MANKATO, Minn. — Minnesota State goalie Jon Volp got the confidence he needed Saturday night. Minnesota-Duluth got the point it needed.
The Mavericks (6-17-5, 5-13-4 WCHA) and Bulldogs skated to a hard-fought 2-2 tie in front of 4,199 fans in Mankato.
With a North Dakota loss in Wisconsin, the No. 6 Bulldogs (18-8-3, 14-5-1 WCHA) pulled into a first-place tie with the Sioux, as both teams have 29 points in the league standings.
“That point could be a big point down the road, but there’s a long way to go,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said.
It came courtesy of junior Tyler Brosz, who scored the Bulldogs’ second goal of the night at 15:12 of the third.
Down 2-1, Brosz found the puck after a scramble in front and, with Volp out of position, put the puck into the empty net for his 10th goal of the season.
“It was kind of just a broken-down play,” Brosz said. “We got a shot on net, and the rebound came out to the side. I was coming around from behind the net. I just tried to get as much wood on it as I could, and it happened to go in.”
“We just kind of stayed with it,” Sandelin said. “You keep getting chances and the goaltender plays well, you can’t control that. Just gotta stay with it and not get frustrated.”
Despite losing the lead with less than five minutes left, the Mavericks got a big performance out of Volp, who had surrendered 25 goals in his last 4 starts.
The Mavericks have had goaltending issues as of late, allowing 52 goals in their past eight games. That led MSU coach Troy Jutting to have a rare meeting with Volp, Kyle Nixon, and Chris Clark before the game.
“I tend to leave those guys alone, good or bad,” Jutting said. “I have for four years. This is the first time that I’ve gotten after them. I got after them as a group, all three of them.
“A goalie needs to win you a game every now and then. They need to give you a chance most nights.”
Volp made a big save early in the game that gave him the confidence he needed to give his team that chance.
Fourteen minutes into the first period, Tim Stapleton took a shot from the right side. Volp made the save and was able to move to his right for a sliding save on Brett Hammond’s rebound attempt.
“I made a pretty good save on the first one, and I kicked the rebound right to the guy,” Volp said. “I saw it the whole way, and that was the difference. If I didn’t see, it probably would have gone in somewhere. I just felt like everything was going my way.”
“Tonight Jon made that one huge save,” Jutting said. “He got all the ones he’s supposed to and then made the great save in the first period. And that was a big momentum thing for our kids because we have not seen that in a month and a half, two months.
“He played the way he’s capable of playing tonight. He played the way he’s played a lot of games for us.
“His play, and I think (UMD goaltender) Isaac (Reichmuth)’s, turned this into what I think was a great college hockey game.”
The Mavericks also got the first tally of the game, which, along with Volp’s early heroics, put Friday’s 8-1 blowout out of their minds.
The first goal came on a play that didn’t work the night before. Friday night, David Backes gave Jake Brenk the puck alone in front of the UMD net early on, only to have Brenk miss the net.
Saturday night, sophomore Brock Becker made a similar play to set up the shot, only Backes was the recipient, and he didn’t miss. Backes put a backhand shot past Reichmuth 56 seconds into the contest.
Backes, a freshman, leads MSU with 14 goals.
“We needed to convert when we got our first big chance,” Jutting said, “and we needed to get a couple of big saves early to give our guys the confidence that they were going to get it behind them.”
The Mavericks were given a standing ovation as they took a 1-0 lead into intermission. The night before, the game was over after the first period, as UMD lead 4-0.
But the Bulldogs came out of the intermission with the edge. UMD outshot the Mavericks 10-1 in the first eight minutes of the second and tied the game.
Senior Jesse Unklesbay came into MSU’s zone with Lucas Fransen closing on him. With Volp leaning to the left, Unklesbay put a shot just inside the right post at 2:18 of the period.
The Mavericks withstood the Minnesota-Duluth storm and took the lead again at 15:15 on a Reichmuth misplay.
Reichmuth went to the right boards to play the puck, but MSU’s Rob Rankin stole the puck and put it out front to Jon Hart. Neil Petruic blocked Hart’s shot while Reichmuth was diving back, but Becker found the loose puck and put it into the net.
The Bulldogs outshot the Mavericks 21-7 in the third period and overtime, but only mustered Brosz’s game-tying goal.
“When it’s that late, you want to win,” Jutting said. “But right now, for me, I’m more interested in our guys playing the way they need to play to be successful in this league, and I thought we did tonight.”
“Good game,” Sandelin said. “It was a good point. I thought we had a good overtime, had some good chances. But it was a good hockey game.
“These are the kind of games that hopefully get you ready come March in that first round.”
Next week, the Bulldogs return home for a huge series against Minnesota. The Mavericks head to Denver to take on the Pioneers.
“We gotta pick up from here and look forward to next weekend against Minnesota,” Brosz said.