MANKATO, Minn. — Denver was battered. Minnesota State was improving. And all signs pointed to a bad outcome for the Pioneers, as MSU skated to a 4-0 victory over No. 7 DU Saturday.
The Mavericks (2-6-2 overall, 2-4-2 WCHA) got a goal and an assist each from David Backes, Austin Sutter, and Jon Kalinski, and freshman goalie Dan Tormey picked up his first collegiate shutout by stopping 23 shots.
With the win, Minnesota State earned its first home win of the season. The team is also undefeated in four games (2-0-2), and Tormey has started each of those games, giving up an average of 1.5 goals per game in that span.
“Playing four games in a row has really helped my confidence,” said Tormey.
The Maverick defense was just as important as their goalie in the game. MSU limited the defending champs to 12 shots through the first two periods and one shot in the first stanza.
“Anytime you hold a team to one shot in a period, I don’t care who it is, that’s a good period,” said Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting. “Let alone a team the caliber of Denver.”
“My whole team played outstanding tonight,” added Tormey. “It’s a team shutout. I can’t take credit for that.”
Meanwhile, Denver (5-4-1 overall, 3-2-1 WCHA) had a shortened lineup. Captain and offensive leader Gabe Gauthier was out with a sprained knee. Also out for the Pioneers were J.D. Corbin and Julian Marcuzzi, all injured in Friday’s game, forcing DU to dress just 17 skaters. As a result, Denver looked tired most of the evening.
“It was surprising that it seemed to hurt as much as it did,” said DU coach George Gwozdecky. “I thought our team would play better than it did. You can use injuries as an excuse, but I thought MSU was a terrific team last night and especially tonight.”
After going scoreless on eight power plays Friday night, the Mavericks were able to cash in on their first man advantage Saturday.
From the right corner, senior Brock Becker fed Backes in front of the net. Backes chipped the puck over DU goalie Peter Mannino’s left shoulder for Backes’ second goal of the series at 5:57 of the first period. MSU went 2 for 6 on the power play and kept Denver scoreless on seven chances.
The Mavericks kept the pressure on in the first and limited DU’s chances, outshooting the Pioneers 9-1.
In the second period, the floodgates opened, and MSU was finally able to establish a big lead in the series.
At 4:51 of the period, Sutter blasted a shot from the slot that deflected off of Kalinski and beat Mannino. The goal was a career first for the freshman Kalinski.
“I was happier that it went off of him than me scoring it,” said Sutter. “He needs that. First goal in a college career, that’s big for a player.”
Sutter wouldn’t have to wait long to get his own goal of the game, scoring at 12:17 of the second. MSU entered the Denver zone on a three-on-two rush, and Joel Hanson dropped the puck to Sutter. Sutter waited, cut into the slot, and fired a screened shot into the right side of the goal for a 3-0 lead.
Sutter was a healthy scratch for the Mavericks Friday, and he said he wanted to come out and playfully prove Jutting wrong for benching him.
“I think the reason was coach wanted me to sit out a game and observe for a night and see what it takes to try to get me fired up. And it sure did. I came to the rink a little fired up tonight and made good with my chances,” said Sutter.
Then, on a four-on-three power play, Ryan Carter capped the 4-0 score on a goal from the right circle.
“They didn’t look sharp all weekend, I’ll be honest,” said Sutter of the Pioneers. “They didn’t look like the team that we expected them to be. I think tonight, with losing those three guys, it took more out of them than just losing three guys. You could just tell by their faces and their postures, it didn’t look like they wanted it.”
Meanwhile, Tormey was solid in net for the Mavericks in the second. While Denver was on a power play, Geoff Paukovich got the puck all alone in front of the Minnesota State goal. However, Tormey dove across the crease to make the save and held on to the rebound.
“I couldn’t ask for more,” said Tormey. “I was going out for the win. That’s all I was really looking for, and fortunately we got that goose egg too.”
Up next for the Mavericks is a trip to Madison to face Wisconsin.
“We’re starting to do the things you need to do to be successful on a regular basis,” said Jutting.
The Pioneers, meanwhile, will play host to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
“We’re going to find an answer,” said Gwozdecky. “I don’t have one right now. We’re too proud a program to accept the way we played for parts of this series. We’ll find an answer and put that answer into affect as soon as possible.”