MANKATO, Minn. — They can’t all be as fancy as a 5-1 win over a top five team, or as exhilarating as the five goal third period to erase a 3-0 deficit.
But in the end, No. 15 Minnesota State’s ugly win Friday over Alaska-Anchorage will count exactly the same in the standings.
UAA struck first, but MSU scored three unanswered goals — two on the power play — en route to a 3-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association victory over UAA in front of 4,010 fans at the Alltel Center.
Coupled with Wisconsin’s tie at Michigan Tech, the win created a tie for fourth place in the WCHA standings. Both teams enter Saturday’s games with 20 points.
The victory was also MSU’s fifth in a row — the longest such streak for the Mavericks in two seasons.
“Obviously the thing that’s important is that you win,” Minnesota State head coach Troy Jutting said. “We are capable of better hockey than tonight, though.”
It didn’t start well for MSU as the Seawolves grabbed an early lead just over four minutes into the game. Defenseman Luka Vidmar wheeled around the net and found Josh Lunden just below then left dot; and with MSU goaltender Mike Zacharias screened in front, Lunden’s shot slipped through the mess and beat him five-hole at 4:22. Kevin Clark had the second assist.
It didn’t take long for the Mavericks to answer. After an outstanding play by defenseman Ben Youds to keep the puck in the zone — racing along the blueline from wall to wall — he tapped the puck to Mick Berge at the right half-wall. He wristed a pass to Kael Mouillierat at the left circle, who one touched a pass to Jason Wiley on the doorstep. Wiley finished the play with his ninth goal of the season at 8:44.
“It took a great bounce to Berge,” Youds said. “Berge made a nice play. I was just trying to pinch down and hold it in as best as I could.”
The Mavericks appeared to take their first lead of the night at the 12:16 mark of the second, as Joel Hanson deflected a bouncing puck into the net. After review, however, the goal was disallowed because of a man in the crease.
Hanson got redemption, however, as he and Trevor Bruess came across the blue line almost three minutes later. Hanson broke to the net and took a saucer pass from Bruess and beat Olthuis over his blocker at 15:01. Youds also had an assist.
“I thought I was going to be offside,” Hanson said. “I just went straight to the net. Trevor usually finds me.”
Three minutes later, the Mavericks added their second power play tally of the night, as defenseman Kurt Davis blasted a shot from the point. Bruess was in front of Olthuis and got his stick on the shot, deflecting it over the sophomore netminder’s left shoulder for his seventh of the season.
Something had to give in the special teams battle. Entering the contest, Minnesota State was ranked eighth in the WCHA in power play percentage at 12.1 percent. UAA entered last in the league in penalty kill (82.3 percent).
“I think we’re moving it better,” Jutting said. “We had one last weekend in a one-goal win and we had two tonight in a two-goal win.”
The Seawolves played with more desperation in the final period and outshot MSU 8-3 over the final 20 minutes but neither team could find the net. Both teams finished the game with 21 shots.
“I didn’t think it was even at all,” Seawolves head coach Dave Shyiak said. “We didn’t have any time of possession down low and I thought they outcompeted us along the wall, outskated us, and they took advantage of their chances.”
“Good teams always find a way to win, even when they are not playing at their best,” Hanson said. “That’s definitely a good sign for our team.”
MSU (14-10-4 overall, 8-9-4 WCHA) will host UAA (7-13-7, 3-13-5) in game two of the series Saturday at the Alltel Center. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. CST.