MANKATO, Minn. — Last year, Minnesota State ranked last in Division I in goals against. But if Friday’s opener was an indication of the rest of the season, MSU’s goal light will go off a lot less this year.
The Mavericks held No. 1 North Dakota (2-0-1 overall, 0-0-1 WCHA) to just 21 shots through three periods and overtime as the two teams skated to a hard-fought 2-2 tie in front of 3,451 fans.
“I don’t think there is any comparison to last year,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said. “I think we were much better defensively as a team, but I also thought our defensemen did a pretty good job.”
Jutting’s defense, which consisted of one senior, three sophomores and two freshmen, allowed just 10 shots combined in the second and third period. They also set up both goals for the Mavericks (0-0-1 overall and WCHA).
Down 1-0 in the second period, sophomore defenseman Kyle Peto fired a shot from the left side of the blue line. UND goalie Jordan Parise made the initial save, but Kurtis Kisio found the rebound and put it just under the crossbar at 13:19.
“We were being told to go high all night because the Parise kept dropping down,” said Kisio, who finished the game with six shots on net.
Trailing 2-1 in the third, the Mavericks needed another blueliner to set up a goal. Freshman Steve Wagner took a shot on net from the top of the left circle and Parise got a piece, but the puck got behind him and rolled towards the goal line.
Before Parise could grab the puck, freshman Ryan Carter streaked in and knocked the puck into the goal to tie the game at 2 with 4:49 left in the third.
“I think the goalie probably would have hopped on it,” Carter said. “He turned around and would have gotten a glove on it before it crossed the goal line. So, I guess it’s fortunate I got there in time.”
Both Carter and Wagner picked up their first collegiate points on the play.
“I thought our young guys accredited themselves extremely well tonight,” Jutting said.
The Sioux came out strong in the first period, outshooting MSU 8-4 and taking the lead on a power-play goal 7:17 into the game.
Sophomore Drew Stafford made a nice play from the right side of the net to evade MSU defenseman Lucas Fransen and find Travis Zajac on the left side. Zajac, a freshman, beat Maverick goalie Kyle Nixon for his first collegiate goal.
“There was a man between him and me to the net, and he made a nice move to get around him and just fed me,” Zajac said. “I just had to tap it in to get the goal.”
Regarding his first collegiate goal in his first WCHA game, Zajac said, “It feels pretty good. It gets a lot of pressure off my back.”
Freshman sensation Rastislav Spirko scored the second UND goal of the night. His shot through traffic at 11:57 of the third gave the Sioux a brief 2-1 lead. Spirko now has six points in his first three games at the college level.
In overtime, the shots were equal, and so were the chances.
North Dakota came close to pulling out the victory on defenseman Nick Fuher’s chance with 2:26 left in the game. Fuher came in late on a play and fired a shot from the left circle, but Nixon made the save and held the rebound.
Moments later, a tipped shot off a faceoff win was also gloved by Nixon as he fell backwards.
Defenseman Chad Brownlee had MSU’s best chance with 37.6 seconds left, but Parise robbed his hard shot from the slot.
“I thought he made two or three real good, solid saves that allowed us to get away with some breakdowns,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said of Parise. “And that’s what you need out of your goaltender. That’s his job, and he did that tonight.”
After three shots per side in overtime, the game ended in a tie.
“I thought it was a pretty good college hockey game,” Jutting said. “I thought our kids did a pretty good job. I think North Dakota is a great hockey team, and when you can have the game that was played tonight between both teams, I think that’s what this league is all about really.”
“To get started off with that kind of game I think just prepares us for what the season is going to be like,” Jutting said.
Last year, UND scored 16 goals on 74 shots in a two-game sweep of the Mavericks at Mankato. Shots, and goals, have come a little harder for the Sioux so far on this trip.
“I think they just outworked us a little harder,” Zajac said. “They got us on our heels, and we just didn’t seem to be at our ‘A’ game today.”
“I thought Mankato played an extremely good hockey game for 60 minutes. I thought they executed pretty well all the way through,” said Hakstol, who was coaching in his first WCHA game as North Dakota’s head coach.
The second game of the series is set for tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center.
“We still got a point out of it, but we’re looking to come back tomorrow and grab another two points,” Zajac said.