ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Saturday night at the National Hockey Center, Minnesota State-Mankato found out first hand what it’s like to be hit dead on by a Mack truck at full speed.
In their rematch with top ranked St. Cloud State, the Mavericks proved to be nothing but a speed bump to the truck as the Huskies put it in fifth gear and stayed there for an entire 60 minutes, thumping Mankato, 8-1, in front of the 6,057 fans that braved the pre-Christmas snow storm that hit Central Minnesota.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better effort from our players,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl, whose team now sits with a 17-2-1 overall record. “We played pretty good in Maine to start the year, but this might have been our best performance of the year.”
The Huskies wasted no time shifting through the gear box in the first as they stormed out to a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes. They led 5-1 after two and added three more in the third as they remained perfect against the Mavericks since Mankato made the jump to Division I.
Ryan Malone recorded the first hat trick of his career. Mark Hartigan picked up two goals and an assist to give himself 40 points at the break. Peter Szabo had a goal and three assists and Derek Eastman had three helpers in the win.
Malone opened the scoring just 3:37 into the game, tipping home Eastman’s shot from the point while they Huskies were on the power play – which they used to score six of their goals.
Nate DiCasmirro made it 2-0 and after Tim Jackman got Mankato to within one, Szabo and Hartigan scored 1:20 apart to give the Huskies a 4-1 lead.
Hartigan scored again in the second. Mike Walsh scored for the third consecutive game in the third and Malone added two more in the final period.
“We were just trying to move the puck around, get a shot and have the guys crash the net and it worked tonight,” said Eastman of the Huskies success on the power play.
A perfect example of that would come from all three of Malone’s goals. They all came on the power play and on every play, he would take his 6-foot-4 frame and park it in front of Maverick goaltender Jason Jenson to clean up the mess.
“That’s how we do it,” said Eastman.
Hartigan had a chance for a hat trick in the final minute, but Jenson stopped the nations leading scorer on a breakaway to prevent what would have been the Huskies forth hat trick in four games with Mankato.
“I though I had him,” said Hartigan. “That would have been nice but he made a nice save.”
The Mavericks will travel to Alabama-Huntsville after the New Year begins and the Huskies have next weekend off before facing UMass-Amherst in a non-conference game on Jan. 4 at the NHC. They are looking forward to the break, but after putting 46 shots on net and scoring eight goals, it might be hard to not want to play.
“We had a real good first half,” said Eastman. “We only have two losses and I don’t think we could have asked to be in a better position than where we are right now.”
Which is looking down at the rest of the country perched atop that Mack truck.