MANKATO, Minn. — Typically, a team that scores seven goals isn’t called “rusty.”
But that was the word Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting used to describe his team, as well as the opposition, American International, after Friday’s game.
“I think part of it, and for them too, is timing is off a little bit because we haven’t played in a couple of weeks,” Jutting said. “I thought we were a little rusty tonight, obviously. We just weren’t as sharp as we’re capable of being. Just a little rusty, I think, is a good word for both teams.”
But despite any rust the Mavericks did show, the team rode an early offensive explosion and won 7-3 in a nonconference game against the Yellow Jackets (4-7-1 overall). The game was the first-ever between the two clubs.
MSU (6-7-4 overall) received goals from six different players in the rout. The Mavericks were led by Shane Joseph, with two goals and an assist, and Grant Stevenson, with a goal and two assists. Three other players tallied two points for Mankato.
Shots were at a premium for MSU, which outshot the Yellow Jackets 47-8 through two periods and 60-24 for the game in front of a home crowd of 2,372.
“That’s a lot of shots!” said Maverick forward Jake Brenk.
The Mavericks took a 1-0 lead off an outstanding effort from Joseph at 13:48 of the first. The junior received the puck just before the red line and flew down the left side of the rink. Joseph, arguably the fastest skater on MSU’s roster, blew past the AIC defensemen and put the puck into the right side of the net for his 13th goal of the year.
MSU padded its lead with a goal from defenseman Aaron Forsythe at 16:45. Moments after AIC’s Trent Ulmer lost control of the puck with a chance all alone in front of MSU’s net, the Mavericks capitalized on the other side of the ice.
Brenk, a sophomore, gathered the puck in the right corner and sent a crisp pass back to the blue line. Forsythe, coming straight off the bench, took the pass and fired a slapshot on net. Yellow Jacket goaltender Chad Davis got a piece of the shot, but the puck fluttered over his leg and into the net for Forsythe’s second collegiate goal.
Three early Maverick goals in the second turned the game into a blowout.
On the power play, Brenk tallied his first goal of the season. From the left circle, Brenk glided to his left and finally put a wrist shot on net. The puck found space underneath Davis’ right arm and went in for his first goal of the year at 2:24.
Prior to the game, Brenk had just three assists, all of which came in one game.
“It’s nice to get one,” Brenk said. “It just felt nice to get some points again. I guess I’ve been getting some pretty good chances, and I guess that’s all you can ask for is to get some chances.”
“I don’t know about being frustrated,” Brenk added. “I’m sure I was getting pretty mad that I wasn’t scoring, but it finally went in so I’m just going to look ahead from here.”
Just 34 seconds after Brenk’s goal, Adam Gerlach netted his third of the year to make the lead 4-0.
Things would get no brighter for the Yellow Jackets as MSU defenseman Peter Runkel scored at 8:31 of the period to make it a 5-0 game.
The play started as Stevenson fought the puck out of the left corner in AIC’s zone. He came out and found Runkel sneaking in from the point. Runkel’s initial shot was blocked, but the senior stayed with it and put his own rebound past Davis.
American International climbed onto the scorecard with 1:31 left in the second. Guillaume Caron converted a nice pass from Troy Johnston to beat MSU goalie Jon Volp and make the score 5-1 at the end of the second.
The teams exchanged two goals a piece in the third as Stevenson and Joseph tallied for MSU, while Andy Walbert and Caron scored for AIC.
Stevenson and Joseph both extended individual point streaks. Stevenson now has at least one point in 13 games, while Joseph has one in 11 contests.
Caron was a bright spot for the Yellow Jackets. The junior finished with two goals and an assist. He now leads the team with eight goals, 10 assists, and 18 points.
AIC goaltender Davis also shined. Despite allowing seven goals on the night, the ‘tender made many sensational saves with Mavericks all alone in front of his net. He also stopped the first 12 shots he saw early in the game.
“Well, we knew were probably gonna have to have pretty good goaltending tonight,” said AIC coach Gary Wright. “That was a given. I thought he performed pretty well.”
Wright also looked for other positives to take from the game.
“I like the fact that early in the second period they got a flurry of goals and were really up on us and we stabilized a little bit,” Wright said. “They’re a very, very excellent hockey team and have a great skill level. Obviously things were moving a little faster out there than perhaps we’re used to. I thought, on the whole, we learned some things, and we’re taking some positives from this team.
“We look at this as a pretty special opportunity for us to come out here and play a team in the WCHA in a series, so we’re pretty excited to be out here,” Wright continued.
Despite an overwhelming victory for his team, Jutting wasn’t thoroughly pleased with his team’s performance. He contributed part of his team’s let down in the third to the fact that the game wasn’t very close.
“Parts of it I thought we played pretty well, and obviously that third period we didn’t play as well as we are capable of,” Jutting said. “I guess that’s the way it goes sometimes. All in all, for our first game back, not bad but not great either.”
The teams will complete their nonconference series Saturday night. They are set to square off at 7:05 p.m.