ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The last five games couldn’t have been any tighter for Minnesota State and St. Cloud State. The teams ended the regular season with a home-and-home bout and opened the WCHA playoffs with a series that went three nights.
Five games, four decided by one goal, three that took overtime to resolve and a 15-14 goals-scored edge held by the Mavericks. It was only fitting the series came down to one shot.
Drew LeBlanc scored the game-winning and series-clinching goal 3:21 into overtime of Game 3 in the WCHA playoffs first round as the Huskies emerged with a 3-2 victory Sunday night at the National Hockey Center.
“After what happened Friday, we needed our big players to step up and that’s what happened,” St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. “It was [Garrett] Roe Saturday and [Ryan] Lasch tonight.”
Minnesota State won Game 1, 5-4, in OT but SCSU rallied to win the second game 3-2.
The third-seeded Huskies will face the No. 2 seed Wisconsin at 2:07 p.m. on Friday in the WCHA Final Five semifinals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Had the Mavericks beaten SCSU, the Huskies would’ve had to wait two weeks for the selection committee to decide if and where they would end up in the NCAA tournament.
“We can stay fresh,” said Lasch. “That week off might’ve killed us.”
Lasch assisted on two goals, including the game-winner to put him one point short of the SCSU all-time points record (179 by Jeff Saterdalen). Lasch has 42 points for the season.
Across the rink outside the MSU dressing room, the mood was a little more somber.
“A lot of tears,” said Mavericks defenseman Channing Boe. “It was a battle all three games and it’s a pretty devastating loss for us. It’s a tough, tough loss, especially for the seniors having it end this way.”
Added MSU coach Troy Jutting: “The guys worked hard all three nights. It was the second overtime game in three nights. It’s difficult, no question.”
Just like Saturday, the first period ended in a 0-0 tie and the Mavericks scored the first goal. Tyler Pitlick scored slid the puck underneath SCSU goaltender Mike Lee’s pads at 11:14 of the second period as the puck bounced around the goalmouth. The play went under review to see if Pitlick kicked the puck in but the goal stood. Michael Dorr and Eriah Hayes got credit for the assists.
SCSU tied the game at 16:06 when David Eddy and Tony Mosey entered the MSU zone on a give-and-go and Eddy shot the puck from the right circle and Roe was there for the tip-in.
MSU took another lead when Boe’s shot rebounded to Jason Wiley, who made a turning between-the-legs tap-in with his back to the goal with 9:40 left in regulation.
“Hats off to Mankato,” Lasch said. “They battled us so hard and they took us to three games. It was well-deserved.”
Two minutes after MSU took the lead, Lasch turned around in the corner and made a great pass to Garrett Raboin streaking down the slot and Raboin tapped it between MSU goalie Phil Cook’s pads at 12:31 of the third period.
Joe Schiller took a boarding penalty 2:32 into OT and the Huskies top power play unit made the Mavericks pay 39 seconds later. Lasch made a pass from the same corner to the slot, to the left of the MSU goal, and hit LeBlanc who put it past Cook at 3:21 of OT.
“Drew got the puck and quick got it off and that’s why it went in,” Lasch said.
Cook finished the game with 23 saves and Lee stopped 27 shots for the Huskies.
Roe got the other assist on the game-winner — his seventh point in the last five games against the Mavericks.
“I figured tonight’s game would come down to one goal,” Jutting said. “It was five games in a row where I don’t think you could’ve had a much closer matchup.”