ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Head Coach Bob Motzko has had a lot of success at the helm of No. 13 ranked St. Cloud State, earning WCHA Coach of the Year honors in both of his seasons.
Yet with all his accolades and success, Minnesota State-Mankato has brought him many headaches, including Saturday’s 5-3 loss, which marked a sweep and four points for the Mavericks.
Motzko moved to just 1-6-1 in his career against the Mavericks and has had many notable loses, including last seasons 6-4 comeback win for Minnesota State-Mankato which snapped the Huskies 15-game unbeaten streak.
“It was huge for our team this weekend and it was huge for the standings,” sophomore forward Jason Wiley said. “It feels great to have come from behind two nights in a row.”
The Mavericks (5-9-4 WCHA, 11-10-4) now trail hosting a WCHA playoff game by three points and assert themselves as a team on the bubble.
The Huskies (6-10-2 WCHA, 11-12-3) were doomed Saturday by penalties, as they made an uncharacteristic nine during the game while trying to match the intensity of the Mavericks.
“We took a lot of bad penalties tonight; that is just not something we do,” Motzko said. “It was frustration of not being mentally ready to go tonight and the false thinking that was going to get us over the hump.”
The intensity of the weekend continued; one night after the Mavericks laid a vicious hit on WCHA scoring leader Ryan Lasch, they knocked the nation’s freshman scoring leader, Garrett Roe, out of the game briefly in the second period.
“Any time a team takes liberty at your two skill guys, the rest of us got to stand up,” defenseman John Swanson said.
The emotions of the game between the bitter WCHA rivals were seen through shared words in warm-ups and during the game, which was a physical battle.
“If you get a chance to hit a guy or even take them off the puck, you got to do it,” Swanson said.
In the end, St. Cloud State was too much out of their element in the physical battle and wore down, giving up an early two-goal lead for the second straight night.
The Huskies’ penalty kill got them on the board first when Swanson, a converted forward, intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and cruised down the ice with senior teammate Matt Hartman on a two-on-one. With the defender anticipating a pass, Swanson fired a slap shot that between goalie Mike Zacharias and the right post.
“I came down and I knew Matt (Hartman) was with me and I kind of looked over to see where the defenseman was and where the goalie was and the I saw the defenseman slide,” Swanson said. “I think Zacharias thought I was going to pass it and I saw him just lean just enough until I shot it.”
The Huskies turned to their special teams again for the next goal at 11:59. This time it was the power play, as the Huskies worked the puck around before senior Andreas Nodl found Lasch waiting on the left side of the crease and he flipped it through the five-hole of a sliding Zacharias.
“Its kind of a thing we have been working on all year,” Lasch said “Nodl made a great pass and I actually got it off wrong and couldn’t shoot it and the only thing I saw that was open was between him so I slid it through there.”
Minnesota State-Mankato would not wait long to cut the lead in half, as less than a minute later Wiley fired a shot that hit off Huskies’ defenseman Matt Stephenson and slid under goalie Dan Dunn.
“I got a pass and I was facing backwards and I tricked around the defense and I was lucky I didn’t get hit because I thought they were going to get nailed,” Wiley said. “I just poked around and shot it, I didn’t even see where the puck went but it made it in the net.”
The Mavericks grabbed momentum and control of the game in the second period, as they came out with a goal at 1:32 to even the score.
Sophomore Kael Mouillierat netted the momentum-shifter, bouncing the puck past Dunn to his right.
The Mavericks gained the advantage when they got a five-on-three power play advantage with defenseman Garrett Raboin in the penalty box for hooking and Nodl in for a delay of game after picking up the puck with his hand and throwing it down ice.
A few seconds into the two-player advantage, St. Louis Blues’ draft pick freshman Andrew Sackrison fired a shot over Dunn’s glove from the slot for his second goal of the season.
Junior Mick Berge would then extend his point streak to four games when he put a goal through the five-hole at 13:52, giving the Mavericks a 4-2 lead.
The game tightened up until 10:30 into the third when the Huskies took advantage of another power play chance after the Mavericks had too many men on the ice.
Nodl put in the shot off his own rebound on a blocked pass attempt.
“The extra man penalty was really devastating and they got a goal off it,” Wiley said. “It looked like what we did to St. Cloud last night was going to happen to us.”
The Mavericks though, crushed any sense of hope by responding just over two minutes later with a Geoff Irwin goal that shot over Dunn’s glove.
“That was a big goal and it proved that we could stay aggressive,” Sackrison said. “We just kept plugging away, we never got down; everything was positive it was great.”
The Mavericks next travel to Denver for a weekend series with the Pioneers, while the Huskies take a week off before heading to Colorado College for a weekend face-off with the WCHA leading Tigers.