MANKATO — When the season began, Eriah Hayes said late Saturday night, 20 wins for the Minnesota State men’s hockey team seemed like a lofty goal.
“I probably would have laughed,” he said.
But after the ninth-ranked Mavericks hit that milestone with a 6-1 victory over Michigan Tech, Hayes sees it differently.
“Obviously, it’s pretty special, coming from where we were the last two years,” he said while signing autographs with his teammates after the game. “It says a lot about the kind of team we’ve got. But I think there are some special things to come.”
This year marks the first time the Mavericks have won 20 games before the end of the regular season. They last hit that mark in 2002-03 and won a Division I era high of 21 games in 1999-2000.
“Any program winning 20 games, yeah, I think it’s a milestone,” first-year coach Mike Hastings said. “I think it’s important. It’s an accomplishment.”
Minnesota State completed the WCHA series sweep before a crowd of 4,363 at Verizon Wireless Center. It was a perfect night for a few hundred to stick around for the annual autograph session, as several players stood out.
Hayes stayed red-hot with his MSU-best 18th goal and nation-leading 11th power-play goal. Matt Leitner had a goal and an assist to give him a team-leading 36 points.
“They’re our leaders,” Hastings said. “And they do it in different ways. Matt Leitner is a special player. He and Eriah have taken their games to a new level. And they’re doing it, in my opinion, the right way. They’re not me guys, they’re we guys.”
Zach Lehrke, Dylan Margonari and Brett Knowles each had a goal and an assist. Bryce Gervais also scored a goal, and Max Gaede finished with two assists.