MANKATO, Minn. — It was a night of firsts for Minnesota State Saturday night.
Freshman Jon Dubel scored his first career goal, the first of the game and the eventual game-winner. Sophomore Matt Paluczak scored the first two goals of his career in the third period. And sophomore goaltender Jason Jensen, in his first collegiate start, recorded not only his first win, but he did it in style, stopping every shot he faced.
MSU’s big second period, which featured five Maverick goals, fueled them as they cruised to a 9-0 victory and a weekend sweep over visiting Findlay.
Jensen’s performance was the exclamation point to a dominating game by Minnesota State. The ice seemed tilted throughout most of the game as MSU kept the puck in the Oiler zone.
The Mavericks also got a huge performance from junior Jerry Cunningham. Cunningham, who had two goals the night before, tallied one goal and four assists for the home squad. Paluczak, Tim Jackman, B. J. Abel, and Nate Mauer each had three points for MSU as well.
It took the Mavericks only 3:47 into the game before they took the lead. The play started as Findlay’s Kris Wiebe crosschecked Maverick forward Josh Kern into the goal crease. Referee Randy Schmidt called a penalty on the play, but MSU scored before Jensen could even leave the net.
Johns got the puck at the left point and fired hard on net. The shot hit an Oiler defenseman in front of the net, and with Kern in the crease, UF goalie Jamie VandeSpyker could not track down the deflected puck as it bounced past him to make the score 1-0. Mauer and Cunningham assisted.
At 6:54 of the period, MSU padded their lead with their second goal of the night. After two Findlay skaters collided in Minnesota State’s zone, Mauer grabbed the puck and carried it down ice in a 3-on-2 rush for the Mavericks. Mauer pulled up in the slot and faked a slapshot on goal. He then feathered a pass to his left to a streaking Cunningham, who one-time the puck on net. VandeSpyker made the first save, but Cunningham batted the rebound out of the air and past the UF goalie for his fourth goal of the year.
The night before, Cunningham’s second goal also came when he batted the puck out of the air and into the net. Cunningham joked about the situation as he explained the goal.
“I batted it out of mid-air,” laughed Cunningham. “I should be a baseball player. I couldn’t believe it. I had a wide-open net and I shot it, and he stopped it. And it was in the air again and I just tapped it in.”
The Mavericks scored early in the second to break open the game. On the power play, Abel passed from behind the net to teammate Jackman, who ripped the puck past VandeSpyker for his fifth goal of the year. The goal came at 3:39 of the period.
Sophomore Cole Bassett fired a wrist shot from the slot over VandeSpyker’s left shoulder less than three minutes later to make the score 4-0.
MSU struck once more on the power play as Abel scored on an assist from Mauer at 8:26 before Paluczak scored his first two collegiate goals.
Paluczak, a defenseman, moved in from the point towards the net. Teammate Rick Kisskeys passed from behind the net, and Paluczak rifled the puck past VandeSpyker to make the score 6-0.
The sophomore from St. Louis wasn’t done there. Only 1:44 later, Paluczak fired the puck from the blue line and beat VandeSpyker stick-side to close out the scoring in the second.
“First one, Ricky put it on a platter for me and I just shot it in,” explained Paluczak. “Second one, luck. I just put it on net, and I thought it was going wide. I have no idea how it happened. But when you get two, you don’t really care.”
Paluczak even saw action as a forward in the third, as Jutting put him at wing in an attempt to score a hat trick. Paluczak said he hadn’t played forward since his first year of hockey, when he was ten years old.
Senior Josh Kern and sophomore Shane Joseph each added goals in the third to post the 9-0 victory.
Although untested throughout much of the game, Jensen played big when he had to and stopped all 20 shots the Oilers put on net.
After facing only two shots in the first period, Jensen made three consecutive saves on Findlay’s Darryl Somerville four and a half minutes into the second.
Somerville came down the right side and took a shot on net that Jensen knocked away. Somerville, a senior, then collected the puck, came around the net, and tried to beat the MSU goalie on wrap around attempt. However, Jensen was there to stop that and Somerville’s rebound attempt en route to the shutout.
“It’s amazing,” said Jensen, smiling. “It’s such a great feeling. I can’t even put it into words right now. The guys played great ahead of me. They really helped me settle down. Two shots in the first period — you can’t complain about the defense there.”
Jensen said the third period was the worst, adding, “You’re battling yourself. You’re just watching the clock go down. I was just praying for that 20 minutes to get over early.”
Jutting had nothing but praises for Jensen, saying, “It’s nice for Jason. First start ever in college hockey and he get the shutout. The kid’s worked hard for two years — it’s nice to get rewards.”
“Jensen’s been here two and a half years, never complained about anything, and he gave us a chance tonight,” added Paluczak. “We were working a little extra harder for him. I’m thrilled to death to see him get a shutout tonight. It’s exciting for him.”
On the other end of the ice, UF coach Craig Barnett was unhappy with the loss but said the team would look to bounce back next week.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed with the result. Nothing went our way, and we got beat by a great team. Our test is to see how our guys rebound from this as we go into conference play. I’m hoping that this somehow brought us up a notch in level of play. We’ll find some positives out of this, hopefully next Friday.”
Minnesota State heads to the Minnesota next weekend to take on the Gophers in a WCHA series. The Oilers head back home to host Bemidji State in CHA play.