MANKATO, Minn. — As Yogi Berra said, “It’s dj vu all over again.”
For the second straight night in a row, Minnesota State defeated St. Cloud State in overtime. But that isn’t where the similarities between Friday and Saturday’s games end.
In both games, the teams traded goals in the first. In both games, SCSU (17-12-3 overall, 12-11-1 WCHA) heavily outshot the Mavericks. Both games were a struggle between goaltenders at the top of their game. And in both games, an MSU (14-16-4 overall, 10-13-3 WCHA) senior forward netted the winner.
The goal Saturday came at 1:51 of OT. David Backes carried the puck into the zone and fired a shot on SCSU’s Bobby Goepfert. The Husky goaltender made the initial save, and Travis Morin drove hard to the net, taking two St. Cloud players with him.
With Goepfert out of position and the rebound lying in the slot, senior Brock Becker swooped in. He grabbed the puck and flipped it into the empty net for his seventh goal of the year, ending the 3-2 contest in front of 4,187.
The goal was especially pleasing for Becker because he missed Friday night’s overtime thriller. In last Saturday’s game against Denver, Becker was given a game disqualification, rendering him ineligible for one game.
“It doesn’t get any more frustrating than that,” said Becker. “Especially in a close game. You want to be out there doing whatever you can to contribute. Tonight I got my chance, and the puck bounced to me and I buried it.”
“Senior again,” MSU coach Troy Jutting said. “Especially this time of the year, you need your seniors to play well. Your seniors got to step up and make big plays for you late in the seasonThe seniors really came to the table this weekend, and that’s what we’re going to need the rest of the way.”
Another similarity to the two games was MSU’s goaltending. Friday, Mike Zacharias came in from some time off to earn the win. Saturday, regular starter Dan Tormey came in off his one-game rest and made 46 saves.
“I thought mentally he was pretty sharp. I saw a little snap to his step, and I thought he was pretty sharp in there,” Jutting said.
“Dan stood on his head, I thought,” Becker said. “If it wasn’t for him, we don’t even have a chance to win in overtime. He controlled rebound, he played the puck. He stopped every chance he had to. Couldn’t ask for anything more, especially from a young goaltender coming down the stretch.”
What wasn’t like Friday night’s game was St. Cloud’s performance, according to Husky coach Bob Motzko.
“We weren’t near as sharp last night,” Motzko said. “We just had a real strong game, and in this league, at 2-1 we’re looking to make it 3-1. We just couldn’t do it.”
Questionable officiating by referee Marco Hunt gave St. Cloud a favorable edge in power plays. However, the Huskies went 0-9 in the game and 0-15 in the series with the man advantage.
“You’re power play has to score if you’re going to win big in this league, and our power play did not,” Motzko said.
Like most St. Cloud games this year, the variable that changed the game was goaltending. However, this time Motzko thought it was the opponent’s netminder, not his own.
“We can’t be frustrated tonight,” Motzko said. “Our goalie has done that to a handful of people this year. I really thought that Tormey was outstanding, and we played one of our better games in awhile. I’m really pleased with how we played. We just couldn’t get one by him.”
For the second night in a row, MSU jumped out to an early lead. Morin, the leading scorer for the Mavericks, carried the puck behind the net and came out the left side of the goal. Morin slid a backhander on net that fooled Goepfert and beat him five-hole at 2:25 of the first.
And, for the second night in a row, St. Cloud was able to tie the game later in the first period. Nate Dey fired a shot from the slot that hit teammate Nate Raduns in front of the net. The puck caromed off Raduns’ body and went into the net at 6:59 of the period. Hunt reviewed the goal and declared it was a legal redirect.
The Huskies took their first lead of the series at 12:01 of the second. Captain Casey Borer, who’s penalty in OT Friday led to MSU’s game-winning goal, drove hard to the net. Tormey stopped the initial shot, but Michael Olson crashed the left side and put the rebound into the net. Olson was a healthy scratch in Friday’s game.
The Mavericks withstood a barrage of SCSU power plays in the second, but MSU’s only man advantage of the period would give it the chance needed to tie the game at 2-2. With 3.1 seconds left in the middle period, Steve Wagner took a shot from the point. The puck had eyes, making it through traffic to beat Goepfert.
“Huge goal,” Jutting said. “Gives you a ton of momentum going into the locker room. Plus we killed off three or four power plays that period, and we get the power play and score on it. Obviously a huge momentum builder for us going into the locker room.”
SCSU had a brilliant chance to regain the lead in the third. On a shorthanded two-on-one rush, Brock Hooton faked Tormey out of the net. However, the senior’s shot went wide of the gapping goal.
Later in the third on a St. Cloud power play, Tormey robbed Aaron Brocklehurst’s shot from the slot. Seconds later he stopped John Swanson’s great chance on the right side of the net.
“Another great goaltending performance,” Jutting said. “But in this league you need them. You gotta get good goaltending if you’re going to be successful, and I thought great job by our penalty killers. We blocked a lot of shots, and when Dan needed to, he was there to make the saves.”
“Every time they came on a rush, I wanted that puck,” Tormey said. “I wanted them to shoot it, and I wanted to save it. I felt really confident tonight.”
St. Cloud, which fell to sixth in the conference after being swept, will return home next weekend to square off against the other Huskies of the WCHA, Michigan Tech. Minnesota State, seventh in the conference, stays home and will battle Wisconsin.
“We’re getting hot for the playoffs right now,” Becker said.