MANKATO, Minn. — It took 16 league games, but Minnesota State’s first WCHA series sweep of the year came at the right time.
The Mavericks (5-8-3 WCHA, 9-11-4 overall) defeated visiting Alaska-Anchorage 7-2 Saturday night in front of 3,249 at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center. The win propelled MSU into a tie for sixth place in the WCHA and just three points behind fifth place North Dakota.
Meanwhile, UAA (4-13-1 WCHA, 6-17-1 overall) dropped to tenth in the league.
Kurtis Kisio and Kyle Peto each tallied three points, Rob Rankin had two goals, and freshman Dan Tormey stopped 22 shots in the victory. MSU has now won four games in a row and is 6-1-1 in its last eight games.
The turning point in the game came at 8:20 of the second period. With MSU up 1-0, Seawolf forward She Hamilton cross checked Rankin at center ice after a whistle had ended play. Hamilton was assessed a five-minute major, and the Mavericks would make his team pay.
“He got sucked into taking a five. He certainly deserved the five,” Seawolf coach Dave Shyiak said, later adding, “You’ve got to learn to keep your composure.”
Just 26 seconds into the extended power play, David Backes fired a shot from the point that UAA goalie John DeCaro stopped. Travis Morin was on the doorstep for MSU, and the junior put the rebound over DeCaro at 8:46 of the period.
Then, on a five-on-three power play, Ryan Carter passed through the crease to Kisio. The sophomore forward tapped the puck inside the left post at 10:37.
“A couple PP goals in the second kind of put the nails in the coffin, and we just kept rolling from there,” Peto said.
After being a healthy scratch in his previous five games, Kisio now has five points in five games.
“He’s playing hard on pucks,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said of Kisio. “Instead of trying to tap-tip them around people, he’s playing through people.”
Rankin didn’t just draw penalties, but he also tallied offensively to aid his team.
After UAA’s Charlie Kronschnabel tallied on the power play to bring the game to 3-1, Rankin scored two consecutive goals to seal the game.
Kisio passed from below the goal line on the left side to Rankin in front of the net. Rankin put the puck into the far side of the goal at 16:44 of the second.
After Rankin’s first goal chased DeCaro from the net, Nathan Lawson went in goal for the Seawolves. Rankin gave Lawson a rude welcoming when he one-timed a pass between the goalie’s legs at 5:20 of the third. Rankin’s sixth goal of the year made it a 5-1 contest.
“I’m happy for him that he did score the goals because he doesn’t score a ton. That’s not what he does for us. He does a lot of things, but normally it’s not scoring goals,” Jutting said.
Merit Waldrop tallied for the Seawolves at 10:48 of the final period to close the score to within three. But Austin Sutter finished a two-on-one at 12:47, and Ryan McKelvie scored a breakaway goal at 16:35 to close out the 7-2 score.
“The third period was pond hockey Our goalies have been playing good all year, and we sold out to them,” Shyiak said.
Alaska-Anchorage came out with energy in the first period as both teams threw big hits. And, just like Friday night’s contest, Minnesota State scored the lone goal of the first period.
“I was pleased the whole night. I thought Anchorage came out hard,” Jutting said.
While MSU enjoyed a power play, Backes found the puck in a scramble on the left side of the net. The captain made a nice pass to Peto sneaking down the slot. The defenseman ripped a shot off the post and into the net for his sixth goal of the season.
“As soon as we got that first goal, it seemed like a lot of their air deflated,” Peto said.
The Mavericks finished 3 for 6 on the power play, while UAA went 1 for 5.
“The PP is something that we’ve really been focusing on,” Peto said. “If you want to win games, your special teams have to be up there. Our penalty kill has been great for the majority of the season, and our power play was lagging. It’s starting to come around, and hopefully it can continue.”
“We lost to a better team,” Shyiak said.
Alaska-Anchorage will continue road play next weekend as the Seawolves take on Michigan Tech. Minnesota State will travel to North Dakota for a chance at fifth place in the WCHA.
“We’ve been really good up at North Dakota’s rink,” Peto said. “The past couple years we’ve managed to sneak out a couple wins. They have a really tough crowd to play in front of, and they’re always a solid team. It’s something that we’ve got to be up for, and we have to bring our A game to the table.”