MANKATO, Minn. — Coming into Saturday night’s contest against Minnesota-Duluth, the Minnesota State Mavericks were a perfect 12-0-0 when leading after two periods. They took a 3-2 lead into the third Saturday night and even built a 4-2 lead before watching UMD come back and tie the game in front of 3,511.
After being down 2-1 in the second, MSU (14-17-1, 10-15-1 WCHA) scored three straight goals and appeared to be comfortably ahead. But Duluth never gave up.
With 5:12 left in the game, Andy Reierson scored a power-play goal to lift the Bulldogs (13-19-2, 6-16-2) to a 4-4 tie as they took three of four points away from the hosting Mavericks.
“I think it showed a lot of character on our part,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. “I think a lot of people thought the game was over. We just kept chipping away and got a big goal from [Brett] Hammond, and then we scored a power-play goal. I thought we had a couple more great chances to win. But you come in and take three of four points — I’m not going to get too greedy.
“It’s a big point for us and certainly a great weekend for us to come in here and do that against a good team.”
The first period featured a physical battle on the ice. Both teams played tough defensively, keeping most of the play in the neutral zone.
After hitting the crossbar earlier in the period, Minnesota-Duluth took the lead 11:23 into the game off a goal from senior Mark Carlson. Drew Otten, who had two goals the night before, brought the puck down the left side of the MSU zone and passed from the corner to the front of the net. Carlson came flying down the right side and redirected the puck past MSU goaltender Jason Jensen for his sixth goal of the year.
The Mavericks battled back and tied the game with 1:43 left in the period. Skating four-on-four, junior B.J. Abel gathered the puck and took a slow shot from the bottom of the right faceoff circle. The shot, which was like an off-speed pitch, fooled UMD goalie Adam Coole and beat him low glove side to make the score 1-1.
After outshooting the Mavericks 9-4 in the first, the Bulldogs came out and scored less than a minute into the second to once again take the lead. Off a faceoff win in the MSU zone, defenseman Beau Geisler took a shot from the right side of the blue line. Senior Judd Medak, who leads the Bulldogs in points, tipped the shot between Jensen’s legs to put UMD up 2-1.
But Mankato stayed resilient and once again tied the game of a slow-developing two-on-one rush. Freshman Jon Hart made a behind-the-back pass on his backhand to the right side and found teammate Cole Bassett in the slot. Bassett fired a laser shot past Coole into the far side of the net for his sixth goal of the year at 7:08.
The Mavericks kept up the pressure and took the lead for the first time in the game with 4:05 left in the second period. After a scramble for the puck in front of the Duluth net, MSU forward Jerry Cunningham nudged the puck towards the net. The puck trickled through Coole and came out on the other side of the goal. Abel found the puck on the right side and jammed it in the empty side of the net for his ninth goal of the season and third of the series. Abel, the assistant captain for MSU this year, has six goals in his past six games.
MSU came out strong in the third and took advantage of an early power-play chance. With Junior Lessard off for interference, Cunningham came flying down the ice and brought the puck into the UMD zone on the right side. The junior center toe-dragged the puck past a Bulldog defenseman, waited for Coole to make the first move and then fired a wicked wrist shot over the Duluth goalie for his 13th goal of the year. Cunningham finished the game with one goal and two assists. The Mavericks were one for three on the power play after going scoreless on seven power play chances in Friday’s 6-3 loss.
Down 4-2, the Bulldogs started their rally as freshman Brett Hammond scored 7:59 into the period. Teammate and fellow freshman Luke Stauffacher won the face off over to Hammond, who was positioned in the MSU slot. Hammond one-timed the pass and beat Jensen five-hole for his second career goal.
MSU had a chance to pad their lead as they found themselves on the power play nine minutes into the period. But Coole stoned Cunningham on a close-range shot to keep the game within reach.
Finally, with MSU’s Dana Sorenson off for holding, the Bulldogs got the game-tying goal. After some nifty passing on the power play, Reierson took the puck at the top of the slot, moved in and fired a high wrist shot over Jensen’s glove for the senior’s 14th goal of the season.
“We’ve been struggling on the power play all weekend,” said Reierson. “We had some good shots but we didn’t get what we wanted. I was just trying to get it to the net. There were a lot of people, a lot of traffic, in front of the net so I was trying to get it there. The goalie went down already so I just tried to go upstairs.”
Jensen had to make a big save on UMD’s Neil Petruic with less than four minutes left in the game to force overtime.
In OT, MSU had the best chance of the extra session. Cunningham danced around the Duluth zone and passed from the left corner to Sorenson, who was set up on the right side of the goal. Left all alone, Sorenson was unable to stuff the puck into the empty side of the net as he missed the pass.
“[We] had a great opportunity in overtime,” said Maverick head coach Troy Jutting. “That one wasn’t meant to be.”
Jensen made the only three saves of overtime, and the game ended in a four-all tie.
Reierson, an assistant captain for UMD, said that his team was confident they could comeback, even when facing a 4-2 deficit.
“We always battle,” Reierson said. “There’s no quit on our team. We’ve battled every game so far until the end. There’s no doubt we thought we could comeback in the game.
“A two-goal lead is tough to protect, especially in the third period. I don’t know if we did anything different. We just wanted it. I think we just wanted to get a tie. After we got that first goal they kind of got back on their heels and that gave us a lot of momentum.”
When asked about losing their 4-2 lead, Jutting said, “I don’t think you ever feel comfortable until a game is over. I thought it was a pretty well played hockey game. Last night I was very disappointed with our effort. Tonight I thought we gave effort. We played with heart, and we played with some pride. Unfortunately we ended up in a tie.”
The Bulldogs, sitting in ninth place in the standings, return home to host North Dakota next weekend. MSU is in sixth place and only one point behind Wisconsin, which was swept by Denver this weekend. The Mavericks take to the road and head East to play Michigan Tech.