MANKATO, Minn. — On a frigid night in Mankato with a wind chill reaching 30 degrees below zero, Rob Rankin gave the Minnesota State faithful a reason to stay warm all night long.
Rankin scored with 36.1 seconds left in overtime to give MSU a 2-1 upset victory over No. 14 St. Cloud State University (17-11-3 overall, 12-10-1 WCHA)Friday night in front of 4,113 fans.
“It’s great to see a senior who works as hard as Robbie does get the game winner,” said MSU coach Troy Jutting.
Rankin was involved in getting his team the power play that he would eventually score on. With the game tied 1-1 at 2:40 of the extra session, SCSU captain Casey Borer slashed Rankin after a whistle had already stopped play.
“I already have a knee problem, and he slashed me right on the spot,” Rankin said. “I didn’t see it coming, so it must have been a pretty good one. It hurt.”
Rankin fell to the ice, and Borer was given a minor penalty. That set up Rankin’s power-play winner.
After SCSU goalie Bobby Goepfert had already robbed Ryan Carter’s chance on the power play, it looked as if the game would end in a tie.
After a face off win, defenseman Steve Wagner fired from the point. Goepfert made the save, but the rebound was there for Rankin to put into the top corner of the net.
“The puck got through, I was just in the right spot and the right time,” Rankin said. “It came right on my stick flat, and I one-timed it in. It was more of a reaction than an actual score.”
“I didn’t think it was a bad rebound,” Goepfert said. “It was in the corner. But the guy was right there. It was right on his stick.”
Besides Rankin, the other hero in the game was MSU goalie Mike Zacharias. The freshman netminder played in his first game since he lost to Notre Dame 3-2 on December 6, 2005. Jutting replaced regular starter Dan Tormey to give Tormey a mental rest.
Zacharias showed no rust, stopping 16 of 17 shots in the opening frame and 33 shots total in the game.
“Getting 17 shots in the first period kind of gets you in a game real fast,” Zacharias said.
Despite being heavily outmatched in the first, the Mavericks (13-16-4 overall, 9-13-3 WCHA) took a 1-0 lead 3:15 into the game.
Freshman Kevin Huck made a nice play at the blueline to create a two-on-one down low. Fellow rookie Jon Kalinski took the pass and, from the right side, flipped a backhander perfectly over Goepfert’s left shoulder for his third collegiate goal.
After an onslaught of Husky power plays, a four-on-four goal eventually gave St. Cloud State the equalizer. Justin Fletcher carried the puck into the MSU zone and fired a laser wrist shot high past Zacharias. Goepfert added an assist on the goal at 9:21 of the period.
Zacharias made key saves on four SCSU power plays in the first to keep the score tied. Early on, Konrad Reeder came in on a breakaway. Zacharias was able to make a left pad save on the senior.
“I thought he played very well tonight, and I thought he was in control,” Jutting said. “Not a lot of rebounds. He did a very nice job.”
The second period featured a tight checking game in which neither team could gain much room for scoring chances.
The Huskies came within inches of a lucky goal at 17:41 of the second. Aaron Brocklehurst threw the puck on net from the blueline, and Zacharias let the shot slip through. However, the puck hit the right post and died in the crease, and the freshman goalie was able to cover up for a stoppage.
“I just kind of lost it for a second there, and I picked it up at the last second, but it was right past me,” Zacharias said. “It hit the pipe, and I kind of fell back and laid on it. You get those breaks sometimes. They’re nice to have.”
Neither team could generate great chances in the third until the very end of the period.
MSU’s Jeff Marler took a centering pass in front of the net and tried to jam the puck home. However, Goepfert held off Marler and his shot.
With seconds left, Nate Raduns found himself all alone in front of the MSU net. Zacharias remained cool and stymied the junior’s chance, setting up the OT finish.
“It was one of those nights where we couldn’t find the back of the netI think a lot of times we didn’t take that extra second to look for the open part of the net. We didn’t really bear down when we had the chances,” Goepfert said.
“Very tough loss,” SCSU coach Bob Motzko said. “We didn’t deserve the win, and then we earned the loss. And then we had an uncharacteristic, undisciplined play at the end of the game to give them the power play, and we fell apart.”
The two teams will conclude their WCHA series tomorrow night with game time set for 7:05 p.m. C.T.
“There’s a lot at stake, there’s a lot at the line,” Motzko said. “This is where teams find the resolve in their leadership, and they have to step forward. We’ll see what they do.”