MANKATO, Minn. — After blowing a three-goal lead in the second, Minnesota State-Mankato (8-7-1, 5-6-1 WCHA) played a tough third period and went on to beat Alaska Anchorage 5-3 Saturday night to earn a series split.
The Mavericks were lead by sophomores Dana Sorenson, who scored two goals for MSU, and Tim Jackman, the game-winning goalscorer.
MSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second period, but Alaska Anchorage (4-9-3 overall, 3-7-2 WCHA) played tough and came back to score three straight goals to tie the game in front of a crowd of 3,308.
With the score knotted at three-all in the third, Jackman’s line made sure to set a tone early in its first shift. They did just that by scoring only 15 seconds into the period.
Junior B.J. Abel grabbed the puck behind the net and passed out front to Jackman in the slot. UAA goalie Kevin Reiter came out to cut off the angle, but Jackman one-timed the puck underneath Reiter to give MSU the lead.
“I’ve been getting open in the slot lately,” said Jackman. “Abel found me, and I was able to put it in the net.”
Unlike Friday night, when Minnesota State lost 2-1, the Mavericks came out ready for the Seawolves Saturday from the beginning of the game. It took them only 45 seconds into the contest to take the lead off Sorenson’s first goal.
The play started as defenseman Steven Johns got the puck to teammate Cole Bassett. Bassett skated from the corner to the top of the right faceoff circle, where he put a quick wrist shot on net. UAA’s Reiter made the save, but Sorenson grabbed the puck in front of the net, spun around to his forehand and slid the puck past Reiter on the left side of the goal.
Sorenson said he lost track of where the goal was in his spin-around shot and called the goal “lucky.
“I told Cole to shoot it. He shot it, and the rebound came out to where I was. I turned around and shot it in.”
The Mavericks padded their lead 13:18 into the game. After UAA killed off a power-play chance for Mankato, MSU came down on a rush and scored off another rebound shot.
Sophomore Shane Joseph came into the zone, danced around the defense, and found himself all alone in close on Reiter. Joseph’s shot was stopped by a quick pad save, but senior Josh Kern, following the play, grabbed the rebound and put it past the sprawled Seawolf goaltender.
Sorenson would add another goal 1:25 into the second as MSU’s lead jumped up to three goals. But the Seawolves clawed their way back into the game by scoring three straight goals, two on the power play, to make the score 3-3 at the end of two. The three-goal streak was the first time Anchorage scored three in one period this year.
The first goal came as Kern was off for goaltender interference. Senior Mike Scott grabbed the puck behind the Maverick net and sent a quick pass in front to teammate Gregg Zaporzan. The senior from Schreiber, Ontario, one-timed the puck past MSU goaltender Jason Jensen for UAA’s first goal of the game at the 3:52 mark. The power-play goal was UAA’s first after going scoreless in its past 20 man-advantages.
The second came off of a nifty play by the UAA offense and lackluster play by the Mavericks. Defenseman Matt Shasby brought the puck down the right side and passed to teammate Petr Chytka, who quickly passed to his left to find John Hopson all alone in front of the net. Hopson deflected the puck past Jensen for his fifth goal of the season. MSU was caught watching the play in its zone, something the Mavericks did for a lot of the second period
Only 1:34 later, Anchorage scored again on the power play. Shasby took a shot from the blue line, and Zaporzan set up a screen in front of Jensen. The puck popped the top of the net and tied the game at three-all.
Alaska Anchorage seemed to have all the momentum at the end of the second period. But MSU regained its composure during intermission and played a tough third period to earn their first conference victory at home.
Jackman’s goal, his team-leading ninth of the season, deflated the Seawolves after their comeback, and Jensen made key saves on Dan Gilkerson and Zaporzan in the third to keep the win in sight.
Junior Jerry Cunningham added a late goal to secure the win.
Afterward, the Mavericks talked about their conversation between the second and third periods.
“When we came back in for the third period, at that point in time we were challenged,” said MSU head coach Troy Jutting. “It’s a game we had to win. You can’t get swept at home. I give our kids credit. They responded and went out and got a couple goals there in the third.”
“I think we were a little deflated,” added Sorenson. “But the older guys told us we just have to keep working. We just kept it up. We didn’t get negative on ourselves like we have in the past. We stayed positive and kept pushing, and it worked out tonight.”
Jutting had nothing but good things to say about the Seawolves.
“I’m very impressed with their hockey team,” he exclaimed. “They’re smart, they’re playing hard, and you can tell they’re having fun. When you’re down three to nothing in another rink and you come back and tie the game up, those kids are having a good time and they’re playing hard.”
UAA head coach John Hill was displeased with his team’s play in the first period, but he felt the team played well from there on out.
“I’m very disappointed as to how soft we played in the defensive zone in the first period,” he said. “There was absolutely no body contact and a lot of guys playing poke-check hockey. After the first period, I was very pleased with the way we played. I thought [after MSU's third goal] we played the way we had the three previous games and gave ourselves a chance to win.
“It takes a lot of energy to fight back from a deficit like that.”
MSU stays home this week and will host Denver next weekend. Alaska Anchorage does not play again until hosting Michigan Tech January 4 and 5.