MANKATO, Minn. — For Minnesota State, Saturday’s 5-1 win over Wayne State wasn’t the most complete game of the season. But one fortunate call from an official and three second period goals later, the Mavericks were well on their way to a nonconference weekend sweep.
Finishing a stretch of five games in eight days, one could hardly tell the Mavericks (7-4-1, 4-3-1 WCHA) had gone through such a rigorous stretch. Play was concentrated in the Warrior defensive zone for a solid portion of the opening twenty minutes. Wayne State (3-7-2, 0-0-0 CHA) stayed in the game despite being outshot 10-9 in the opening period. Unable to take advantage of two power plays, the Warriors found themselves down by a single goal after one. MSU sophomore Brittany Mackley fired a writer past WSU goalie Valery Turcotte at 14:23 to give the Mavericks a 1-0 lead.
But like the Mavericks’ loss to Wisconsin on Wednesday, the game’s balance was decided within a span of four minutes. But this time it was MSU tallying a trio of goals, ending any hope the Warriors had of salvaging a split in Mankato. Unlike their tilt against the Badgers, the Mavericks were on the fortunate end of a questionable call by the officials.
After winning a faceoff, the Warriors were in the Maverick end pressuring MSU netminder Brit Kehler. After a loose rebound was redirected to the side of the net, Kehler slid across her crease to make a play, and her left pad knocked the net off its moorings. The puck meanwhile, found its way to the stick of WSU’s Melissa Boal, who roofed the shot over an outstretched Kehler for what appeared to be the tying goal. But official Dan Lick waved it off, keeping the Mavericks ahead 1-0.
The call was crucial, because less than three minutes later, MSU was up two when Noelle Needham buried a wrist shot on an assist from Amanda Stohr at 10:15 of the second period.
“For our team, that disallowed goal was big,” said Warrior head coach Jim Fetter. “Our team is all about momentum and goals are momentum. All of a sudden our girls go from a high to a low, they score a goal right after that, and instead of being 1-1, it’s 2-0. That was huge.”
It appeared that Wayne State would have an opportunity to jump back into the contest shortly after. Just six seconds after the ensuing faceoff, MSU’s Jen Jonnsen was whistled for interference. But instead of the Warriors notching their first goal, it was the Mavericks who extended their lead to 3-0. Freshman Felicia Nelson tallied her sixth goal of the season and her first career shorthander. Fellow freshman Maggie Fisher was credited with the only helper, the culmination of the Mavericks’ second goal of the afternoon while on the odd-man rush, something MSU head coach Jeff Vizenor has been looking for more of in recent weeks.
“That was something we really wanted to focus on and do better at,” Vizenor said. “We have to take advantage of the odd-man rushes because when we are playing a team like Minnesota or Minnesota-Duluth, we’re not going to get many of those chances, and we need to take advantage of them.”
Up 3-0, Needham struck again at 13:59 of the second period. Just a day after the first multiple point game of her career, the sophomore forward from Elkton, S.D tallied her first two-goal game with a simple recipe to success.
“I just worked hard,” Needham said. “I have great linemates and everyone was just connecting well.”
Boal finally put Wayne State on the board with an unassisted goal at 16:11 of the second period. But with just over three minutes remaining in the game, Kristina Bunker upped the lead back to 5-1. The win reinvigorated an exhausted Maverick bunch.
“Obviously these weren’t conference games, but it was huge for our confidence,” Vizenor said. “To get a couple wins and to do some things pretty well and score eight goals, I think it’s a big positive for us.”
Minnesota State returns to WCHA action next Friday and Saturday against St. Cloud State. Both games from the National Hockey Center face off at 2:05 p.m. Wayne State continues nonconference action with a Saturday-Sunday series at Cornell.