By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
There may be no scientific method for mixing and matching hockey lines, but Mike Hastings appears to have found something good.
Making his debut before a small, Sunday-evening crowd of 1,222 at the Verizon Wireless Center, the new Minnesota State men’s hockey coach got a nine-point game from his top line in a dominating 7-1 exhibition victory over the University of Lethbridge.
Freshman winger Bryce Gervais scored two goals and assisted on another, and sophomore center Matt Leitner finished with a goal and three assists. The line’s other wing, sophomore Chase Grant, had two assists.
“It’s a good first step,” Hastings said. “Obviously, when you see a group have some chemistry like 9 (Gervais), 18 (Leitner) and 21 (Grant) had … it’s very positive.”
Leitner led the Mavericks in assists and points last season as a rookie, but these were two new linemates.
“We’ve been practicing together for a week or so,” Leitner said. “I’ve played with Chase before (in junior hockey) … and Bryce is a pure goal scorer. So it’s a combination that’s a good combo.”
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Gervais scored 71 goals and had 126 points in two seasons in the British Columbia Hockey League, and it didn’t take long to impress his current linemate.
“Just his ability to put the puck in the net,” Leitner said. “Just his ability to get to those spots where you score goals. He’s a smart hockey player, and his speed creates a lot of opportunities.”
The Mavericks trailed the Canadian university team 1-0 before Gervais tied the game on a rebound of a Leitner shot midway through the first period.
“Leitner’s easy to play with; he always finds the open guy,” Gervais said. “You have to keep your head up because you never know when the puck’s coming from him.”
They also teamed up to give the Mavericks leads of 4-1 and 6-1.
Hastings and Gervais weren’t the only ones to make a good first impression on Mankato. Freshman Dylan Margonari scored a goal, and fellow rookies Brett Knowles and Teddy Blueger had assists.
“They’re going to be a big part of this team,” Leitner said. “They’re not freshmen. They’re part of the team, part of the family.”
Seniors Eriah Hayes and Evan Mosey and junior Johnny McInnis scored the other Minnesota State goals. Hayes’ nasty wrist shot just 39 seconds into the second period as he skated across the top of the slot ended up as the game-winner.
“If we stay healthy coming out of it, we have the potential to play four lines,” Hastings said.
While the game was tied 1-1 after one period, the Mavericks ended up outshooting the Pronghorns 65-10 for the game. That included a 29-1 advantage in the third period, which didn’t allow freshman goalie Stephon Williams to show much of his ability.
Senior Phil Cook (five saves) started the game, and Evan Karambelas (three) played the second period.
Those shot totals likely will change when the season opens for real on Friday when the Mavericks travel to Alabama Huntsville to start a two-game nonconference series.
Former Mavericks player Matt Tyree made his debut as a WCHA linesman during the game. … Margonari left the game with an apparent leg injury in the second period and did not return. It does not appear to be serious. … Lethbridge forward Devon Kalinski is the brother of former MSU player Jon Kalinski. … Lethbridge lost 7-0 to Minnesota on Saturday night and will play Nebraska Omaha tonight.