MANKATO, Minn. — After falling behind by two goals coming into the third period, Minnesota State came back strong in the third period and scored twice to tie the visiting North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
Sophomore Shane Joseph scored just 3:02 into the third period to cut UND’s lead to 2-1. Then, with 7:40 left in the game, senior Nate Mauer put his own rebound over Sioux goaltender Andy Kollar for the game-tying goal.
“Being down two to nothing going into the third period and tying is not a victory,” said MSU head coach Troy Jutting, “but in a lot of ways it is. I think anytime you’re down two-to-nothing going into the third period in this league and you battle back and at least salvage a point, I think that says a little something about the character of the kids on the team.”
Friday night, MSU (5-6-1 overall, 2-5-1 in the WCHA) played a first period that Jutting called “embarrassing.” Saturday night the Mavericks came out with a better effort but still found themselves down at the end of 20 minutes.
UND’s (5-5-1 overall, 4-3-1 in the WCHA) first goal at 9:46 of the first came off a spectacular play by Kevin Spiewak. The junior from Schaumburg, Ill., intercepted a clearing attempt at the blue line by grabbing the puck with his glove. He dropped it to his stick, skated towards the net, and fired the puck on net with a backhander. The puck hit MSU defenseman Matt Paluczak’s skate and deflected past goaltender Jason Jensen glove-side for Spiewak’s third goal of the year.
North Dakota played an impressive first period, keeping MSU from any quality shots and leading in the shot department 12-7.
The Fighting Sioux made the score 2-0 only 7:08 into the second period. Junior Tim Skarperud brought the puck into the MSU zone and fired a wrist shot over Jensen’s right shoulder to pad the lead.
The resilient Mavericks weren’t ready to give up, even with the two-goal deficit. With less than three minutes left in the period, Mankato forward Cole Bassett drove hard to the UND net and split the defense. Bassett fired a fast wrist shot on goal, but the puck hit the crossbar and deflected into the stands. MSU banged two shots off the goal frame in the second period.
After Bassett’s play, MSU received a 5-on-3 man advantage while UND’s David Hale and Aaron Schneekloth were called for penalties. But Kollar was up to the tasks. The senior goaltender stopped a hard blast by MSU’s Jerry Cunningham from the left circle. He then made two consecutive saves on slapshots by Mauer as the Sioux escaped the second period with a 2-0 lead.
“That felt like practice sitting out there,” joked Kollar. “They moved the puck around really well and put some shots on me that got through the traffic. Luckily they were hitting me in the right places. I didn’t see a lot of them.”
Despite not being able to find back of the net, MSU’s offense came to life in the second and dominated in shots, 15-8. That momentum carried over into the third as the Mavericks came back to tie the game.
The first goal by Joseph at 3:02 came off a slow rush. MSU carried the puck into the zone, and a pass by B.J. Abel was deflected into the air as three Mavericks rushed the net. The puck bounced into the crease, got kicked around, and eventually ended up right in front of Joseph. The sophomore slid the puck past Kollar for his team-leading seventh goal of the year.
The Mavericks poured on the pressure with heavy forechecking that lead to numerous UND turnovers. Finally the Mavericks capitalized and got the tying goal at 12:20 of the third.
Senior Josh Kern found the puck behind the net and fed Mauer, who came around the right side of the goal. Mauer’s first shot was stopped by Kollar, but he chipped the rebound over the Sioux goaltender’s left pad to make the score 2-2.
Both Kollar and Jensen played magnificently throughout the game, making 35 and 30 saves, respectively.
Jensen, a sophomore, started just his second game of his career. Wednesday, MSU learned senior goalkeeper Eric Pateman was lost for the season due to a shoulder injury. Friday night, the Mavericks lost freshman Jon Volp, who played eight games this season, to a hamstring injury.
But Jensen was strong, especially in the third as he made big saves on UND’s Andy Schneider, Spiewak, and Schneekloth with less than six minutes remaining in the game.
Kollar was equally solid late in the game. He stopped Cunningham and Bassett, who each had two good shots, with less than seven minutes left. But the Sioux goaltender made his best save of the night in overtime.
Joseph brought the puck into North Dakota’s zone on a 2-on-1 rush. He passed the puck to wide open teammate Tim Jackman, who reached out and deflected the puck on net. The shot was knocked away by a sprawling save by Kollar, and the game ended 2-2.
After the game, both coaches said on the goaltending by the two teams.
“We’re real happy with our goaltender,” said UND head coach Dean Blais. “Andy Kollar played great and I think Jensen played well for a kid that hasn’t played all that much. He stepped in there and did a good job. He covered a lot of net and I’m sure he’s happy with his game.”
Jutting agreed and said, “I thought their goaltender played exceptional for them, and I thought our goaltender played very well tonight too. For a kid who basically hasn’t played in two years, he came in and did a very nice job for us.”
Despite losing the two-goal lead in the third, Blais was happy with the weekend’s performance.
“We knew they were going to put the puck in; it was just a matter of time,” said Blais. “There were a couple of breakdowns, but it was all generated through Mankato’s good puck movement. Two weeks ago against St. Cloud we weren’t a team, and last night we took a giant step forward. And tonight we held on and we didn’t lose that game, that’s the way I look at it. If we get three out of four points every weekend, we’ll be in good shape.”
Goaltender Kollar, however, was somewhat disappointed with the results.
“Three points out of four isn’t too bad, but going into the third period with the lead … we pride ourselves on third periods and we lost one tonight.”
Kollar gave credit to MSU’s quick offense, adding, “They were buzzing pretty hard today. They’ve got a good team, and their record doesn’t show it, but they can play in this league really well.”
The two teams have next week off, and then they head to North Dakota for a rematch series in Grand Forks at Ralph Engelstad arena.