericks (19-9-3, 13-9-1 in WCHA) and the Huskies will conclude the series at 7:07 p.m. tonight.
Michigan Tech 1-1-0—2
Minnesota State 1-2-1—4
Scoring: 1. MTU-Petan 12 (Khaira 15, Furne 11) ppg 4:35; 2. MSU-Margonari 7 (Nelson 5, Blueger 13) ppg 13:41
Penalties: Gaede, MSU, major (boarding) 1:55; C.Pietila, MTU (holding) 12:51
Scoring: 3. MSU-Hayes 17 (unassisted) 1:07; 4. MTU-Petan 13 (Johnstone 16, Seigo 7) ppg 10:38; 5. MSU-McInnis 12 (Palmquist 15, Gervais 4) 13:38
Penalties: Grant, MSU (holding) 8:05; Buchanan, MSU (tripping) 9:00; Petan, MTU (tripping) 14:37; Hyland, MTU (cross-checking) 19:05; Stebner, MTU (interference) 19:58
Scoring: 6. MSU-Leitner 11 (Grant 9, McInnis 8) 3:31
Penalties: Blueger, MSU (interference) :55; Gordic, MTU (slashing) 4:31; Blueger, MSU (roughing) 4:31; Palmquist, MSU (tripping) 8:54; Nielsen, MTU, double-minor (roughing) 11:14; Grant, MSU, double-minor (roughing) 11:14; Seigo, MTU (roughing) 15:10; Knowles, MSU (roughing) 15:10
Shots on goal: MTU 8-7-7—22. MSU 8-12-16—36. Penalties: MTU 8 for 16 minutes; MSU 9 for 21 minutes. Power-play opportunities. MTU 2 for 6; MSU 1 for 3. Goalie saves: MTU Copley 7-10-15—32 (4 GA); MSU Williams 7-6-7—20 (2 GA)
Referees: Craig Welker, Matt Ulwelling. Linesmen: Nick Bradshaw, Sam Shikowsky.