By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — A lot of folks stayed away from the Verizon Wireless Center on Saturday night, content to watch the Minnesota Vikings in their NFL playoff game against the rival Green Bay Packers.
The crowd at the downtown arena was announced at a season-low of 2,475 people, but those fans saw a red-hot Minnesota State men’s hockey team continue to roll. The 14th-ranked Mavericks defeated Providence 4-0 for their fourth win in a row and their 11th victory in 12 games.
Minnesota State (14-6-2) also finished its nonconference schedule unbeaten at 6-0-2 and is now starting to peek at the Pairwise Rankings, which determine the NCAA tournament brackets at the end of the season. After the series sweep the Mavericks moved up to No. 12 in that field at the conclusion of their game.
“It was really good, especially with Providence being a contender,” said senior defenseman Evan Mosey, one of four goal scorers for the Mavericks.
Bryce Gervais, Matt Leitner and Eriah Hayes scored MSU’s other goals. Zach Palmquist and Zach Lehrke each had two assists.
Rookie goaltender Stephon Williams won his 11th game and recorded his third shutout, stopping 24 shots. He saw just six pucks in the third period, as Minnesota State clamped down defensively with a 2-0 lead through two periods.
“I thought we got back to playing a complete game,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “And the guys were playing for each other. They did a lot of little things that way, like chipping off the wall and blocking shots.”
The Mavericks grabbed a 1-0 lead on Gervais’ goal with 4:02 left in the first period.
After some hard work behind the goal by fellow fourth liners Taylor Herndon and Max Gaede, Gaede attempted a wrap-around shot and the puck squirted out to the right side of the crease where Geravis popped it in.
Hastings said that line played more minutes than any other game this season.
“They deserved it,” Hastings said. “We have a responsibility as coaches to give them an opportunity.
A couple of minutes later, Williams made his most impressive save of the night, swiping the puck with his glove during a Friars power play.
Providence was 0 for 2 on the power play Saturday and 0 for 8 on the weekend.
“We were disciplined,” Mosey said. “We got the lead and played solid and smart. We didn’t play hesitant.”
The Mavericks scored two power-play goals. Leitner blistered a power-play shot from the high slot that found its way through traffic and past goalie Russ Stein (33 saves) at 5:47 of the second period.
After Mosey’s goal off some nifty stickhandling across the in front of the net at 11:12 of the third period gave the Mavericks’ lead some extra padding, Hayes scored his power-play goal it 3-0 at 17:08 to put the game away.
Now the Mavericks will return to WCHA play Friday and Saturday when they host Wisconsin in a two-game series.
With the Vikings’ season over, the crowds should be bigger.
“We’ve always got a lot of good fans,” Mosey said. “It was nice to have ones who came out and supported us tonight. For those fans that came out, thanks.”
Minnesota State 1-1-2—4
Scoring: 1. MSU-Gervais 5 (Gaede 6, Herndon 2) 15:58
Penalties: Harvey, PC (boarding) 8:43; Schaller, PC (roughing) 10:08; Shamanski, PC (unsportsmanlike conduct) 10:08; Hayes, MSU (roughing) 10:08; Leitner, MSU (unsportsmanlike conduct) 10:08; Parisi, PC (holding) 16:51; Elbrecht, MSU (roughing) 19:33
Scoring: 2. MSU-Leitner 6 (Palmquist 10, Lehrke 11) ppg 5:47
Penalties: Murphy, PC (tripping) 4:57; Shamanski, PC (boarding) 6:50
Scoring: 3. MSU-Mosey 3 (Zuck 7, Grant 7) 11:12; 4. MSU-Hayes 12 (LaFontaine 13, Palmquist 11) ppg 17:08
Penalties: Harvey, PC (slashing) 1:34; PC bench (too many on ice) 4:19; Knowles, MSU (elbowing) 7:44; Army, PC (holding) 16:59
Shots on goal: PC 8-10-6—24. MSU 15-10-12—37. Penalties: PC 9 for 18 minutes; MSU 4 for 8 minutes. Power-play opportunities. PC 0 for 2; MSU 2 for 7. Goalie saves: PC Stein 14-9-10—33 (4 GA); MSU Williams 8-10-6—24 (0 GA).
Referees: Jarod Moen, Scott Bokal. Linesmen: Matt Tyree, Neil Missling.