MANKATO, Minn. — They say things can change in a New York minute. In Minnesota, one might say it can happen in a Mankato minute and a half.
Trailing 2-1 in the third, St. Cloud State looked like it was on the way to its 19th loss this season. But two goals in 1:36 turned the momentum and the game, and the Huskies earned a weekend split against Minnesota State (7-15-4 WCHA, 10-16-6 overall).
“That’s a good sign to play well in the third period,” said SCSU coach Craig Dahl, whose squad also trailed last weekend in the third period against Colorado College and came back to defeat the Tigers in overtime.
Both goals were astonishing in different ways. The first came off an amazing deflection, the second from an equally outstanding pass.
With 11:36 left in the period, defenseman Matt Gens took a shot from the left side of the blueline that appeared to be heading wide left of the net. However, sophomore Nate Raduns redirected the puck past MSU goalie Chris Clark for his third goal of the year.
“The tipped deflection by Raduns was huge,” Dahl said. “It’s one of the few junkyard goals we’ve scored all year long. Usually we’ve got to work like dogs to score a goal.”
Just a minute and a half later, the Huskies (8-16-0 WCHA, 14-18-2 overall) took the lead while skating four-on-four. Defenseman Justin Fletcher carried the puck into Maverick zone, and, as he was heading behind the net, made a sneaky pass between his legs that came out in the crease. Senior Dave Iannazzo crashed the net and put the puck in for his third goal of the weekend at 10:00 of the final period.
“We connected eyes, and he saw me, and he passed to me as he was going behind the net on the short side of the net in front. I just had to poke it in. It was an unreal play. I was just glad to be there,” said Iannazzo.
“I don’t think we ever doubted coming back,” Fletcher said. “The mindset in our locker room was, ‘We have a chance to win this game. Let’s go get it.’”
St. Cloud goalie Tim Boron sealed the victory with a number of saves in the final minutes. With 20 seconds left, MSU’s Ryan Carter got a partial breakaway that Boron was able to knock away.
“It was a complete team effort, because Timmy had to make some big saves late in the game there too,” Dahl said. “Top to bottom, it was great.”
Boron finished the game with 28 saves. Senior Peter Szabo tallied three assists in the win.
The win moved St. Cloud out of the WCHA cellar and into ninth place, leapfrogging Michigan Tech.
“We had to win tonight,” Dahl said. “We just absolutely had to win tonight.”
The Mavericks lost for the first time this season when they had a lead going into the third period (7-1-2).
The Huskies took an early lead with their first shot of the game. Iannazzo sent the puck from the left corner to teammate Grant Clafton in the slot. Clafton one-timed the puck between Clark’s legs at 1:48 of the first.
But that was the lone bright spot in the first for SCSU, as Minnesota State outshot the Huskies 12-7 in the period and outscored them 2-1.
MSU’s first tally came off an outstanding effort from sophomore David Backes. The forward put on a stickhandling show with a St. Cloud defenseman clinging to him before sliding the puck from the right side of the net across the crease.
Backes’ pass found defenseman Kyle Peto on the back door. Peto backhanded the puck over Boron at 8:26 of the period.
The Mavericks took the lead at 2-1 on the power play with 4:18 left in the first. Steven Johns took a shot from the point that Boron stopped. However, the rebound bounced into the air, and, for the second night in a row, senior Brad Thompson knocked a puck out of the air and into the net. The goal was Thompson’s ninth of the year.
MSU finished 1 for 6 on the power play. St. Cloud went 0 for 5.
A sluggish second period for both sides seemed to deflate the Mavericks and, at the same time, give SCSU the chance it needed to rally in the third.
“I think we got tired,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said. “We look tired. We just do not take advantage of situations when we’re up. We’ve got to learn to go for the throat. We do not do that very well. We haven’t done it all year.”
Jutting’s team was missing three top players in Brock Becker, Travis Morin, and Jeff Marler due to injuries and illness.
“Obviously we have three very important players out of our lineup right now, and that’s a tough time of the year to have those kids out. But that’s no excuse for the other kids not to play hard that are in there,” Jutting said.
After an exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 Team, the Mavericks will stay in town to host the Denver Pioneers. The Huskies will play Minnesota next weekend in a home-and-home series.
“Anytime you have a comeback win in the third period, you feel pretty good about yourself,” said Iannazzo. “Hopefully we can carry this into practice this week and bring it into next weekend against Minnesota.”