MANKATO, Minn. — Minnesota State head coach Troy Jutting admitted after Saturday’s game that even he wouldn’t have believed gaining three points was possible.
Despite scoring only four goals all weekend, his Mavericks (4-6-2, 2-6-2 WCHA) came out of game two of their WCHA series against No. 12 Minnesota-Duluth with a 2-1 win Saturday in front of 3,919 fans at the Alltel Center in Mankato.
For the second straight night, the teams played a low-scoring, fast-paced hockey game with few quality chances.
Minnesota State opened the scoring on a goal with just 42.4 seconds remaining in the second period. Defenseman Blake Friesen, not known for his offensive production, gained control of the puck just inside the blue line and skated towards the slot, where he waited out UMD goaltender Alex Stalock. The sophomore netminder hit his knees and Friesen went top-shelf over Stalock’s glove to give MSU the 1-0 lead.
After Justin Fontaine’s hooking penalty put the Bulldogs (6-5-3, 5-5-2 WCHA) down a skater just 50 seconds into the third, it looked like the Mavericks would be in position to build on their lead.
A few seconds into the power-play, however, the game was tied.
Matt McKnight took a pass from Josh Meyers and led a two-on-one break into the Mavericks’ zone and passed the puck to Nick Kemp. Kemp immediately passed it back to McKnight, who fired it into a wide-open net at 1:27.
“I actually thought Kemp was going to shoot it, but he gave it back to me,” McKnight said. “Once I got it back, it was pretty easy from there.”
Mavericks’ goaltender Mike Zacharias admitted he was playing the one-timer, and didn’t have a chance on the play.
After not catching many breaks over the last five games, the Mavericks finally got the one they desperately needed at 5:31 of the third. Jon Kalinski stepped in for the faceoff to Stalock’s left. The junior won it cleanly to Mick Berge in the slot, who fired a wrist shot off the post and into the net for the game-winner.
“I had a good feeling going into it,” Berge said. “Jonny had been winning the draws all night. I flipped it with my stick and was thinking ‘shoot,’ but luckily it went off the post and in.”
The win was the Mavericks first since a 4-2 victory at Alabama-Huntsville Nov. 3 and snapped a five-game winless streak. The win also extended MSU’s unbeaten streak against UMD to seven games.
“I think getting a point last night was a good start,” Zacharias said. “Hopefully we can build on this and use it for momentum.”
Zacharias didn’t have to make any fancy saves, but was a rock in net for MSU, stopping 26 shots for the win.
“My team is playing really well in front of me,” Zacharias said. “I’m seeing the puck really well and from there it’s my job to stop it.”
UMD coach Scott Sandelin was disappointed with his team’s effort.
“You can’t turn it on and off like a light switch,” Sandelin said. “You have to come prepared to play every night in this league. Every team is good in this league.”
Both teams will host WCHA opponents next weekend. UMD will play a pair against Alaska-Anchorage at the DECC while MSU will play Wisconsin at the Alltel Center Friday and Saturday.