By Shane Frederick
---- — In his first couple of weeks of college hockey, Casey Nelson has had an extra mentor helping him along: his big brother and Minnesota State senior and alternate captain Josh Nelson.
“I've learned a lot from him since I've been here," the freshman defenseman said.
On Saturday night, Josh was an injury scratch, and Casey got a chance to show off some of the things his brother taught him.
Before Verizon Wireless Center crowd of 3,911, the younger Nelson scored a goal and assisted on another for his first college points, and MSU defeated Connecticut 6-1 to finish off the nonconference series sweep.
“It was weird without him out there,” Casey said of Josh, who was out with a lower-body injury. "But the team played great — in all three zones."
Casey assisted on Jean-Paul LaFontaine's goal that opened the scoring at 6:17 of the first period, and he fired in a shot from the blue line that gave MSU a 4-1 lead at 1:54 of the third.
"I think (Casey Nelson's) a real bright hockey player," Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. "He can think the game. You know, he's been thrown into the deep end with ankle weights. He runs one of our power plays, he's playing top-four minutes, and he's asked to kill penalties. He's handled it real well."
Bryce Gervais also had a goal and an assist, and Matt Leitner finished with two assists. Dylan Margonari, Chase Grant and freshman Jordan Nelson also scored goals.
The Mavericks outshot the Huskies 48-17, giving goalie Stephon Williams a rather comfortable night in goal. He allowed just a single power-play goal in the first period.
"Everybody contributed tonight," Hastings said.
The Mavericks scored three goals in their first three games of the season and matched that in the first period of their fourth.
LaFontaine got things started. The junior moved the puck into the offensive zone and sent it to Casey Nelson at the point. Nelson gave it right back, and LaFontaine dangled around a defender before wristing a rocket past goalie Matt Grogan.
LaFontaine was benched for a portion of Friday's series opener after taking a bad penalty, but he made up for that on Saturday.
"J.P. played a real fast game tonight," Hastings said, "and when he does that, his abilities come to the top."
A little more than 2 minutes later, Leitner made the pretty play, backhanding a blind pass out of the corner to Gervais, who was open between the circles and calling for the puck. Gervais collected the pass and scored his second goal of the season.
"We had a good week of practice (after losing twice at Providence)," Leitner said. "We got back to the little things, being hard to play against. We weren't hard to play against last week. We were soft to play against."
The Huskies tied the game on a Jordan Sims power-play goal at 12:02.
It looked like the Mavericks would carry the slim 2-1 lead into the first intermission despite a lopsided shot advantage (19-6 in the first period). But a late rush by MSU's top line made it 3-1. Margonari finished off the play, scoring his second goal of the series with 14.2 seconds to go before the break. Teddy Blueger and Johnny McInnis assisted. It was McInnis' third assist of the weekend.
"Everyone pulled a little bit of the rope tonight," Leitner said.
After a scoreless third period, the Mavericks opened it up in the third. After Nelson's goal, Chase Grant redirected a shot by Leitner at 13:03, and Jordan Nelson (no relation to Casey and Josh) added a power-play goal in the game's final minute.
The Mavericks (2-2-0) are idle next weekend. Their next action is Nov. 1-2 when they open their WCHA schedule at Bemidji State.