MANKATO, Minn. — Alec Richards’ second trip home turned out to be better than his first.
Richards, a Robbinsdale, Minnesota native, stopped 44 shots as Yale (3-8-1 overall) tied Minnesota State 2-2 in the first ever meeting for the teams.
“He had a good game. He’s a cool cucumber in there for a freshman,” said Yale coach Tim Taylor.
“My guys did a good job letting me see the puck and clearing out rebounds if I left them. It was a lot of shots, but it wasn’t as difficult as it seemed,” Richards said.
In Richards’ first trip to his home state on November 25 and 26, the freshman netminder gave up 11 goals on 75 shots in two losses to Minnesota-Duluth.
But with his family occupying a whole box at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center, Richards was able to redeem himself by frustrating the host Mavericks.
“It’s always fun coming home and playing,” Richards said. “And after the tough weekend in Duluth, it’s nice to have a better homecoming.”
Richards had just been back home in Minnesota for Christmas before he flew back out to Connecticut to join his team and return to Minnesota.
“It was a lot of traveling,” Richards said with a smile.
Meanwhile, Yale got both goals form junior center Brad Mills. The game was just the third Mills has played in this year and the first he finished.
Mills played and scored in the Bulldogs’ first game of the year but was injured before the end of the match. He returned in the UMD series, only to be injured again before the end of the game.
Minnesota State (5-11-4 overall) received goals from Ryan Carter and Mick Berge, but the team’s goal-scoring woes continued and have become an old story.
MSU coach Troy Jutting felt that, while Richards played well, his team never really challenged the goalie with the 46 shots because most weren’t difficult shots.
“Every goalie in the country is going to stop those pucks,” Jutting said. “You have to make plays when you have opportunities. We had plenty of opportunities tonight.”
Minnesota State has now scored just 2.7 goals over the past 10 games and has tallied more than two goals just three times in that stretch.
“I don’t know how to get us out of it right now, but we’re going to keep trying,” Jutting said.
The Mavericks took an early lead off a spectacular play from Carter. The sophomore carried the puck out of the right corner towards the net. With a defenseman clinging to him, Carter faked Richards to the ice and slid the puck into the far end of the net. Carter’s eighth goal of the year came at 2:12 of the first.
Yale was able to answer off a turnover less than three minutes later. Bulldog forward Jean-Francois Boucher stole the puck by knocking MSU defenseman Brian Kilburg to the ice in the Maverick zone. Boucher then found Mills all alone in front of the crease, and Mills put the puck upstairs for his second goal of the season.
“Boucher made a great play,” Mills said. “He hit the guy, took him off the puck and hit me right on the tape. I was able to one time it. It was good to get on the score sheet.”
A second period would give way to no goals but a few good chances.
Bulldog defenseman Matt Cohen snuck in from the point and ripped a shot that beat MSU goalie Dan Tormey but ricocheted off the right post.
Yale scored early in the third to take a 2-1 lead. Once again, Mills provided the offense for the Bulldogs. The junior made a nice move to dance around a Maverick defender before firing the puck into the top right corner of the net at 3:24 of the period.
MSU tied the game with a power-play goal at 12:02. Kyle Peto passed from the point to Travis Morin on the right side of the goal. Morin made a quick pass across the crease to Berge on the backdoor. The freshman had an empty net to deposit his third collegiate goal.
Both teams had quality chances to win the games in the waning moments. The Elis had a power play for the final 1:18 of the third and the beginning of overtime, but Tormey was able to keep Yale at bay.
The Mavericks got a power play of their own in the extra session, but Richards turned away another Morin chance.
“Alec stood on his head, kept us in the game, and gave us a chance to win,” Mills said.
Yale got the best chance from the MSU man advantage. When Nate Jackson’s penalty came to an end, he jumped out of the penalty box only to find the puck and a breakaway chance. But Tormey was able to make a toe save, and the game ended in a tie.
Both teams seemed sluggish and sloppy throughout the game, which possibly could be attributed to long layoffs. The Mavericks had been off since playing Michigan Tech December 16. Yale had been off even longer, with its last contest against Harvard on December 4.
“I don’t think we were super sharp tonight. I think the layoff showed for both teams,” Jutting said.
“I thought it was a good hockey game and I’m proud of our kids,” Taylor said. “It’s hard going into a WCHA building and coming out with a point. We’ve had a long layoff since we played last, and I liked our 65-minute effort.”
After both teams take Friday off, Yale will head to Nebraska-Omaha to challenge another team of Mavericks Saturday. Minnesota State will stay home and host Alabama-Huntsville on New Year’s Eve.