MANKATO, Minn. — Minnesota State Mavericks head coach Troy Jutting was talking all week about how critical it would be for his team to control the game with their up-tempo style of play against the more conservative, defensive style of Michigan Tech.
And for the first 14 minutes of Friday’s 2-2 tie in front of 3,811 at Midwest Wireless Civic Center, it appeared the Mavericks (9-15-5 overall, 6-11-4 WCHA) would do just that.
But a game misconduct and the ensuing parade to the penalty box slowed the game down enough for the Huskies (12-13-4 overall, 7-10-4 WCHA) to climb back into the game and take a point on the road in Mankato.
The Mavericks took a 2-0 lead to the locker room after the first period, but considering the shots, it was somewhat surprising Michigan Tech had 12 shots on goal compared to MSU’s six. Plus the Huskies had the better part of a five-minute power play to work with after the Mavericks’ Trevor Bruess was booted from the contest for a checking from behind infraction at 16:08.
MSU’s leading scorer put Minnesota State on the board first with a goal just over five minutes into the game.
Jon Kalinski hit Travis Morin with a pass near the right circle. Morin wheeled to the slot, dropped a pass to Mick Berge, who found Morin on the doorstep. His wrister beat MTU netminder Michael-Lee Teslak on the power play at 5:10. It was Morin’s 14th goal of the season.
“[Berge] said he was passing to me but it went through some traffic,” Morin said. “I was surprised it got to me. At that point, I looked at the net and saw their goalie was pretty committed to Berge, so I just wanted to put it on net.”
It was another special teams goal that gave the Mavs a 2-0 lead.
As Tech set up its power play, Jon Kalinski poked the puck off defenseman’s Lars Helminen’s stick. The puck slid down the rink, and Kalinski won a race against Teslak who had left his net to clear the puck. Kalinski gained control, swiftly moved aside from a sliding Teslak, and slipped the puck into the empty net at 14:12.
“Tes made a bit of an error coming out,” said Huskies head coach Jamie Russell. “He got caught half way between. He came back to the bench and said ‘sorry’ and I told him not to apologize, just shut the door. And he did.”
Michigan Tech again dominated in shots during the second period, outchancing Minnesota State 11-5 not counting a pair of Helminen shots that hit the crossbar.
The Huskies finally broke through, however, just after the Bruess’ penalty expired.
As MSU looked to clear the puck and get a much needed line change, defenseman Drew Dobson found Tyler Shelast, who controlled the puck alone in front of the Maverick net. He moved across the crease and slid the puck past a sprawling Mike Zacharias for his 11th goal of the season at 1:18. Peter Rouleau earned the second assist.
After two, Tech held a 23-11 edge in shots.
In the third, the Huskies finally capitalized on a power play, this one a 5-on-3 opportunity.
Roleau blasted a slap shot from the point that was stopped by Zacharias. Jimmy Kerr, however, was waiting on the doorstep to put home the rebound at 7:40 to tie the game. Helminen earned the assist.
The best opportunity for either team the rest of the way came on a slap shot by Dobson that rang off the post with five minutes to go in regulation.
Both teams lacked a quality chance in overtime, although the Huskies were credited with two shots on goal. For the game, Tech held a 39-16 edge in shots.
“In one way, it was a good tie for us tonight,” said Mavericks head coach Troy Jutting. “I thought we got outplayed tonight.”
“Anytime you are down 2-0 on the road and to get a point out of it is big,” Russell said. “Any points are big right now with the way the standings are.”
The game was a mental respite for Helminen, who arrived in Mankato just hours before game time. His grandfather passed away earlier in the week, and his funeral was Friday morning. Afterwards, Helminen hopped on a flight from Detroit, bound for Minneapolis, drove the hour-and-a-half south and arrived at the team hotel shortly after 4 p.m.
“When game time comes you have to put all that behind you,” Helminen said. “You reflect on it all day and it’s still running through your head, but you have to do everything you can to block it out.”
“He’s a senior who logs a lot of ice time for us,” Russell said. “For what he has gone through, I thought as the game went on, he got stronger and stronger.
“He is a great leader.”
The tie was bittersweet for a somber Maverick dressing room after the game. Trailing Tech by two points in the WCHA standings, a win would have pulled MSU even in the race for home ice. Instead, Minnesota State will look to Saturday’s rematch to try and gain the two points that separate the teams.
“I thought we came out and played a very good first period, but after that five minute penalty, we never really recovered from that,” Jutting said. “We need to play our style of game, not their style. That five minute penalty put us in their style and they did a good job of capitalizing on that.”
“We have to play the way we did for the first ten minutes and continue to play that way,” Morin said. “We can’t have a let down for 40 or 50 minutes like we did tonight. We were lucky to get a point with that big of a let down.
Michigan Tech and Minnesota State will play game two of the series Saturday at Midwest Wireless Civic Center in Mankato. Face off is scheduled for 7:07 p.m.