By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — When Alaska Anchorage scored the first goal less than 2 minutes into Friday’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association game, all 3,041 people in the Verizon Wireless Center must have been a little curious to see how Minnesota State was going to respond.In each victory over their four-game winning streak going into the weekend, the Mavericks had jumped out to an early lead.
Turned out, the Seawolves’ goal was just a bump in the road, and MSU won 3-1 to extend their streak to five.
“They got on the board first, but it was good to see our team stay level-headed,” said freshman forward Brett Knowles, who scored his first collegiate goal in the win.
Despite the 40-21 shot advantage, it wasn’t an easy win for the Mavericks (8-5-2, 6-5-0 in WCHA). They had to score three greasy goals against sharp goalie Chris Kamal and grind out their two-goal lead over a scoreless third period.
Rookie goalie Stephon Williams stopped 20 shots, including nine in the final frame, for his fifth straight win.
“We’ll take them any way we can get them,” coach Mike Hastings said.
Eriah Hayes, and Johnny McInnis scored the other MSU goals.
Hayes, who finished with a two-point game, deflected in defenseman Zach Palmquist’s power-play shot, tying the game just 70 seconds after Matt Bailey gave Anchorage the early lead.
“I like the way we reacted,” Hastings said.
With 4:36 remaining in the first period, McInnis got his stick on the ice and pushed back defenseman Brett Stern’s shot for what would end up being the game-winning goal.
“We’re getting into a rhythm where we expect no less than our best,” McInnis said. “The goal still for this team is to be better.”
At 4:42 of the second period, Knowles made it 3-1, knocking in a rebound. Defenseman Josh Nelson fired the shot, and Hayes deflected it down to the ice, and the rookie wing was there to finish off the play.
Knowles has had a strong start to the season, leading the Mavericks in plus-minus and showing to be an admirable backchecker and penalty killer. He also has five assists.
“He’s a heart and soul guy, he really is,” Hastings said. “He’s just an honest player. Those are guys, as a coach, you love to have on the bench because they’ll play both ends of the rink; they block shots. There’s never question about his want-to and his desire. It was nice to see him get rewarded with a goal.”
Earlier in the game, Knowles had a partial breakaway but a backchecking Anchorage player lifted his stick off the puck at the last second as Knowles tried to make a final move.
McInnis said he encouraged Knowles when he returned to the bench: “I just said, ‘Give everything you’ve got. Just keep shooting. It’s coming.’”
Throughout the win streak, Knowles has played left wing on the Mavericks’ second line with Hayes and Jean-Paul LaFontaine.
“Playing with Hayes and Laffer on a line has given me every opportunity to score; I’ve had a lot of chances,” Knowles said. “I’m relieved to get that first one off my back. It felt good.”
The Mavericks and the Seawolves (3-6-4, 1-5-3) will play again at 7:07 p.m. today.
Alaska Anchorage 1-0-0—1
Minnesota State 2-1-0—3
Scoring: 1. UAA-Bailey 2 (Roy 4, Warner 3) 1:49; 2. MSU-Hayes 9 (Palmquist 7, Lehrke 6) ppg 2:59; 3. MSU-McInnis 6 (Stern 3, Grant 3) 15:24
Penalties: Bailey, UAA (tripping) 2:09; Nelson, MSU (holding) 10:17
Scoring: 4. MSU-Knowles 1 (Hayes 5, Nelson 2) 4:42
Penalties: Sproule, UAA (interference) 9:00; Elbrecht, MSU (hooking) 16:27
Penalties: Sproule, UAA (hooking) 4:41; Sevalrud, UAA (hooking) 6:18; Palmquist, MSU (interference) 8:19
Shots on goal: UAA 6-6-9—21. MSU 16-11-13—40. Penalties: UAA 4 for 8 minutes; MSU 3 for 6 minutes. Power-play opportunities. UAA 0 for 3; MSU 1 for 4. Goalie saves: UAA Kamal 14-10-13—37 (3 GA); MSU Williams 5-6-9—20 (1 GA).
MSU used its timeout at 12:05 of the second period. UAA used its timeout at 1:33 of the third period.
Referees: Craig Welker, Brett Klosowski. Linesmen: Nick Bradshaw, Sam Shikowsky.