By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Matt Leitner and Eriah Hayes aren’t regular linemates. But when the two Minnesota State forwards get on the power play together, look out.On Saturday, Hayes scored a hat trick of power-play goals, with Leitner assisting on all three, in a 5-1 victory and Western Collegiate Hockey Association weekend sweep over Minnesota Duluth before a crowd of 6,398 at Amsoil Arena.
Hayes had a four-point game and a seven-point series. He now leads the nation with 10 power-play goals. Leitner is second in the country with 20 of his 33 points coming on the power play.
“We knew tonight the power play had to be big and that special teams would be the difference in the game,” Leitner said. “We got a couple of bounces, and (Hayes) is a finisher on the power play. He did a great job. …
“When you play with someone like that it makes it easy. He’s a big, big target, and he gets himself in the right spots to score goals.”
Zach Lehrke and Teddy Blueger scored the other goals for the 11th-ranked Mavericks, and Jean-Paul LaFontaine assisted on two of Hayes’ goals. Goaltender Stephon Williams stopped 34 of 35 shots, including 12 of 13 when Duluth was on the power play.
“If go on the road and win two games that’s a great weekend,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “I think it’s incredibly difficult to do this time of the year.”
Minnesota State started the game much like it finished Friday’s series opener when it scored three goals in the third period. On Saturday, the Mavericks scored three goals in the first.
Lehrke got things started with a breakaway goal at 3:47, and late in the period, Blueger and Hayes scored 1:49 apart.
Blueger’s long shot from above the right circle deflected in off a Duluth defenseman’s stick at 16:38. It was his fourth point of the series. And Hayes, who assisted on Blueger’s goal, rammed in a nice cross-crease feed from Leitner with 1:33 remaining in the period.
“I think Eriah Hayes was a difference maker the whole weekend,” Hastings said.
In the second and early third, it was the Mavericks’ penalty kill that came up big, as MSU was called for six penalties in the final 40 minutes. Over that span Duluth had a 25-14 shot advantage. The Mavericks had a 14-10 edge to start the game.
“When (the Bulldogs) made their pushes, I thought Stephon was really good,” Hastings said.
With 3:11 remaining in the second, freshman Tony Cameranesi got UMD on the board with a rocket power-play goal.
After Hayes’ second goal made it 4-1, the Mavericks had to kill off a minute of 5-on-3 with more than 12 minutes left in the game. Williams made two big saves, and Leitner blocked a shot to keep the Bulldogs off the board.
“Matt Leitner gets talked about as being a good offensive player,” Hastings said. “But he won a couple of key faceoffs and paid the price. … When you have guys go out and block shots and things like that, it’s very selfless, and I thought he was selfless tonight.”
Said Leitner: “Killing a 5-on-3 is all about will and want-to.”
Hayes completed his hat trick at 12:52 of the third. The backhanded wrap-around shot ended the night for goalie Aaron Crandall (19 saves).
The Mavericks (18-9-3, 12-9-1 in WCHA) are now in a three-way tie for fifth place in the WCHA and just one point behind the third-place teams.
“Anytime you sweep on the road in the WCHA, it’s a huge weekend,” Hayes said. “We came in with the mindset of getting four points on the road and getting the job done.”
The Mavericks will return to Mankato and host Michigan Tech on Friday and Saturday.
Minnesota State 3-0-2—5
Minnesota Duluth 0-1-0—1
Scoring: 1. MSU-Lehrke 6 (Gervais 3, Buchanan 1) 3:47; 2. MSU-Blueger 5 (Hayes 12, Nelson 4) 16:38; 3. MSU-Hayes 14 (Leitner 21, LaFontaine 18) ppg 18:27
Penalties: Nelson, MSU (tripping) 7:13; Casto, UMD (checking from behind) 9:56; Farley, UMD (roughing) 17:49
Scoring: 4. UMD-Cameranesi 12 (Seidel 14, Farley 11) ppg 16:49
Penalties: Zuck, MSU (boarding) 3:15; Palmquist, MSU (interference) 8:35; Grant, MSU (slashing) 16:24; Blueger, MSU (slashing) 19:30; Bergman, UMD (charging) 20:00
Scoring: 6. MSU-Hayes 15 (LaFontaine 19, Leitner 22) ppg 4:46; 7. MSU-Hayes 16 (Leitner 23, Lehrke 14)
Penalties: Basaraba, UMD (slashing) 4:11; Lehrke, MSU (tripping) 6:44; Gervais, MSU (tripping) 7:44; Welinski, UMD (holding) 12:14; Smith, UMD (roughing) 13:03
Shots on goal: MSU 14-5-9—28. UMD 10-13-12—35. Penalties: MSU 7 for 14 minutes; UMD 6 for 12 minutes. Power-play opportunities. MSU 3 for 6; UMD 1 for 7. Goalie saves: MSU Williams 10-12-12—34 (1 GA); UMD McNeely 11-5-3—19 (5 GA), Fons x-x-4—4 (0 GA)
Referees: Scott Bokal, Timm Walsh. Linesmen: Sterling Egan, Brandon Polich.