MANKATO, Minn. — His save percentage is rising and his goals against average is shrinking by the game. Phil Cook has been nothing short of amazing in his four starts this season. It wasn’t until Saturday night though, against the Rochester Institute of Technology that Minnesota State freshman goaltender Phil Cook recorded his first career shutout. It was a 3-0 win for the Mavericks, who completed the non-conference weekend sweep of the Tigers.
“I just tried to stay even-keeled and not give up any bad rebounds,” said Cook, who only had to make 19 saves. “You don’t want to think about (the shutout) but it kind of sits in the back of your head.”
Cook owns a 0.87 goals against average and a .967 save percentage in his rookie season.
The Mavericks got on the board just three minutes into the game when Kael Mouillierat fired the puck from the point before it deflected off an RIT player in the crease and past Tigers’ goaltender Shane Madolora. It was Mouillierat’s sixth goal of the season. The assist went to junior defenseman Ben Youds for his career-high 17th assist of the season. Youds is tied for second in the WCHA for assists and ranks 18th in the nation in scoring by defenseman.
Later in the first period, freshman forward Tyler Pitlick was sent to the locker room at the 10:08 mark of the second period for a five-minute checking from behind penalty and a 10-minute game misconduct.
Two minutes later, the Mavericks penalty kill did something it hadn’t been able to do all season: score a goal. Forward Geoff Irwin banked the puck off the glass from the red line and Zach Harrison picked it up and brought it into the right corner. Harrison fired a perfect centering pass to Irwin, who was streaking down the slot as he tapped the puck in for his fifth goal this season. It was MSU’s first short-handed goal of the season.
“We’re on pucks hard and it was nice to finally get a short” said Irwin, who rang one off the right post a couple minutes later with 1:30 left on the penalty kill. “We’re more focused on not getting scored on and when we get our opportunities, we’ll take our chances.”
MSU scored its third goal at the 13:49 mark of the second period when the Mavericks forced a scrum in front of the net. Jokinen was there to put it past Madolora when the puck came free for his third goal of the season. Madolora finished the game with 33 saves for RIT, which hosts Holy Cross at 7:05 p.m. (EST) Friday in Rochester, N.Y.
The Mavericks won the shots battle 36-20. Cook almost lost the shutout with 8:17 left in the game when the puck slid to the goal line, but MSU defenders were able to pounce on the puck and clear it out of the crease.
“The puck squeezed past under my pad, it went behind me and I was praying it didn’t go in,” Cook said. “I looked up and the whistle blew and the puck was out of the crease.”
Added Irwin, “It’s nice to see him get the shutout. He’s a guy who’s waited for his opportunity and is making the best of it right now.”
MSU coach Troy Jutting didn’t say whether or not Cook will be the starter when the Mavericks return to WCHA action next Friday against North Dakota at Ralph Englestad Arena, where the puck is scheduled to drop at 7:37 p.m. (CST). Cook has split time with Austin Lee and Kevin Murdock this season.
Instead, Jutting said, “I don’t know that we’ll ever have a No. 1 goalie. I’ll play the kid who’s working hard and is having success. All three are capable. We’ll see how practice goes.”
Cook — who hasn’t started a WCHA game this season — owns a 1.87 GAA and a .923 save percentage in 32 minutes of league play.
“I’m ready to go whenever Coach needs me,” Cook said. “I’ve been patient; I feel like I’ve been bringing the consistency. Any one of us three guys can go.”