MANKATO, Minn. — Friday night Minnesota State had an easy victory in sight early on, only to let Michigan Tech come back and make the game close. Saturday night turned out much the same as the Mavericks (13-14-1, 9-11-1 WCHA) forfeited a three-goal lead but were able to pull out a victory and earn the series sweep.
After jumping ahead 4-1 in the first, the Mavericks watched MTU (7-19-2, 3-15-2 WCHA) score three straight goals to make the score 4-4. But junior B.J. Abel scored a breakaway goal with eight seconds left in the second, and MSU went on to win 6-4.
Minnesota State also received great goaltending from Jon Volp in the win. Volp came in at the beginning of the second to replace sophomore Jason Jensen, who allowed four goals on nine shots in the first. Volp, a freshman, stopped all 12 shots he faced to power MSU to their first WCHA home series sweep of the season.
“It was just an off night for (Jensen),” said MSU head coach Troy Jutting, explaining his goalie switch. “He’s played so well for so long and it was just one of those nights where he wasn’t seeing the puck. It’s great to have Jon come in and play the way he did. You get contributions from all 20 guys, that’s what being a team is all about.”
Volp had not played since November 16 against North Dakota due to a hamstring injury.
“[It was] more nerve-wracking than the first game I played,” said Volp. “It’s hard to come back in there. I forgot how fast the game was, and I forgot how much you can’t see pucks. It was different, it was tough.”
Friday night the Mavericks got off to a quick start as they scored only eight seconds into the contest. Saturday, MTU was on the right side of a fast goal Saturday night, taking a 1-0 lead 2:18 into the game.
With Tim Jackman off for slashing, senior Paul Cabana had the puck behind the MSU net and found teammate Greco Brady. Brady had snuck off the bench and called for the puck, banging his stick on the ice. Cabana found Brady in the left face off circle, and the defenseman one-timed the puck on net. Junior Chris Durno tipped the puck over Jensen’s glove. The power-play goal was Tech’s first on the road this year, as MTU had missed on its previous 67 road man-advantages.
But Mankato came back and scored four unanswered goals, and seemed poised to run away with the game.
The first goal came off a spectacular play by freshman Jon Dubel. Dubel, a defenseman in the beginning of the season, was moved up to forward to create more scoring chances. Dubel did just that by scoring his second career goal at 10:30 of the period.
The freshman carried the puck from his zone, fought through a check along the boards, and came down the right side towards the goal. He fired a quick wrist shot over Husky goaltender Cam Ellsworth’s left shoulder to make the score 1-1.
Defenseman Nate Metcalf made the score 2-1 in MSU’s favor as he scored right off a face off win in Michigan Tech’s zone. The goal, Metcalf’s second of the year, came at 12:29.
MSU poured it on as Shane Joseph scored a rebound goal at 14:48 of the first. On the power play, Steven Johns fired the puck on net from the blue line. Jackman tipped the puck, and Ellsworth made the save. Joseph scrambled from the right corner over to the goal and put the puck into the net for his team-leading 16th goal of the season.
Jake Brenk would add his second goal of the weekend at 17:19 to put MSU ahead 4-1. With a three-goal lead, everyone figured the Mavericks had an easy win ahead, right?
The Huskies tallied three goals in 1:31 to send the teams into intermission with a 4-4 tie. Freshman Bryan Perez started the rally as he beat Jensen five-hole at 18:01 of the period.
Just 33 seconds later, Brett Engelhardt scored a breakaway goal for the Huskies. Engelhardt, streaking down the right side, fired the puck under Jensen’s arm to make the score 4-3.
Then, with 28 seconds left in the period, Engelhardt scored again for MTU. Teammate Colin Murphy came down the right side on a two-on-one rush. He passed the puck over the MSU defenseman’s stick, and Engelhardt put the puck under the crossbar on his backhand to notch his 12th goal of the season.
“He (Murphy) threw it across,” explained Engelhardt. “I don’t know how it got over the (defenseman) to me. I stopped it on the backhand and just threw it up top and it went in.”
Volp came into start the second, and he made an immediate impact as he robbed Engelhardt of a hat trick.
The MSU goaltender was caught out of position as Engelhardt got the puck in front of the net. With an empty net to shoot at, the sophomore put the puck on goal. But Volp dived back in time to get his paddle on the puck and deflect the shot over the glass and out of play.
“The puck was laying on edge, and it was flat on my blade,” explained Engelhardt. “I just tried to throw it on net. I had an open net and didn’t think I had anything to worry about, and he flopped in and it hit his paddle and just went shooting high. Great save by him, very unfortunate for me.”
Much of the second period was an up-and-down battle as the teams traded scoring chances. Ellsworth and Volp played strong in net and kept the -period scoreless until the final minute of the stanza.
The play started as Engelhardt turned the puck over at the Minnesota State blue line. Jackman quickly fed the puck up ice to teammate Abel. Abel, who could have waited for a two-on-none rush to develop, decided to take the puck in alone on Ellsworth. The junior assistant captain deked Ellsworth and slid the puck between the goalie’s legs on his backhand. The goal at 19:52 put MSU up 5-4 heading into the third.
“That was huge to get that goal at the end of the second period,” exclaimed Jutting. “(It) was a big momentum swing. You ask your players that you depend on to come up big in those situations, and I thought B.J. did a great job of finishing off a play that we had to finish off.”
The third period featured a defensive shutdown courtesy of the Mavericks. Coming into the game, MSU was 10-0-0 when leading after two periods. They kept up that record by allowing only five shots on net in the final stanza.
Justin Martin added an empty-net goal with under a second left in the game to cap off the 6-4 victory.
In MTU’s locker room, the focus of the game was on the turnover that lead to MSU’s fifth goal.
“We made a bad decision and it ended up costing us a shot at a split, and what are you going to do?” said Michigan Tech head coach Mike Sertich. “Can’t take it back.”
“I feel really bad for the team,” said Engelhardt. “It was my turnover and my responsibility, and they scored a goal on the breakaway. It’s my fault. Our team battled back from a few goals down, and I let them down. It’s too bad for our team. We outplayed them but we just couldn’t win.”
“I love the character of this team,” said Sertich. “I love these kids, but right now we’re not getting rewarded for character. We need a couple of wins. It’s been that way all year long. We’ve played so well against so many people, but we’ve just come up short.”
The Huskies, sitting in last place in the conference, head home to host St. Cloud next weekend. The Mavericks, who are in sixth place and one point ahead of Alaska-Anchorage, face the Seawolves next week in Alaska as the WCHA teams scramble for positions in the final weeks of the schedule.