MANKATO, Minn. — Senior Jesse Rooney got a milestone goal, his 50th, that was also the game-winner for Minnesota State-Mankato in a 3-0 win over Alaska-Anchorage on Saturday.
The Mavericks earned a split in the series with the Seawolves (5-4-1 overall, 3-2-1 in the WCHA).
Maverick goaltender Eric Pateman also stopped all 29 shots he faced.
After playing poorly in a 3-1 loss Friday night, the Mavericks (5-7-0 overall and in the WCHA) held a team meeting Saturday to turn things around.
“We had to win,” said MSU head coach Troy Jutting. “We got frustrated last night and we came with a lot more determination tonight. We definitely had a sense of urgency today in our meeting. If we wanted to have a chance at home ice, I felt tonight was a must.”
The effect of the meeting was obvious as the Mavericks came out flying in the first period. After mustering only 16 shots in Friday’s game, MSU put pressure on early and finished the period with 13 shots on goal. However, due to spectacular play by Seawolves goaltender Chris King, the period ended without a goal for either team.
One of King’s best saves of the period came with less than three minutes left in the first. After a Seawolves turnover in their zone, Rooney grabbed the puck and had a chance all alone on King. King stopped the shot and pounced on the rebound to keep the Mavericks scoreless.
However, Rooney was able to find the net four minutes into the second period. Teammate T.J. Guidarelli carried the puck into Anchorage’s zone and passed the puck behind his back to a streaking Rooney. Rooney took the shot, and King was unable to get the entire puck as it fell into the net.
“I took a quick glance up and took a shot on the net, and I think it bounced off his glove and in,” Rooney said.
Even though the goal was his 50th, Rooney was just happy to get on the board. “I’ve kind of been slumped the last four games. I grabbed the puck, and since I was kind of frustrated and mad, I threw it over the glass to get rid of it,” he said.
Jutting was happy for Rooney after the game.
“Jesse’s a goal scorer,” he said. “That’s a Jesse Rooney goal. He loves that spot. If he’s got 50 goals, he’s probably got 40 of them in that spot. He loves that upper corner.”
The Seawolves came right back after the goal, applying heavy pressure on Pateman in an attempt to tie the score. On the power play 6:17 into the second, defenseman Matt Shasby had a chance to score. After a scramble in front, teammate Mike Scott passed to a wide-open Shasby who fired at the net. Pateman was able to dive from the right side to the left and snagged the puck, preserving the Mavericks’ lead.
UAA came close again with another chance on the power play with nine minutes left in the period. Sophomore Jesse Unklesbay took the puck at the right face-off circle, faked out the defense, carried the puck across the ice, and shot at the net. However, Pateman was there to make the blocker save.
The two goaltenders kept up their dominating play, frustrating scorers on both ends and keeping the score 1-0. Then, as UAA began pinching their defense to create a scoring chance, the Mavericks finally broke through. Freshman Cole Bassett took a long, crisp pass from defenseman Ben Christopherson and got behind Anchorage’s defense. Bassett finished off his breakaway by slipping the puck between King’s legs at the 14:59 mark.
After more saves by MSU’s Pateman, the Mavericks were able to put the game away for good on the power play. Forward Tim Jackman passed the puck from behind the net to sophomore Jerry Cunningham. Cunningham one-timed the pass into the net for his fifth goal of the year.
MSU finished 1-for-5 on the power play, while UAA finished 0-for-4.
Seawolves coach Dean Talafous was happy with King’s play, but he thought Pateman was the difference.
“I thought [King] played well, he’s played well every night,” he said. “Sometimes your goaltender plays a lot better than the other team and you think that’s the difference. That wasn’t the case tonight. Nobody could have been better than [Pateman].”
Pateman thought that the overall team effort was much different Saturday night. “We were a totally different team tonight then we were last night,” he said. “Whenever we play like that, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
“He’s a very good goaltender,” said Jutting, “and he’s been basically very good since he got here. The best thing about Eric is that he’s very consistent. Very rarely do you see him have an off night.”
MSU-Mankato will head east next week to play in the Vermont Tournament on Thursday and Friday. Alaska-Anchorage has two weeks off before it hosts the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.