MANKATO, Minn. — In a game with a playoff-type atmosphere, huge hits, and a four-goal third period, Minnesota State-Mankato prevailed to knock off No. 9 Colorado College 3-2 on Friday.
The Mavericks battled back from a 1-0 deficit going into the third and had a 2-1 lead with three minutes left. However, the Tigers were able to knot the score at 2 with a goal from freshman Peter Sejna.
But with 37 seconds left in the game, sophomore B.J. Abel scored the game winner for the Mavericks in front of a crowd of 3,513 at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center.
“I thought it was a great college hockey game,” Mankato coach Troy Jutting said. “Full speed up and down the ice, two very skilled teams that made some plays, and goalies playing well. I just thought it was very good hockey game.”
CC coach Scott Owens said: “It was a good playoff type of game with great action. They were able to convert in the end on a big play. It could have gone either way.”
Even though the game would end in an explosion of offense, the goalies set the tone early on in the first period.
With the Mavericks on the power play three minutes into the game, Tigers goaltender Jeff Sanger came up with two huge glove saves on shots in the slot by T.J. Guidarelli and Joe Bourne.
Maverick goaltender Eric Pateman answered right back as CC enjoyed a man advantage halfway through the first. Pateman stopped Tom Preissing’s shot from the point and robbed Sejna with a glove save all within the two-minute frame.
However, CC finally solved Pateman with 21 seconds left in the first. With MSU’s Tyler Baines off for interference, senior forward Justin Morrison got the puck on the left side of the net and cut across the crease untouched. Morrison was able to use his 6-3 frame to reach past a sprawled Pateman and tuck the puck in the right side for his 18th goal of the season.
In the second period, the Tigers dominated the first half but were unable to get many quality chances on Pateman. MSU came back and started to gain momentum 12 minutes into the period. Defenseman Ben Christopherson came in on a 2-1 rush, kept the puck himself, and hit the left post. However, the play started the momentum for the Mavericks, and despite not scoring in the second, it was an obvious turning point in the game.
“They really had some great momentum at the end of the second,” Owens said. “I was happy to see [the period] end.”
Minnesota State scored early in the third to tie the game. Defenseman Andy Hedlund fired the puck from the blue line, which was redirected by freshman Tim Jackman. The puck took a funny bounce of Sanger and went into the net at the 2:23 mark.
The Mavericks kept the pressure on and got the lead 7:01 into the third. Forward Peter Holoien made a great pass to Baines while being hooked. Baines, the senior captain, streaked down the right side, cut in on the net, and flipped the puck over Sanger’s right shoulder for his third goal of the year.
Pateman again came up huge in the third and stopped CC’s Andrew Canzanello and Chris Hartsburg’s shots through traffic with five minutes left in the game.
With the Mavericks holding a 2-1 lead, Mankato’s defense seemed to be smothering the Tigers’ offense. But Sejna scored with 2:54 left in the game to tie the score.
Off a faceoff win in the MSU zone from junior Mark Cullen, Sejna took the puck and glided into the slot. He fired a wicked wrist shot over Pateman’s shoulder for his team leading 21st goal of the year.
“Great faceoff play,” said Sejna, the leading candidate for WCHA rookie of the year. “I was between [the] circles, and I shot a wrist shot and it went right under the crossbar.”
With less than a minute left, the game seemed destined for overtime. But Abel became the hero of the night by scoring the game winner at the 19:23 mark.
MSU’s Guidarelli got the puck inside the blue line and passed to teammate Jesse Rooney. Rooney, known for his goal scoring ability, made quite possibly the prettiest assist of his career by passing the puck while he was being taken down by a CC defenseman.
The puck came from the right circle to an empty left side, where Abel picked up the puck and shoveled it over Sanger, who had already gone down. The goal was Abel’s 11th of the year.
“I came over the blue line,” Abel said, “and dropped it to [Guidarelli]. I saw the puck going to Rooney, and he was able to swing it to me and I had a pretty much open net. I just had to tap it in.
“It was the assist of the year. It’s ironic that our goal scorer gets the best assist.”
“Bing-bing-bing play,” Jutting said. “It’s nice to score those pretty ones every once in a while.”
Colorado College pulled Sanger but was unable to get a good shot on net as the Mavericks held on to win 3-2.
Owens felt the game was an emotional roller coaster.
“It was a tight game until it was 1-1, then it opened up a little bit. Sejna scores a big goal for us, but they end up making a great play.”
Sejna called the loss a “hard one. They got three goals scored on us [in the third period], and that is unacceptable. They played very well, but we can’t let that happen.”
The two teams will finish their series Saturday night at the final home game for MSU at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center (7:05 p.m. Central).