MANKATO — No one wanted to call Saturday night's game a must-win for the Minnesota State men's hockey team.
But it was the next best thing.
“We needed something to go right for us,” said senior captain Johnny McInnis, who scored the lone goal in a 1-0 WCHA overtime victory over Bowling Green before a crowd of 3,657 at Mankato's Verizon Wireless Center. "We needed to get some of our swagger back, maybe."
McInnis scored 71 seconds into overtime to break a scoreless stalemate between a pair of freshman goaltenders.
The Mavericks' Cole Huggins, making his second career start, made 33 saves for his second win in as many Saturdays, out-dueling Tomas Sholl, who stopped 24 shots.
On a play set up by linemates Jean-Paul LaFontaine and Dylan Margonari, the right-handed McInnis skated into the zone against defenseman Jose Delgadillo and fired a shot from the right circle that beat Sholl on the blocker side.
McInnis seems to have a knack for big goals. He now has nine game-winners for his now-100-game career. A week earlier, he broke a 2-2 tie late in the third period in the Mavericks's 4-3 victory at Bemidji State. He said Saturday's goal was a “deja vu” moment, as he scored on the same shot to beat Nebraska Omaha in overtime two seasons ago when Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings was a UNO assistant.
McInnis nearly scored the game-winner in regulation, getting a partial breakaway with 45 seconds to go in the third period. But the defender closed in, and Sholl made the save.
“In overtime, you want to get pucks to the net,” said McInnis. "Everything just came together."
The victory gave Minnesota State a series split against the Falcons, who won Friday night's opener 4-3 and left the Mavericks feeling bitter.