PRINCETON, N.J. — Minnesota State and Princeton both entered Saturday’s contest at Hobey Baker Rink with three-game winning streaks in the first-ever meeting between the Mavericks and Tigers. It was Princeton (7-7-2 overall) that extended its victory string to four games, thanks to a four-point night from center Brett Wilson. The sophomore scored one goal and set up three others, including the game-winning marker at 19:12 of the third period by rookie right wing Cam MacIntyre, his second score of the evening, after MSU (6-12-3 overall) had fought back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game with less than nine minutes remaining. The win was Princeton’s second straight in dramatic fashion, following a 3-2 overtime victory over visiting Nebraska-Omaha on Friday.
“We were disappointed to lose a two-goal lead,” said Wilson, chosen as the star of the game, afterwards. “We battled back, and that says a lot about our team. We had the confidence that we could come back and score.”
“I give our guys credit for finding ways to win,” said third-year Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky. “Maybe the hockey gods are smiling on us — We got very good and timely goaltending.”
Princeton senior netminder B.J. Sklapsky, playing in his first game since a 4-2 loss to Colgate on Nov. 18, notched his first victory of the 2006-07 season with a 33-save effort
The teams exchanged a pair of power plays in the opening period, and it was the visiting Mavericks who got on the board first on their second man-advantage opportunity. Senior center and MSU leading scorer Travis Morin, a Washington Capitals draftee, fed right wing Joel Hanson at the left point, and the junior’s slapper beat Sklapsky high to the glove side, aided by traffic in front, at 13:50. It was Hanson’s seventh goal of the season, and was also set up by junior blueliner Steve Wagner.
The host Tigers responded at 17:07, just 10 seconds after a Princeton power play had expired. The three Tiger forwards rushed the MSU net, and freshman left wing Dan Bartlett passed across to MacIntyre on the left side. MacIntyre then put the puck past MSU senior goaltender Chris Clark (20 saves), who was making just his second start of the season, for his second goal of the campaign, while Wilson picked up the other assist on the play.
The two schools went back-and-forth to start the second stanza, but Princeton took advantage of a bad bounce in the Minnesota State zone to take the lead for the first time. Wilson rounded the Maverick net, coming out on the right side, and whipped the puck into the slot where it caromed off MSU sophomore defenseman Blake Friesen’s skates and lay just in front of the MSU crease. Bartlett was right there to slam it home at 7:36 for his fourth goal of the year and a 2-1 Tiger lead.
A Princeton player then flicked one past Clark from long range with 7:18 left in the period, but the play had already been ruled offside. The Tigers came back two minutes later with an onside chance as freshman center Mark Magnowski came down the right side and pulled up in the circle before sending a pass across the slot, intended for Tiger senior forward Grant Goeckner-Zoeller, who was hooked by MSU freshman center Trevor Bruess at 14:49. Just 47 seconds after Bruess was sent off, Morin joined him in the penalty box for hooking at 15:36.
Princeton took advantage of over one minute of 5-on-3 play as Wilson, standing at the right edge of the crease with an MSU defenseman on his back, one-timed a feed from Grant Goeckner-Zoeller from behind the net. The puck hit Clark and managed to dribble in at 16:25 to put the Tigers up by two goals, with senior blueliner Max Cousins also assisting. MSU sophomore wing Jon Kalinski then intercepted a Princeton pass at the blueline and killed off most of the remaining penalty time, getting off one shot from the left side and then collecting his own rebound before stickhandling around nearly the entire Princeton zone, but the period eventually ended with Princeton still up by a 3-1 count.
Just over six minutes into the third, MacIntyre had a chance at the left post, but couldn’t swat the puck past Clark, who came over quickly and made the point-blank save. The Mavericks then came down the other end and made it a one-goal game as freshman left wing James Gaulrapp smacked home his second goal of the weekend and third of the winter off a flurry in front of the Princeton cage at 7:01. Bruess and freshman forward Jerad Stewart were credited with the assists.
MSU began to press the play in the Princeton zone, with Morin trying to walk around Sklapsky and score on the stick side, but the Tiger netminder held his ground as Morin tumbled to the ice before he could get a shot off. The equalizer, though, came on MSU’s very next rush, as freshman forward Geoff Irwin skated through the left circle, cut to the net, and flipped a backhander inside the near post at 11:32 for his first career collegiate goal, with Morin registering the lone assist.
“They earned their goals,” said Gadowsky of the Mavericks. “They’re a good team, and I don’t think we had any letdowns. They scored two nice goals.”
The Mavericks continued to carry the play over most of the next nine minutes, crashing the Princeton net and forcing Sklapsky to make several tough saves, none bigger than his stop with 5:35 left when he dropped to the ice and got his glove on Irwin’s try from in close.
With just 48 seconds remaining in regulation and overtime again looming for the Tigers, Wilson circled the MSU cage and found MacIntyre, who roofed a shot past Clark to regain the lead for Princeton for good.
“There was a turnover at the blueline,” recalled Wilson. “I took it wide and their defense tried to cut me off. I came around the net, and I knew MacIntyre would be going to the net, because he always does.”
“It was just a heck of a play,” said Gadowsky of Wilson. “We’re accustomed to watching him do it.”
The Mavericks then made a last-ditch effort – or three – getting off three shots in the final minute of play, including a deflection that rang off Sklapsky’s cage. The horn sounded just after Sklapsky knocked down a shot from the left point by Maverick captain and Vancouver Canucks property Chad Brownlee.
“B.J. played a very good game,” said Gadowsky. “He made a couple off huge saves on his end.”
He also felt his team concentrated their efforts, and were rewarded both nights for doing so.
“This is big, not only for us but our league,” said Gadowsky of the weekend wins over what he termed a good CCHA team (Nebraska-Omaha) and a good WCHA team (MSU).
“It feels good to contribute offensively,” added Wilson. “Hopefully now we’ll get things going, continue into league play and get home ice for the playoffs.”
Gadowsky also praised Wilson’s two-way effort.
“His best defensive games yield his best production,” said Gadowsky. “Good things happen when he plays a good all-around game.”
He also praised Goeckner-Zoeller’s play, plus MacIntyre’s.
“He’s just the most honest tough player,” said Gadowsky of the freshman. “He plays tough but clean. You can’t goad him into penalties, and he can also put the puck in the net.”
The Mavericks outshot the Tigers, 36-24, including 18-7 over the final 20 minutes of play. MSU also finished 1-for-3 on the power play, while Princeton went 1-for-4.
Princeton, which has won six of its last seven contests overall, will begin the new year by hosting the U.S. Under-18 Team next Friday in an exhibition contest at Baker Rink before entertaining ECACHL rival Quinnipiac the following evening. MSU will play a home-and-home with powerhouse WCHA foe and No. 1-ranked Minnesota next Friday and Sunday, beginning in Mankato.