College Hockey:
Special Teams Give Mavericks First Win

— It took a shorthander to get things rolling, but Minnesota State finally scored some goals.

After scoring only one goal in each of its past two games, MSU (1-3-2 overall) tallied twice in the second and once in the third to rally from a one-goal deficit and beat visiting Bemidji State (0-2-4 overall).

Special teams were key for MSU, which scored once while shorthanded and once on the power play. The Mavericks’ third goal, a four-on-four score, came seconds after their power play expired.

MSU was led by sophomore Grant Stevenson, who had a goal and two assists. Freshman goalie Kyle Nixon stopped 25 shots to get his first win in his college debut in front of 2,824.

The night also featured Minnesota State’s 5,000th goal in history, which came on Steven Johns’ second-period goal.

But it was Stevenson’s goal that was key for MSU. With his club down 1-0 in the second period, the team-leading scorer stepped up and started the rally at 10:55.

Stevenson got the puck inside the MSU blue line and danced around BSU’s Jared Hanowski. He then raced down the right side of the ice on a two-on-one rush with teammate Shane Joseph, waited, and fired it over BSU goaltender Kelly Shields’ shoulder for his fifth goal of the year.

“We just got a chance on a two-on-one and the shot ended up going in for me,” Stevenson said.

Only 2:03 later, MSU scored on the power play to go up 2-1. Captain B.J. Abel passed to Stevenson, who was camped out on the left side of the net. Stevenson passed back to Johns at the top of the slot, who ripped the puck past Shields for MSU’s 5000th all-time goal.

The Mavericks finished 1 for 8 on the power play, while BSU went 0 for 4.

Abel finished the scoring for the Mavericks in the third as he converted a pass from Stevenson into a four-on-four goal. Positioned in the right faceoff circle, he fired the puck high on net. Shields got a piece of the shot with his left shoulder, but the puck deflected in for Abel’s first goal of the year at 13:03 of the third. Stevenson’s three-point night gave him 12 on the season.

“We were a little bit snake-bitten recently,” Stevenson said of the team’s offense. “We wanted to put pucks in the net and get that first one out of the way and let the floodgates open up, hopefully. We talked about that last night, about placing our shots better for rebounds and crashing the net. I think we worked on it and we got a better effort tonight.”

Bemidji drew first blood in the game, like the previous night taking an early lead. The play started as Ben Lindell took a shot from the left side of the blue line. MSU’s Nixon made a pad save, but he left a big rebound. Myles Kuharski grabbed the puck and just missed the empty right side of the net. He quickly went behind the net and moved the puck up front to Bill Methven, who fired the puck into the goal. Methven’s goal, at 8:16, put his team up 1-0.

But Nixon was able to settle down later in the first. He made a key save on Hanowski’s power-play chance late in the first. He also got some help from the crossbar when Bryce Methven’s shot hit metal later in the period.

“I was fighting it at the beginning,” Nixon said. “The puck was like a little golf ball in the very beginning, but after that first goal went in, it just calmed me down and I started playing like I usually do.”

The Beavers seemed in control of the game until Stevenson’s goal. They killed all three MSU power-play chances in the first, and Shields stopped all 10 of the shots he saw in the period.

But after Stevenson’s goal, the team had an extra jump. They pressured Shields, played smart defensively, and got great play from Nixon to pull out the 3-1 win.

“I thought we had the zip in our feet all night compared to last night,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said. “We created more opportunities because of spunk. I thought we created more, and I thought we had some kids who showed a little bit more heart in front of the net and got involved a little more.”

Jutting was also pleased with Nixon’s performance.

“I thought Kyle played extremely well. For a first time, first start, and that kid hasn’t played in a year, almost, I thought he did a great job.”

Nixon was happy with his play after the goal he allowed to Methven.

“That first goal, that was a year of rust there,” Nixon said. “But after that, I settled down, and it feels so great right now to get my first win and just get over it and now go on to the next weekend.”

He also said the Maverick defense made it easy for him in the game.

“It’s my first game since junior hockey, so I’m used to the two-on-oh’s, the three-on-oh’s — this is unbelievable. The D kept everything out, and the shots I could see.

“It’s great. They make life more easy for me.”

BSU head coach Tom Serratore thought special teams were the difference in the game.

“They out-special teamed us, period,” Serratore said. “They get a shorty. Obviously, you get a shorty, you get a momentum shift. Then they get their power-play goal. Nixon played well, and our guy played well, but the difference was they out-special teamed us.”

Up next for the Beavers is a trip to Findlay, as BSU attempts to get its first win of the season. The Mavericks will stay home and host Minnesota.

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