MANKATO, Minn. — One night after Minnesota State squeeked out a win despite a sloppy effort, Mavericks coach Troy Jutting seemed a lot more pleased after MSU’s 5-2 victory over American International Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center.
“Our effort was better,” Jutting said. “The execution wasn’t a whole lot better but the effort was. Our intensity level improved from last night.”
Justin Jokinen scored 1:25 into the game and finished with two assists as the Mavericks extended their win streak to four and have now won eight of their last 10. SIx of those wins came against non-league teams.
“It was a big momentum-getter there to start the game,” Jokinen said. The Mavericks beat the Yellow Jackets 1-0 Friday night. “We kept it going; everyone played well and to get that first one was important.”
AIC was within a goal until the midway through the third period when MSU’s Chase Grant backhanded the puck over Meisner’s left shoulder with 9:22 remaining in the third period. Michael Dorr added an empty-net goal with 10 seconds left.
“We let them stay in the game a little longer than I would’ve hoped but you take the win and get ready for Denver next week,” Jutting said.
The Mavericks got on the board when Eli Zuck fed Jokinen from behind the net and Jokinen put it past AIC goaltender Ben Meisner for his seventh goal of the season. Danny Heath had the second assist, the first point of his career.
“After they scored to put them one behind, on the bench, we were getting a little worried,” Jokinen said. “We just kept shooting the puck and finally it went in.”
MSU took a 2-0 lead five minutes later when Kurt Davis skated the puck up the far boards and sent it across for Brett Peterson and the puck went off an AIC player’s skate and over the goal line.
The Yellow Jackets took advantage of a defensive zone turnover by MSU and Michael Penny’s initial shot squirted out from underneath Lee’s pads and came free in the crease. Blake Peake tapped the loose puck in for his third goal of the season at the 9:15 mark.
It only took MSU three minutes to grab the two-goal lead when John McInnis scored his first career goal on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle.
Jeff Ceccacci scored with 4:21 left in the second period to pull the Yellow Jackets within a goal. Meanwhile, the Mavericks struggled to get the insurance goal, getting plenty of opportunities but nothing to show for it.
“I was disappointed in the number of opportunities missed,” Jutting said. “Times when it’s 3-1 and you couldn’t make it 4-1 and take (AIC’s) spirit away.”
MSU was finally able to breathe when Jokinen set up Grant on a pass across the slot and Grant beat Meisner on the backhand. Meisner finished with 38 saves and Austin Lee, who got the start in place of Phil Cook, made 23 saves.
The Mavericks host Denver at 7:37 p.m. (CST) Friday at the Verizon Wireless Center. AIC is at Bentley at 7:05 p.m. (EST) Tuesday in Waltham, Mass.