MANKATO, Minn. — For Michigan Tech, it was the first time since 1968. For Minnesota State, it was history.
Those two teams skated to a scoreless tie Friday night in a WCHA matchup in front of 3,599 at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center.
The Huskies (2-4-3 overall, 0-3-2 WCHA) hadn’t been in a scoreless game since March 8, 1968, against North Dakota, which was MTU’s first 0-0 finish.
The scoreless affair was the first for the Mavericks (2-5-2 overall, 1-3-1 WCHA) in the program’s 35-year history.
MSU goaltender Jon Volp was the star of the game, stopping all 29 shots he faced, including key saves on a 5-on-3 in the third. Michigan Tech goalie Bryce Luker made 28 saves, four in overtime.
“I thought our goaltender made a couple of big saves, but I thought their guy made a couple of saves as well,” said Maverick coach Troy Jutting.
With a 5-on-3 power play early in the third period, the Huskies were unable to get past Volp. The goalie started a key sequence by robbing Taggart Desmet. On a backdoor play, the MTU forward got the puck all alone on the left side of the goal. Volp, diving from left to right in the crease, managed to make a toe save on the shot.
“That was a real lucky save,” Volp said. “It was a quick pass. The only thing I could do was kick a leg out there. Luckily it hit me and I made the save.”
“Kid made an unbelievable save on the 5-on-3 on the backdoor,” MTU coach Jamie Russell said.
Following Desmet’s shot, Lars Helminen fired a blast from the right side of the blue line that hit the left post. Finally, as the first MSU penalty expired, Volp gloved Colin Murphy’s shot at 4:58.
“I thought Jonnie made a couple of great saves,” Jutting said, “but you gotta do that … you want your goalie to make all the saves he’s supposed to make and a couple that he’s not supposed to. I thought Jon did a great job at that tonight.”
In overtime, MTU’s Luker stopped Cole Bassett less than a minute in. The Maverick skater fired a shot from the right circle that Luker deflected with his blocker. It was the freshman’s first collegiate shutout.
The shutout was a change of pace for the Huskies, who had been averaging over four goals a game.
“I wanted to make sure they didn’t get going offensively … .We had to make sure we tried to contain them. I just wanted to make sure we didn’t have to score five or six to win the game,” Jutting said.
More impressively, the Mavericks were able to shut down MTU’s top line of Murphy, Desmet, and Chris Conner, which had tallied in seven of the team’s first eight games. Conner and Murphy lead the nation in scoring with 18 points each.
Maverick forward Ryan McKelvie played opposite the line and was given credit by both coaches for slowing them down.
“(McKelvie) was pretty much in Chris Conner’s pants the whole night,” Russell said. “He followed him around wherever he went and did a good job.”
Minnesota State has been great on defense this year, but its offense has surprisingly gone MIA. One of the best in the nation last year, the offense now ranks last out of 58 teams with a 1.56-goal-per-game average.
“We’ve struggled to score,” Jutting said. “It’s not a secret. But we’re moving up the ladder in defense. I don’t know if it’s always true or not, but everybody will tell you if you play great defense, you give yourself a chance to win all the time. And I think we are playing very good defensively right now.”
“We’re getting our chances, we’re just not putting away the rebound,” Volp said. “We’re not getting a bounce right now. I keep saying that, but eventually it’s going to happen. All these guys are great scorers, so I’m sure they’ll start scoring here soon.
“The defense is great right now. They’ve been improving since day one. It’s something good to see, and hopefully, once we get our offense going, we could be a tough team to beat.”
After allowing 14 goals in two games against Wisconsin last weekend, a frustrated offense was just what the Michigan Tech defense needed.
“It’s a little different, but we played tight defensively, and I think that’s something we really wanted to do after last weekend,” said captain Brett Engelhardt.
“I think that’s something that we need to do. Our offense will come. We didn’t have our best night offensively, but if we’re tough defensively, we’ll win a lot of games.
Russell wasn’t concerned with getting shut out, but was happy to gain a point on the road.
“As long as you’re getting chances, I think you’re doing the job offensively,” Russell said. “I’m very pleased with how we played in our own end. I think everybody fulfilled their role and played very well.”
The teams will take another crack at putting a puck in the net Saturday night in the series finale, which is set for 7:05 p.m. (CT).