MANKATO, Minn. — With under 10 minutes to play in Friday’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association match-up between Minnesota State and St. Cloud State, the Mavericks evening — and perhaps their season — was on life-support.
For the better part of 52 minutes, the Huskies outplayed, outworked and out hustled the Mavericks, building a 3-0 lead in the process.
But MSU got the jolt it needed from an unlikely source: Senior defenseman R.J. Linder — a St. Cloud native — scored his second career goal to put the Mavericks on the board. His goal ignited a furious third period rally as the Mavericks turned a three goal deficit into a two goal win, an improbable 5-3 victory in front of 4,509 fans at the Alltel Center.
“The only thing I told the guys after two was two Fridays nights ago (at Minnesota-Duluth), we lost a game we should have won – in kind of a similar fashion,” said Mavericks head coach Troy Jutting. “I told them that tonight was our night to get that one back.”
“You have to give them credit, they made plays and got the puck in deep,” said SCSU head coach Bob Motzko. “We played really bad defense for eight minutes.
“They were beating us out of the corner and then we’d have two guys chasing the puck. When you get beat out of the corner and you have two guys chasing the puck, there’s guys open in front.”
SCSU scored a pair of goals just seconds apart in the first period to put the Mavericks in an early hole.
Minnesota State failed in its attempt to clear the zone in the 12th minute of the first period, and the Huskies took advantage. A pair of nice passes put the puck on the stick of Nate Dey, who scored his 10th of the season. Tony Mosey and Ryan Lasch tallied assists.
Just 24 seconds later, on a virtual carbon copy of the first goal, Matt Hartman put the Huskies up 2-0. It was Hartman’s fifth goal this season. Aaron Marvin and Brent Borgen had assists on the goal scored at 12:39.
SCSU outshot MSU 11-8 during the opening 20 minutes.
The Huskies took a 3-0 lead after a Brian Volpei pass from behind the net found Mosey going hard to the net. The pass was right on Mosey’s tape, and the freshman easily buried the one timer at 13:13 of the second.
“They’re shooting them into empty nets — that hasn’t happened to us all year,” Jutting said. “They were doing what they needed to do and we weren’t.”
Linder’s goal at 11:45 on the third started the rally. The Mavericks pressured the Huskies zone and the puck caromed to Linder in the slot. The defenseman ripped a wrister past Jase Weslosky for his first goal of the season. Jason Wiley had the only assist.
“It was R.J.’s goal — seeing your senior defenseman score, playing against his hometown team and he scores,” said Mavericks forward Mick Berge. “At that point you say hey, maybe we can score a couple here, let’s just put some pucks on the net and maybe they’ll go in.”
Trevor Bruess made it 3-2 just 35 seconds later as a rebound shot came free to him near the left circle. His wrist shot went just over Weslosky’s glove and just under the crossbar at 12:20. Kael Mouillierat and Blake Friesen added assists.
“That was huge,” Jutting said. “When we got that one I knew it was going to be a hockey game.”
The Mavericks tied the score at 15:11. After Weslosky stopped an initial shot by Geoff Irwin, the rebound popped free To Wiley on the doorstep, who pounded home the rebound into a wide open net.
“We did not play well those first two periods,” Linder said. “We came out slow, our physical play was nonexistent. But at that eight minute mark, it was just one of those things where you’re not thinking and there’s something you have to do. Luckily for us it went in.”
MSU scored the go-ahead goal with just 1:13 to play. Jon Kalinski’s shot was deflected to the slot where Berge patiently picked his corner to put MSU up for good.
“Jonny had the puck and I knew he had an edge on the guy. I was hoping he was going to put it out front,” Berge said. “I figured the goalie was going to be down, so I got it up and somehow it just found the net. Thank God it did.”
Brian Kilburg capped the win with an empty-netter at 19:08.
“I felt like if we could get a break, we could make a run,” Jutting said. “I’m not going to say I thought we’d score five goals, but I did feel like if we did get a break, we could see what we could do.”
“They weren’t getting many chances at all,” Motzko said. “They scored one and we had a game. We needed to make some plays and we made no plays from eight minutes on.”
St. Cloud State (11-11-3 overall, 6-9-3 WCHA) and Minnesota State (10-10-4, 4-9-4) will wrap up their two-game home-and-home series Saturday in St. Cloud. Face-off from the National Hockey Center is scheduled for 7:07 p.m.