MANKATO, Minn. — During their 15-game unbeaten streak, Colorado College received many favorable bounces. It was almost fitting that two unlucky bounces would end the streak.
Minnesota State (5-7-4, 4-5-3 WCHA) rallied from a one-goal deficit in the third by scoring three goals in the last six minutes of play to knock off the No. 3 ranked Tigers, 4-2.
The loss was CC’s first in league action (14-2-2, 9-1-2) and first overall since Oct. 12.
MSU’s rally started with a key save from goaltender Jon Volp while the team trailed 2-1. With 6:14 left in the game, CC’s Noah Clarke fired a hard shot on net from the top of the slot. Volp stopped the shot, but the puck bounced over him and headed towards the net. Volp seemed to roll in the air as he spun around and gloved the puck down to keep his team in the game.
“He came across the middle and took a shot, like a flutter puck,” Volp said. “It just hit my glove funny, hit me in the palm, and just went behind me. The initial reaction was to move backwards and luckily it hit my glove. When you have a save like that, it’s your night.”
Volp’s save brought the home crowd of 3,284 to their feet and gave his team an extra boost.
“I think the biggest thing tonight was that save by Jon Volp to keep it at 2-1,” said MSU coach Troy Jutting. “He probably should have had it the first time, but when he didn’t, to get back to that puck … I’ve been around hockey a long time and I haven’t seen anything like that.
“I sensed a whole lot of excitement on the bench. Big plays kind of create big plays. You could just feel the kids just jacked about that save.”
Then, with 5:54 remaining in the game, junior Aaron Forsythe scored his first collegiate goal to tie the score, 2-2.
Going down the left side, the defenseman saw two teammates heading to the goal, and he flung the puck towards the net. It took a funny bounce and beat Tiger goaltender Curtis McElhinney.
“I was just trying to throw it to the net for a good rebound,” Forsythe said. “Lucky bounce my way. I think it snuck between his catching arm and his body.
“It’s been so long, I forgot how to celebrate for a goal. It feels good to get it out of the way, but it’s not that big of a deal.”
Just when the game looked like it was heading into overtime, MSU scored a deflection goal to take the lead.
Defenseman Joe Bourne gathered the puck in the CC zone and drifted to the top of the slot. He fired the puck on net, and teammate Dana Sorenson deflected his shot past the CC goaltender with 1:13 left. Sorenson also assisted on Forsythe’s goal.
“I just looked up and Joe had it, and I put my stick there and he hit it,” Sorenson said.
The Tigers pulled McElhinney for the extra skater, but they never got a quality shot on net. MSU junior Shane Joseph scored his second goal of the night by putting the puck into the empty net as the buzzer sounded.
It was CC which had looked dominant earlier as it took the lead just 35 seconds into the contest. After a slow start the night before, the Tigers wanted to make sure the same wouldn’t happen Saturday night. They accomplished that task by getting the early goal.
Jason Jozsa fired the puck on net from the right side of the blue line. Volp stopped his shot, but the rebound sailed into the air. CC forward Peter Sejna hit the puck out of midair and into the net for his 18th goal of the year.
The Mavericks finally found their feet in the first and tied the game at 3:53 of the period on a sensational play from Joseph.
Joseph and teammate Brock Becker fought for the puck with two CC players behind the Tiger net before Joseph gained control and headed to the front. He came around the left side of the goal and put the puck between McElhinney’s legs for his 11th goal of the season.
But like the night before, early penalty trouble killed MSU’s effort and momentum. After allowing three goals on six chances the night before, the Mavericks allowed a goal on their first penalty kill of the night.
With Minnesota State’s Peter Runkel off for tripping, CC captain Tom Preissing one-timed a pass from Sejna at the top of the left circle. His shot beat Volp on the left side and gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead at 6:49 of the period.
The scoreless second period had little flow and saw few scoring chances for both teams. But the third had plenty of fireworks to give fans their money’s worth.
After the game, CC coach Scott Owens wasn’t upset that his team’s streak ended. But he was let down with his team’s performance.
“We kind of knew the time was going to come,” Owens said. “You just want to go down from our perspective with a little better effort. We never tested Volp. We never really challenged their tired ‘D’ corps. We’ve had a lot of team wins. It was a team loss.
“You gotta give Mankato some credit because they hung in there. We scored in the first minute and they hung in there and they battled and they hung around.”
But the talk of the night was Volp’s save that gave his team the momentum they needed.
Forsythe described his feelings after Volp’s save as “speechless.”
“I thought it was a goal,” Forsythe said. “That was what my first reaction was. I couldn’t even think of a word to say. It’s an amazing, athletic move.”
“I thought it was in for sure, I really did,” Jutting said. “I can’t believe he kept it out.”
“It seemed like it lifted them,” added Owens. “Maybe they felt like fate was on their side after that.”
The Mavericks were obviously jubilant about their comeback win against the beat team in the WCHA.
“It’s huge,” Sorenson said. “They’re undefeated. It just gives us some momentum going into Christmas. They’re a great team. It just shows how much better we’re getting every weekend. This just proves that we can play with our teams in the league, top-level teams.
“This team has proved that we’re going to comeback and we never quit. We got character guys on our team.”
Said Jutting, “We’ve gotten points every weekend so far this year. And that’s one of the things that we’ve kind of set as a goal for ourselves is to try and get points every weekend. Obviously with them not having been beat yet in the course of their first five or six weekends in the league, it’s a big win for us.”
Up next for CC is a home series against Western Michigan before its Christmas break. The Mavericks will play the Italian National Team in an exhibition game Tuesday night before their short break.
“It’s a great way to go into Christmas break,” Jutting said.