MANKATO, Minn. — For the second night in a row, MSU-Mankato came from behind to beat visiting Alabama-Huntsville.
The Mavericks (8-8) received stellar goaltending from junior Eric Pateman and a late goal by defenseman Joe Bourne to win 3-2. The win also gave MSU its first home sweep of the season.
MSU head coach Troy Jutting was not happy with his team’s slow start, but he was happy with the comeback.
“It wasn’t a very good overall performance, but I give our guys credit. I think it takes some heart and determination to come back in that hockey game, and I give the guys credit for that, especially against a team that is tying it up defensively very well,” said Jutting.
The game was marred by 17 combined penalties for the two teams; the gritty play started with a fight right from faceoff, and continued throughout the game.
Just as they had done Friday night, the Chargers came out with early pressure and got the first goal. While MSU forward B.J. Abel was in the box for holding, UAH (8-6) tallied on the power play 3:27 into the game. Defenseman Tyler Butler passed the puck from the Charger blue line past the MSU defense to teammate Joel Bresciani, who broke in alone on Pateman and flipped the puck over the goalie for his second goal of the year.
The Chargers dominated most of the first period and outshot the Mavericks 6-0 in the first 6:14 of play, but he Mavericks were finally able to put on pressure and got their own power-play goal 6:43 into the period.
Defenseman Ben Christopherson ripped a shot from the blue line that UAH goalie Adam MacLean stopped with a kick-save. However, Maverick freshman Tim Jackman, who was set up in front of the net, pushed the rebound past the goalie to tie the game at one. Jackman finished with a goal and an assist on the night.
MacLean came back and made key saves on MSU’s Jesse Rooney and Cole Bassett to keep the score tied at one heading into the second, and the Chargers came close to taking the lead five minutes into the middle period. UAH leading scorer Karlis Zirnis accepted a pass and found himself all alone against Pateman. However, Pateman was able to dive from left to right and make a sprawling glove save.
Alabama-Huntsville finally took the lead once again 6:18 into the period. Once again on the power play, forward Ryan McCormack fired a shot from just inside the blue line. The shot hit traffic in front and bounced to defenseman Ian Fletcher, who had come in on a back-door play. Fletcher slid the puck into a wide-open net to give the Chargers the lead.
“I just ran to the net, and the puck fell right on my stick,” said Fletcher. “So I just kind of whacked it in. It was kind of a lucky goal.”
UAH kept up the pressure had several key chances to increase the lead in the second. However, Pateman kept his team in the game, stopping McCormack on a two-on-one rush with a brilliant kick-save.
The Chargers seemed to have the game locked away, taking their dominant play into the third period, including killing off a full two-minute 5-on-3 advantage for the Mavericks by allowing just one shot on goal, and their defensive play seemed to be smothering the MSU offense.
But with 10:43 left in the game, Mankato got the tying goal. With MSU applying heavy forechecking, Jackman got the puck to teammate Shane Joseph, who took the puck behind the net and passed to Rooney, who tapped the puck in. The goal was Rooney’s third in two games.
Suddenly possessing the momentum, MSU scored again less than three minutes later while the teams were skating 4-on-4. MSU’s Bourne, who had a goal and an assist the night before, carried the puck into the Charger zone and rifled a shot from just inside the blue line. The slapshot beat MacLean on his stick side for the game-winner.
“It was a good pass from Andy Hedlund,” said Bourne. “I was going up the side, and we were struggling at the blue line and getting it taken away all night, so I figured I might as well throw it on net. I was lucky enough that it went in.”
“It’s good to see Joe playing as well as he is playing right now,” said Jutting. “He’s at the point where it’s time for kids to step up and be veterans, and Joe is starting to do that.”
Pateman, who also added an assist on Bourne’s goal, helped preserve the victory for MSU by stoning defenseman Darren Curry with two good chances, and then with a great pad save on Bresciani with less than two minutes left in the game.
Alabama-Huntsville assistant coach Lance West thought his team played well enough to win, but was unhappy with the calls that went against his team, especially two made by the linesmen.
“I’m proud of them. They play like that and they’ll win a lot of hockey games because [the calls] can’t go against us like that all year. The guys deserve better than what they got tonight,” said West. “It was a gritty game … The penalties gave them some momentum and some energy. They started to get a little more jump and started taking it to us a little more.”
MSU-Mankato will host Bemidji State in a non-conference matchup next weekend. Alabama-Huntsville has next week off.