MANKATO, Minn. — After missing numerous chances in the first and second, Minnesota State-Mankato (9-8) finally ignited in the third period for four goals and beat visiting Bemidji State University (1-15) 6-2 in a nonconference matchup Saturday night.
The Mavericks pelted BSU goalie Grady Hunt with 51 shots on net, led by senior Jesse Rooney, who recorded a hat trick and an assist.
The Mavericks, prone to slow starts in the past, talked about getting things started from the drop of the puck.
“We talked about it this week,” said MSU head coach Troy Jutting. “We talked about being a more consistent hockey team, and how you have to start with the very first shift of the first night on a weekend.”
The Mavericks proved they weren’t all talk by pouring on the pressure right away, overpowering the Beavers in the first period. However, numerous shots went wide or high and BSU’s Hunt made several great saves to keep the Mavericks out of the net.
BSU was unable to sustain any pressure at all until a five-minute power play 8:15 into the period. MSU’s Jon Bushy was called for checking from behind and received a major penalty and a game misconduct, removing him from the contest.
Even though the Mavericks kept BSU from scoring for four minutes, the Beavers eventually found the back of the net 12:24 into the period. Defenseman Mark Phenow took a shot from the point which hit traffic in front of the net and surprised MSU goaltender Eric Pateman, who didn’t appear to see the puck. The puck went in on Pateman’s stick side to make the score 1-0.
MSU applied pressure once again after the power play expired, but BSU’s Hunt stopped MSU on one of its best chances of the period. Forward T.J. Guidarelli flew into the Beaver zone and danced around BSU’s Rico Fatticci, then broke in all alone and shot the puck high on Hunt, who made an unbelievable glove save to preserve the lead.
The Mavericks were finally able to get on the board on the power play with 28 seconds left in the period. Rooney passed the puck from the left corner to freshman Tim Jackman, who was set up in front of Hunt. Jackman tapped in the puck to tie the score.
Bemidji State came out with a better effort in the second, but it took more spectacular play from Hunt to keep the Beavers in the period, including a tremendous save 7:30 into the period. MSU captain Tyler Baines passed to teammate Josh Kern streaking in all alone, but his shot was smothered by Hunt.
The Beavers then went up 2-1 as forward Jeff McGill beat Pateman at the 12:44 mark. McGill brought the puck in on a two-on-one and kept the puck himself, firing from inside the right faceoff circle to beat Pateman glove-side.
Once again, however, the Mavericks were able to come back as 59 seconds later, Rooney got his first goal of the game. Jackman stole the puck behind the net and passed to Rooney, who glided in from left to right and fired the puck through traffic.
“I got [the puck] and I toe-pulled it,” exclaimed Rooney. “I was going to pass to Jerry [Cunningham], and then I thought I’d just make the simple play, so I just threw it on net. And luckily it found the top shelf.”
The score remained 2-2 until the third period, when the Mavericks scored four unanswered goals. The first came at 1:49 of the period. Mankato’s Nate Mauer took a big blast from the left side which was blocked by Hunt, but the puck came right back to Mauer. Mauer moved in again and fired the puck high past Hunt on his glove side.
The Mavericks kept up the pressure and finally got the insurance goal at the 8:26 mark. Rooney came into the zone on the left side, danced around the defense and moved into the slot, then wristed it high for his second goal.
“I was coming down the wall,” Rooney said, “and I saw some open ice. I came out in front, and I threw it on net. I saw everyone raise their hands, and I didn’t even know it went in.”
After a goal by Kern made the score 5-2, it was Pateman’s turn to come up big as he stopped BSU sophomore Marty Goulet on a 2-1 to kill any chance of a Beaver comeback.
Rooney then completed the hat trick with 52 seconds left in the game. Defenseman Aaron Forsythe took a shot from the point, which bounced to Rooney’s stick, and Rooney backhanded the puck into the net for his team-leading 13th goal of the year.
“I think it hit someone in front,” Rooney said. “I was going to the net hoping for something, and I just threw it in on my backhand. It hit the back of the net, and I just thought, ‘Oh my God, tonight is my night.’”
Jutting was happy for Rooney and Mauer. “Nate is a kid who has a knack for scoring. Jesse is playing very well right now. I thought they played very well tonight.”
Jutting was also impressed with Hunt’s play. “I think that goaltender is very, very good. He made some great saves tonight,” he said.
BSU head coach R.H. Peters also praised Hunt’s play, but felt that the third goal was the killer for his team.
“The second period flow kind of went for them. The third goal was the most critical. If we could have gotten it, it would have been momentum for us. They got it, and it was momentum for them,” said Peters.
The two teams will finish their series Sunday night, with game time set at 7:05.