MANKATO, Minn. — In terms of home ice for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Saturday’s game was a must-win for the Minnesota State Mavericks.
And thanks to freshman Geoff Irwin’s blistering wrist shot 3:35 into overtime, the Mavericks (10-5-5 overall, 7-11-4 WCHA) are still in that hunt after a 2-1 win over Michigan Tech.
“Give Mankato credit,” said Huskies head coach Jamie Russell. “Honestly, I believe they deserved to win that hockey game.
“We were fortunate to be in the game. We turned the puck over way too many times and gave up odd man rushes in overtime. That just can’t happen.”
Saturday’s first period was practically a carbon copy of Friday’s sort of.
One team had a heavy lead in shots the Mavericks led 15-5 in that category but the other team was ahead on the scoreboard.
But unlike the night before, it was the Huskies (12-14-4 overall, 7-11-4 WCHA) who struck first.
Tyler Shelast ripped a wrist shot past MSU goalie Mike Zacharias to open scoring at 14:37 of the first period. It was Shelast’s 12th goal of the season and fifth straight game with a goal. Peter Rouleau and Mark Malekoff earned assists on the even-strength tally.
“[Shelast] has a lot of confidence right now,” Russell said. “He’s shooting the puck, and good things happen when you shoot the puck.”
MSU tied the game with the only goal of the second frame.
Irwin fired a shot at the net that deflected off traffic in front. The puck was re-directed by Jerad Stewart’s skate and trickled past MTU netminder Rob Nolan at 7:24.
Through two periods, MSU held a 26-12 edge in shots.
“We played way better [than Friday],” said Mavericks head coach Troy Jutting. “We had a different demeanor, we had a different intensity level. Last night we played the game at their speed. Tonight, we played it at ours.”
Neither team could score in the third, and it appeared at least for a moment that Saturday’s game would end with the same result as Friday’s.
But a moment was all Irwin needed to unleash a vicious wrister that snuck under the crossbar over Nolan’s glove, and sent the 3,859 spectators at Midwest Wireless Civic Center into a frenzy.
Following an injury to the Mavericks’ Jon Kalinski, which stopped play momentarily, Mavericks center Trevor Bruess won a face off clean to the left of Nolan. Irwin was the beneficiary, as the puck was on his stick for only a split second before the shot was gone.
“I sat there hoping Bruess would get the puck back to my stick,” Irwin said. “I just put it on net and it found its way there.”
“We played 64 minutes of hockey tonight,” Jutting said.
The win moved the Mavericks into a tie for sixth in the WCHA with Michigan Tech, two points behind fifth-place North Dakota MSU’s opponent next weekend.
Michigan Tech returns home to face Denver, while MSU travels to Grand Forks with a chance to steal home ice away from the Fighting Sioux at least for a week.
“These three points were huge,” Zacharias said. “Every weekend they just get bigger and bigger. Next weekend is our biggest of the year.”