COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Looking like they were out of the game and facing one of the best goalies in the country, the No. 9 Minnesota State Mavericks staged an improbable third period rally, ultimately defeating the No. 4 Colorado College Tigers 3-2 in overtime, and kept alive their hopes of home ice in the WCHA playoffs.
“I’m proud of the character the team showed tonight,” said Mavericks’ coach Troy Jutting. “I think if we hadn’t been playing, I don’t know if we would have believed enough to come back,”
Both teams had trouble generating any sustained pressure in the first period. The Tigers in particular looked lax at times with their defensive zone coverage, being a little too casual in getting to pucks at times.
CC had the better overall chances. Early in the period, Brian Connelly and Dan Quilico broke in two-on-one, but when Connelly tried to slide a pass through the slot to Quilico, but Blake Friesen slid on his stomach to intercept it.
With the Tigers on a power play, Mavericks’ goaltender Mike Zacharias made a Statue of Liberty glove save on Scott McCulloch’s tip-in try from the right post of a Connelly shot.
Though he didn’t face as much pressure, Tigers’ goaltender Richard Bachman made the save of the game. Bachman, on his stomach, tried to cover the puck with his glove in the crease, but knocked it forward instead, where Kael Mouillierat picked it up and skated to his left through the slot. Mouillierat looked to fire it into the top left corner, which was open, but as he shot Bachman spun to his right so that his back was facing Mouillierat and knocked the puck away with the back of his glove, stopping a sure goal.
“It was an unbelievable save,” said Mouillierat. “I couldn’t believe it; I had half the net. I guess I took it too easy, and he made an unbelievable save. He never gives up, that guy.”
“I follow his numbers; I know why he’s got the numbers he’s got,” said Jutting. “I don’t know that I’ve seen a save like that.”
Bachman was tested again early in the second with the Mavericks on a power play when Jon Kalinski fired a point blank shot from the left circle, but Bachman closed the pads and made the stop.
The Tigers struck first on a great setup play by Tyler Johnson. Johnson, skating near the hashmarks along the left side boards, spied Eric Walsky in the slot and fed it to him. Walsky held the puck, got Zacharias to commit, then fired it top corner stick side at 8:06.
Buoyed by the goal, the Tigers swarmed the offensive zone, looking to build on the lead, and Zacharias robbed Scott McCulloch from the crease when McCulloch cut to his right and tried to backhand it five-hole.
The Mavericks absorbed that rush however, and started peppering Bachman with shots. Bachman was forced to come up with some big stops to preserve the lead.
A late Tigers’ goal gave Bachman a little more cushion going into the third. With Chad Rau behind the play right in the crease, the puck squirted down to McCulloch standing a little behind the net on the right side post. McCulloch quickly fed the puck to Rau, who one-timed it low past Zacharias at 18:34.
With a two-goal lead and Bachman playing strongly, it appeared the Tigers had the game salted away and were one step closer to the MacNaughton Cup. The Mavericks had other ideas.
“We talked about how critical and how important it really was for us; we had to at least get two points out here,” said Jutting. “Tonight it was critical that we somehow found a way.”
Just 37 seconds into the third period, the Mavericks fourth line put them right back in it. Andrew Sackrison took a draw in the left circle and won it back to Jason Wiley at the top of the circle, and Wiley ripped a shot that beat Bachman glove side.
“They came out and juggled their lines in the third period, started with their fourth line, and got some good energy off that,” said Tigers’ coach Scott Owens. “We’d been doing well on faceoffs all night long and they convert.”
After a flurry of penalties, the Mavericks’ fourth line struck again at even strength. Jerad Stewart, standing on the left side crease, got a pass from Ryan Gunderson and slid it past Bachman’s right pad at 5:13.
“We’re not a fancy team,” said Mouillierat. “We had to just throw pucks at the net. We’re just a mucky team, and we weren’t doing that for two periods.”
Joel Hanson appeared to give the Mavericks the lead at 8:10 when the puck deflected off his skate and through Bachman’s five-hole, but after video review, referee Marco Hunt ruled Hanson had kicked it in.
The Tigers did get several chances to regain the lead. Rau fired a laser from just inside the blue line that Zacharias turned aside, and Johnson got sprung on a breakway up the middle, but his backhand attempt was stopped.
“We had two breakaways and a power play and couldn’t convert,” said Owens. “I think they were a hungrier team, a desperate team. That’s a pretty good hockey team.”
Late in the period, the Mavericks had a golden chance when Brian Kilburg fired a shot from inside the blue line. Bachman gave up a big rebound, and Kilburg, skating in, picked it up and fired, but Bachman sucked it in and held on.
Fans hardly had time to enjoy overtime before the Mavericks were celebrating their come-from-behind win. Considering how Bachman had robbed him earlier, it was fitting that Mouillierat got the game-winner just 16 seconds into the overtime on a strange bounce.
“It was a good forecheck by Hanson and (Zach) Harrison,” said Mouillierat. “I was just coming to the net, one of the two, I can’t remember which, threw it to me and I just jammed it and Bachman, he robbed me in the first and he got a piece of it, and it just rolled in.”
The Mavericks control their own destiny going forward, since they own the tiebreaker with St. Cloud State for home ice.
“It was huge; if we didn’t come back tonight, it would have been four straight losses,” said Mouillierat. “We’re right on the bubble for the national tournament, home ice in the WCHA, and it was just a huge win against a great team. We played desperate hockey, and it was a huge win.”