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Minnesota State Digs In and Earns Split, 4-2

Power-Play Woes Doom St. Cloud State

— Sophomore Mick Berge lit the lamp twice and goaltender Dan Tormey collected 25 saves in net as Minnesota State overcame dreadful discipline problems in the game’s first 50 minutes to claw its way to a weekend split in the back-end of a home-and-home series, upending No. 17 St. Cloud State 4-2 before 6,111 fans at the National Hockey Center Saturday night.

“We got caught running a little bit last night,” said Mankato coach Troy Jutting. “When you do that against some of these guys, they’ll find the open player. We did it again a couple of times tonight, but we made some changes tonight that we didn’t make early enough last night to be effective.”

“Mankato played very, very well,” said St. Cloud head coach Bob Motzko. “I don’t know if they had a turnover; they got every puck below the goal line, and they made us march up the ice.”

At the outset, it appeared that St. Cloud would pick up largely from where it left off Friday night. After a monstrous series of saves from senior Bobby Goepfert in the game’s opening moments, the Huskies roared back on the attack. A close-range two-on-one attempt for St. Cloud State became the first goal of the game when Nate Dey fired off a shot that caromed off the pads of sophomore Dan Tormey and fell to Dey’s break partner, Andrew Gordon, who rifled home the rebound to give St. Cloud the 1-0 edge.

Shortly thereafter, the Mavericks’ penalty problems began. In the span of 10 minutes, Minnesota State accrued five minor penalties, giving St. Cloud State a total of 8:01 of power-play time in the first period, but the Huskies were unable to capitalize on any of their opportunities on the man-advantage, turning in a dismal 0-for-5 showing on the power play in the game’s first 20 minutes and finishing the period with only one goal on 10 shots.

The penalties continued into the second, and so did SCSU’s woes on the power play. After failing to capitalize on an early chance, a holding penalty to Berge combined with a major and game misconduct to sophomore Jon Kalinski to give the Huskies their second five-on-three opportunity of the evening and an extended power play, and still the Maverick defense escaped unscathed.

Just after the major penalty expired, a slashing call against SCSU freshman Jon Ammerman gave Minnesota State a chance to get back into the game. The Mavericks stayed strong on the attack, and their patience paid off. Junior Joel Hanson fired a shot from the right faceoff circle that made its way to Goepfert’s five-hole before he could shut the door, and the power-play marker tied the game at one.

From there, it was St. Cloud’s turn to begin marching to the penalty box. Successive penalties to seniors Nate Raduns and Casey Borer gave MSU its own opportunity on the five-on-three, but a missed pass in the attacking zone near the end of the two-man advantage was costly.

Defenseman Matt Stephenson picked up the loose puck in the corner and fired it up ice to Raduns, who had shortly before been released from the penalty box and was buzzing the neutral zone. Raduns was all alone by a country mile, and buried the puck past Tormey on the short side for a shorthanded goal to put St. Cloud up 2-1.

But the Borer penalty remained, and the Mavericks returned the favor in short order. Still on the power play, Berge took a pass from senior Kurtis Kisio in the slot and took a goal-scorer’s shot that eluded Goepfert top-shelf, just over the glove, to deadlock the game for a second time.

“I figured the defenseman would go with [Kisio],” said Berge. “I just moved my feet and got around my guy. I didn’t really think it was a great shot, but it went in somehow.”

Early in the third period, another MSU penalty went unpunished as the Huskies failed once again on the power play, and the Mavericks capitalized almost as soon as they returned to even strength. A neutral-zone turnover was picked up by junior Matt Tyree, who took off on a breakaway and beat Goepfert five-hole to give MSU the lead for the first time on the weekend. For Tyree, a transfer from Bentley, it was his first goal in a Mavericks uniform.

Minnesota State would not rest on its laurels. Back on the attack immediately, a wraparound attempt by Hanson failed but the motion caused the puck to trickle across the crease to Berge, who was waiting on the doorstep to bury the puck, putting the Mavericks ahead by two.

“It was more important to get the puck in front of the net,” said Hanson of his wayward wraparound. “That’s how you make things happen. Mick made a great read and just slammed it home.”

“Our line was working hard all night,” Berge said. “We played great as a team for 60 minutes.”

St. Cloud State would have one final opportunity on the power play minutes later, but its 10th chance ended with the same result as the first nine — no goals. After scoring on the first two power-play opportunities on Friday night, the Huskies finished the weekend by failing to capitalize on 15 consecutive power-play chances.

“Both sides saw a lot of penalties tonight,” said Motzko. “It’s sad to see a game go through something like that for two periods. Neither team had any flow and it was an embarrassment for college hockey… they did a good job killing, and we wouldn’t shoot the puck when we had openings. Your special teams have to answer the bell, especially when the game unfolds like that.”

“They were calling it tighter tonight than they were last night, but at least it went both ways,” Jutting said. “I don’t think it was extra tight against us and not against them, they were just calling more of what they saw.”

The game developed into a war of attrition during the final 10 minutes, with SCSU finding too few scoring opportunities to have an opportunity to climb back into the game.

Goepfert has been a boon to St. Cloud State’s fortunes since his arrival in the lineup last season, but the Mavericks have become his nemesis, having hung losses on him three times. Goepfert has allowed nine goals to Minnesota State in three games over the past two seasons.

By virtue of Wisconsin’s victory over Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State falls into second place in the WCHA, one point behind the Badgers.

“Welcome to the WCHA,” said Motzko. “I think we’re going to start seeing these things all season long; plenty of splits, people beating the hell out of each other, and the top team will be the one that will stay strongest mentally.”

Minnesota State’s first WCHA victory of the season moves the Mavericks into a tie for third with Denver and North Dakota.

“We still need to get better,” Jutting said. “We improved from last week to this week and now we need to continue improving in practice if we are going to be successful in the near future.”

Both teams face North Dakota as their next opponent as the WCHA season rolls on. Minnesota State hosts the Sioux in a two-game league series next weekend, while St. Cloud State is idle next weekend and travels to face North Dakota in Grand Forks on November 3-4.

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