MANKATO, Minn. — A controversial goal by Rob Rankin and a hat trick by Travis Morin paved the way for Minnesota State’s first conference win of the season.
The Mavericks (1-5-1 WCHA, 3-5-1 overall) defeated No. 15 Alaska-Anchorage by a score of 6-3 in front of 3,227 at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center.
Although his goal came early in the game, Rankin’s score was the turning point of the contest.
After MSU scored two goals, the Seawolves (3-2-0 WCHA, 5-3-1 overall) scored to cut the lead in half and were pressuring to tie the game.
Then, at 3:01 of the first, Rankin fired a shot from the left circle that went over UAA goalie John DeCaro’s shoulder. The puck appeared to hit the left corner of the net and bounce out, and the goal judge turned the red light on momentarily before turning it off.
Although Rankin celebrated, the officials didn’t signal a goal, and play went on for 1:33. Once play was stopped, referee Derek Shepherd conferred with the officials and ruled Rankin’s shot was a goal.
In MSU’s previous game, Rob Rankin beat Bemidji State’s Layne Sedevie high, but the puck hit both posts and the crossbar before bouncing away. Play continued in that game as well, and Rankin was not credited with a goal.
“I saw the net move, so I just assumed it was in, and once again the whistle did not blow,” Rankin said of his goal after the game. “The goal judge has got to be feeling sorry for me.”
The goal seemed to deflate the Seawolves, but UAA didn’t dispute the call.
“I immediately thought it was a goal,” UAA coach John Hill said. “I was confident it was a goal.”
Although Rankin’s goal changed the game, Morin made Rankin’s disputed goal a moot point by scoring his first career hat trick.
The sophomore, who scored five points in two games last weekend, made the score 2-0 after Brock Becker scored 1:11 into the game. After keeping the puck just inside the UAA blueline, Morin moved to the top of the slot and fired a shot that beat DeCaro high at 4:44 of the first.
“There were like five guys in front of the net,” Morin said. “I just wanted to get it past them. I thought the goalie couldn’t see the puck because I couldn’t see the net really. I was just trying to get it past the first guy.”
Morin continued his scoring ways in the second when he increased MSU’s lead to 4-1. After David Backes forced a turnover in Alaska-Anchorage’s zone, Morin beat DeCaro high again at 5:20 of the period.
The goal chased DeCaro from the net, as he was replaced by Nathan Lawson. DeCaro allowed 4 goals on 16 shots.
On the power play 3:33 later, Morin scored again, this time low. Morin took a pass from Joel Hanson and put the puck into the net, making the score 5-1.
After going six games without a point, Morin now has eight points in his last three games.
“He was getting chances in the first six games, a lot of them,” said MSU coach Troy Jutting. “After the first three weekends, I thought he could have had 10-12 points in those weekends. He kind of got the monkey off his back last weekend, and that continued tonight.”
“It seems like the tide has turned here, and I’m starting to find the back of the net,” Morin added.
Nick Lowe and Justin Johnson scored late in the third period for UAA to make the game close with a 5-3 score. But Rankin delivered his second goal of the night by scoring a shorthanded empty-net goal with 1:02 left. That goal was undisputable.
Maverick netminder Jon Volp picked up his second win of the season by stopping 33 of 36 shots. Although the game was rarely close, Volp came up with numerous spectacular saves to hold the Seawolves at bay.
“I thought Jonnie played very well,” Jutting said. “I thought Alaska played very well. I thought they played hard. They came after us.”
The Mavericks also won the game statistically. They outshot UAA 41-36. They also went 1-2 on the power play and killed all eight of the Seawolves’ extra-man advantages.
“They won the special teams battle,” Hill said. “They got the power-play goal, and our power play was feeble.”
Hill cited a young defensive core for the numerous defensive breakdowns the Seawolves had in the game. UAA dressed one senior, two sophomores, and three freshmen on the blueline.
“We got what we deserved tonight,” Hill said. “But our guys have always responded, and I think we’ll get up tomorrow and come for a skate, and get ready to play again.”
Minnesota State and Alaska-Anchorage will conclude their WCHA series tomorrow night. The puck is set to drop at 7:07 p.m.