By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
OMAHA, NEB. — Minnesota State gave up a goal on the first shot less than a minute into Friday night’s road game and found itself having to kill off a 5-on-3 power play less than five minutes in.
Sound like the recipe for a streak killer? Apparently not.
“You know what I’ve learned from us so far?” junior forward Johnny McInnis said. “Nothing rattles us.”
Sure enough, the unrattled and 20th-ranked purple Mavericks extended their winning streak to seven games in a row and defeated No. 13 Nebraska Omaha 6-3 in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game before 6,125 at CenturyLink Center.
McInnis scored two goals and assisted on another, and his linemate, freshman Teddy Blueger, finished with three assists.
Rookies Dylan Margonari, Bryce Gervais and Jon Jutzi also had goals for MSU, as did sophomore Jean-Paul LaFontaine.
Gervais’ short-handed breakaway goal 1:40 into the third period gave MSU a two-goal cushion to defend for the final 18 minutes, while the defenseman Jutzi’s first career goal all but ensured the impressive win streak would continue.
“Our freshmen are not playing like freshmen, and our upperclassmen are playing like seniors,” said McInnis, who now has eight goals. “Go right down the list; nobody gets rattled.”
Omaha’s Matt White scored just 53 seconds into the game, slipping the puck by goalie Stephon Williams (25 saves). And, a few minutes later, when the red Mavericks had 43 seconds of 5-on-3 power-play time, it looked like it might be a long night for the visitors.
But a strong penalty kill settled everything down, and McInnis tied the game off a nice feed from Chase Grant during a power play at 12:11.
“A team like UNO can score in bunches, and we kind of survived,” said MSU coach Mike Hastings, the former Omaha assistant. “I thought it allowed us to be able to exhale a little without being too far behind.”
The two teams went up and down the rink in the second period to the tune of five goals. But when the dust had cleared Minnesota State came out with the one-goal lead, 4-3.
Margonari, LaFontaine and McInnis scored for MSU with the latter two goals coming just 1:23 apart. LaFontaine tipped in a Matt Leitner pass from out of the corner during a power play, and McInnis’ gorgeous second goal put MSU up 4-3 and prompted Omaha coach Dean Blais to change goalies.
Omaha struck back quickly with some pretty no-look passing that ended up in a goal from WCHA leading scorer Ryan Walters just 38 seconds later.
“Their team speed’s really hard to deal with. … ” Hastings said. “They made a push (in the second period), and I thought (Williams) was good. He made a couple that he shouldn’t have.
“It had to be entertaining for the first two periods if I’m sitting in the stands because: breakaway, breakaway, out-numbered rushes, guys trying to make plays.”
The third period started like that, as MSU had to kill an early penalty. Gervais broke down the middle of the rink and called for the puck, getting a perfect pass from Eli Zuck before putting it between Anthony Stolarz’s pads for the 5-3 lead.
“They’re playing well,” Blais said of MSU. “They deserved their bounces. We had a few guys who didn’t have their best of games.”
Minnesota State (10-5-2, 8-5-0 in WCHA) moved into a tie for second place in the WCHA standings and is one point behind first-place Denver. Its current winning streak matches a seven-game streak from 2007-08.
Minnesota State and Nebraska Omaha will meet again at 7:07 p.m. tonight.
Minnesota State 1-3-2—6
Nebraska Omaha 1-2-0—3
Scoring: 1. UNO-White 8 (unassisted) :53; 2. MSU-McInnis 7 (Grant 4, Blueger 8) ppg 12:11
Penalties: Archibald, UNO (elbowing) 3:33; Lehrke, MSU (slashing) 4:20; Blueger, MSU (goaltender interference) 4:38; Elbrecht, MSU (roughing) 4:38; Seeler, UNO (roughing) 4:38; Sustr, UNO (high-sticking) 11:29; UNO bench (too many on ice) 16:54; Gervais, MSU (roughing) 19:59; Seeler, UNO (roughing) 19:59
Scoring: 3. MSU-Margonari 5 (LaFontaine 12, Palmquist 9) 3:05; 4. UNO-Raubenheimer 7 (White 6, Aneloski 10) ppg 8:26; 5. MSU-LaFontaine 4 (Leitner 16, Lehrke 7) ppg 10:03; 6. MSU-McInnis 8 (Blueger 9) 11:26; 7. UNO-Walters 9 (Zombo 11, Archibald 9) 12:04
Penalties: Hayes, MSU (goaltender interference) 1:33; Montpetit, UNO (goaltender interference) 1:33; Hayes, MSU (checking from behind) 7:54; Sustr, UNO (interference) 8:49; Megna, UNO (tripping) 16:44
Scoring: 8. MSU-Gervais 4 (Zuck 4, Stern 4) shg 1:40; 9. MSU-Jutzi 1 (Blueger 10, McInnis 5) 18:00
Penalties: Palmquist, MSU (cross-checking) :55; Zuck, MSU (charging) 11:49; Zuck, MSU (boarding) 19:08
Shots on goal: MSU 12-13-2—27. UNO 11-10-7—28. Penalties: MSU 9 for 18 minutes; UNO 8 for 16 minutes. Power-play opportunities. MSU 2 for 5; UNO 1 for 6. Goalie saves: MSU Williams 10-8-7—25 (3 GA); UNO Faulkner 11-4-x—15 (4 GA), Stolarz x-6-0—6 (2 GA).
MSU used its timeout at 19:00 of the second period
Referees: Don Adam, Tim Walsh. Linesmen: Chad Evers, Nathan Stanton.