By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
— Storrs, Conn., is just about a two-hour drive from Boston, the hometown of Minnesota State men’s hockey junior forward Johnny McInnis.
McInnis had a few family members in the stands over the weekend at the 20th annual UConn Hockey Classic, and he made sure the trip was worth their while during Sunday’s championship game against host Connecticut.
McInnis scored two second-period goals in the 18th-ranked Mavericks’ 3-1 victory and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
“To me, that’s a special weekend,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said in a phone interview afterward. “His sister’s here; his dad’s here. We needed him to have a bounce-back game, and he did.”
UConn led 1-0 after one period on a goal by Tyler Bouchard. The goal came 10:47 into the game and was one of only three shots on goal by the Huskies in the period. Minnesota State had 12 first-period shots.
But forward Johnny McInnis got Mavericks on the board just 2:08 into the second period, tying the game.
“That really got our bench and everybody involved,” Hastings said.
Eli Zuck, who, with Teddy Blueger away at the World Junior Championships, centered McInnis and Chase Grant on the third line, assisted on the goal.
Less than 3 ½ minutes later, McInnis got himself in the right spot to redirect a shot by defenseman Brett Stern, and MSU led 2-1. Grant also assisted on the play.
“I really liked our push-back in the second period,” Hastings said.
McInnis now has 10 goals, which is tied for the team lead with Eriah Hayes and also a career high (he scored eight goals last season).
Minnesota State held onto the slim lead until the closing seconds when defenseman Zach Palmquist scored an empty-net goal.
Freshman goalie Stephon Williams made 17 saves for his ninth win of the year. UConn’s Matt Grogan stopped 28 shots.
Williams, forward Jean-Paul LaFontaine and defenseman Tyler Elbrecht were all named to the all-tournament team, along with McInnis. The Mavericks defeated Brown 3-1 on Saturday.
“It was a good weekend for us for a couple of reasons,” Hastings said. “We got two wins on the road on a regulation sheet. We didn’t give up 20 shots in either game. We took just two penalties on the weekend. Those are positives.”
The Mavericks (12-6-2) have won nine of their last 10 games. They will return to Mankato today and will host Providence in their final nonconference series of the season Friday and Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center.