ST. CLOUD, Minn. — There was a vibrant chant rattling through the guts of the National Hockey Center late Saturday night. What was being said has been kept secret for years, but what it means became immediately apparent to the residents of St. Cloud, and it was nothing they wanted to hear.
The Minnesota State hockey team has been doing it for years, gathering after games inside their locker room in almost a tribal style, and in unison, serenading each other with a chant. The only catch: it has to be after a win, which they did Saturday, knocking off St. Cloud State 4-3 and earning a split in the weekend home-and-home series.
“I can’t tell you what we say, but it feels good when we’re able to do it,” said Brock Becker, who scored the game winner off a pretty feed from linemate Travis Morin with 5:42 to play. “It’s something that has been passed down to this hockey team from years ago.”
The Mavericks played the gutsy type of hockey that those teams of the past would be proud of, battling back from a pair of one-goal deficits and avoiding falling any further back in the rugged WCHA.
“We needed this win,” said Morin, who added a goal to go along with his assist on the deciding goal. “After we lost last night we fell three points behind these guys and tonight we were able to at least keep pace in the standings.”
It took a while for either team to get going, but when the teams finally did remember how to finish, the game opened up.
Over half of the game went by before St. Cloud State freshman Aaron Brocklehurst got the scoring started. He stopped a Mankato clearing attempt from his defensive spot on the blue line and wheeled himself all the way around the Maverick net before stuffing a shot in off Clark’s right leg to put the Huskies up 1-0 10:24 into the second.
Mankato tied the game at the 14:05 mark, when Rob Rankin corralled a centering pass with his skate and redirected it up to his stick before beating Tim Boron, who was fooled on the pass.
On the ensuing shift, the Huskies got the lead back. 24 seconds after Rankin tied the game, Josh Singer fired a shot on Chris Clark, who let it slip through his pads. As the puck trickled towards the empty net, Nate Dey dove and swept it in just before Konrad Reeder came crashing into the net.
That lead lasted for 2:19. This time Morin picked the corner over Boron’s glove from the right dot to tie the game at two goals apiece.
“Skilled guys make skilled plays, if you’re going to win games in this league, those guys have to make plays.” said Maverick head coach Troy Jutting. “Last night we didn’t make those plays, tonight we did.”
They continued to do so in the third. Jeff Marler scored a power-play goal 2:13 in to give Mankato its first lead of the weekend, knocking in a rebound shot from the blue line. Justin Fletcher tied the game back up with 6:17 to play on a power-play goal of his own, but the Huskies coughed the game up on the next shift.
Morin ended up with the puck, drew a pair of defenders, then flipped a backhand pass to Becker. He made a move on Boron, and pushed a shot into the goal 35 seconds after SCSU had tied the game.
“We scored to tie the game then hand them one 30 seconds later,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “That’s frustrating stuff.”
“Travis just made a terrific pass,” said Becker. “He did all the work, I just finished it off.”
Which was something that line was able to do last night. The trio — which also includes David Backes, who didn’t end up on the scoresheet but was everywhere else in the game — took some heat after a sluggish night in Friday’s loss.
“We know that when we’re going good this team has a better chance of winning,” said Becker.
And if that continues to happen, they’d better get some earplugs in the bowels of the rinks around the league.