MANKATO, Minn. — With a 15-year winless streak against St. Cloud, it was only fitting that Minnesota State would need one of the wildest games ever to defeat the Huskies.
On a night when the lead went back and forth and offense was the name of the game, MSU (2-2-1 WCHA, 3-4-2 overall) got a hat trick from junior Shane Joseph to win for the first time at the Division I level against SCSU (2-2-1 WCHA, 4-4-1 overall).
“What a game!” MSU head coach Troy Jutting said. “What a game! Wow! Back and forth … holy buckets. That was a wild one!”
“Finally,” Joseph said of ending the winless streak. “It’s good for our coaches. They’ve been here the longest. I just imagine how they’re feeling right now. It’s just this big gorilla off the shoulders there. It feels good. It’s good to get it out of the way. Now you guys can stop bugging us about it.”
It was also fitting that Joseph not only dscore a hat trick, but the game-winner. In his first year at MSU, Joseph broke his leg against the Huskies in only his fifth college game and was out for the rest of the year.
“That’s in the past,” Joseph said, denying revenge motives. “I just try to bring my game for everyone. I don’t try to touch wood on that. Every time I think about it, it brings back horror stories.”
Joseph’s third goal came with the score tied 6-6 with 2:55 left in the game. The junior carried the puck down the ice on a two-on-two rush with freshman Brock Becker. Joseph rushed the net, and it appeared as if he got little, if any, shot on net. But with players crashing all around him, SCSU goaltender Jason Montgomery couldn’t stop the puck as it rolled in.
“I was looking at passing it over,” Joseph said, “and the D-man laid down, so I just tried to shove it in there somehow, and it ended up squeaking through. So it wasn’t a snipe by any means.”
The Mavericks had started the third period in a familiar spot: behind. The Mavericks had impressively battled back from deficits in five of their previous eight games. In Friday’s contest, they were down 4-3.
But MSU stayed resilient and tied the game 4-4 just 5:55 into the third. Freshman Jeff Marler carried the puck down the left side of the SCSU zone and made a drop pass to Becker. Becker fired a slapshot past Montgomery for his second career goal.
“I thought that Brock Becker’s goal was the big goal in the game thought to get it back to 4-4,” Jutting said. “That goal, I think, lifted our spirits a little bit and got us back involved in the game at the pace we needed to play.”
Minnesota State took the lead at 9:17 of the final stanza as Joseph tallied his second goal of the night. On a five-on-three power play, the forward charged the net hard and backhanded the puck past Montgomery to make the score 5-4.
Joseph, the smallest Maverick at five feet, nine inches, looked like a power forward on his final two goals as he rushed the net hard.
“I gotta go to the net,” Joseph said. “You gotta get the dirty ones as well. You get the pretty ones, but 90 percent of them are going to be the dirty goals. No matter what size you are, you always gotta go to that net.”
Still on the power play only 1:12 later, MSU got a comfortable two-goal lead as junior Dana Sorenson finished off a beautiful tic-tac-toe play for his first goal of the season.
But the Huskies sucked the air out of the 3,787 fans in the arena as they scored two goals in 1:37 to tie the score again.
The first came just 10 seconds after Sorenson’s goal. The puck took a funny bounce against the boards behind the net and came out in front of the MSU goal. SCSU’s Jonathan Lehun jumped on the loose puck and put it in the empty left side of the goal to bring his team within one.
At 12:16 of the third, St. Cloud got another lucky bounce to tie the game. Sophomore Dave Iannazzo shot the puck from the point high into the air. MSU defenseman Aaron Forsythe attempted to glove the puck, but accidentally redirected it into the Maverick net for Iazzanno’s first goal of the season. The goal prompted the Mavericks into taking a timeout to compose themselves.
“I didn’t know what to think at that time,” Jutting said. “Goals were being scored so fast both ways, but I give our kids a lot of credit. They’ve done it all year. It didn’t really faze them.
“They were pretty calm, and during the timeout I was pretty interested to hear what some of them had to say. They weren’t panicking, they just said, “Hey, we started off the period one goal down. It’s tied right now.”
But Joseph added the exclamation to a wild night as MSU went on to beat St. Cloud.
The Huskies got on the board early in the game as they cashed in on a power-play chance. At 2:31 of the first, junior Matt Hendricks took a wrist shot in the right circle and beat MSU goalie Kyle Nixon for his fifth goal of the year.
The Mavericks came right back and scored a power-play goal of their own just 31 seconds later. Defenseman Steven Johns took a shot from the top of the point. Junior Cole Bassett, positioned in front of the SCSU net, got his stick up and deflected the shot past Montgomery to make the score 1-1.
The Mavericks took the lead with another power-play goal. After SCSU’s Mike Walsh received a five-minute major for checking Peter Runkel from behind, the Mavericks got a goal from sophomore Adam Gerlach. The sophomore forward fired the puck from the bottom of the left circle and beat Montgomery five-hole at 13:36 of the period.
But the Huskies came back to tie the game with just 34 seconds left in the first. Senior Ryan Malone did everything but pull a rabbit out of a hat as he stick handled past the MSU defense. Malone came in on net and put a backhander past Nixon for his sixth tally of the season.
The back-and-forth battled continued as the Huskies took the lead 6:46 into the second period. On the power play again, SCSU’s Tim Conboy fired a one-timer from the blue line. Nixon stopped his shot, but the rebound bounced into the crease. Jon Cullen hit the post with his attempt, but Malone was there to bury the puck into the net for his second goal of the game.
Back came the Mavericks as Joseph scored to tie the game once again. The play started as defenseman Jon Dubel carried the puck down on a two-on-two rush. Dubel tried to pass from the right side to Joseph on the left, but his pass hit a SCSU player’s stick and bounced in the air. Montgomery seemed to lose it, but Joseph found the puck on the left side and fired it into the empty left side of the net for his fifth goal of the year at 7:48.
The Huskies dominated the rest of the period, coming close to a goal halfway through the period. On the power play, sophomore Peter Szabo fired from the right circle. Nixon, on his back, put his glove up and made a Dominik Hasek-like save to deny Szabo of the goal.
But Nixon was unable to stop the barrage as the Huskies tallied another power-play goal. At 17:25 of the second, Conboy again one-timed a shot from the point. Hendricks was there to deflect the shot past Nixon for his second goal of the game, putting St. Cloud up 4-3 at the end of two.
After the game, SCSU head coach Craig Dahl was upset with his team’s discipline regarding penalties. SCSU finished 3 for 6 on the power play, while MSU went 4 for 9.
“We took too many penalties again, same old story,” Dahl said. “Either you’re going to quit taking penalties or you’re going keep losing games, simple as that. It’s not rocket science.”
“One thing about the Mankato team, they don’t give up,” Dahl continued. “They really work their fannies off. I got a lot of respect for them.”
Joseph had a lot to say about his team after the game as well.
“We just kept battling back,” Joseph said. “That’s the thing with our team this year. Every time we get down, we didn’t hear anything negative. I haven’t heard one negative comment anytime we’ve been down. Everybody tries to pick everybody up, say something positive, and just say what we gotta get down. So far it’s worked and we’ve come through.”
“I give our kids credit,” Jutting added. “All year long, we haven’t seemed to panic. They’re not doing it, and I don’t expect them to. We’ve been in enough of them situations now where you kind of get a feel for how a team is going to react. I almost think it makes us a little bit hungrier.”
The two teams will finish the home-and-home series Saturday night as they face off in St. Cloud.