DENVER — Like they have all season, the Minnesota State University, Mankato Mavericks played hard and tough against a top team.
Like they have more often than not however, the Mavericks fell to the University of Denver Pioneers, 3-2, Saturday night thanks to Jason Zucker’s overtime game-winning shot.
“Tonight’s game probably summarized our whole season,” said MSU coach Troy Jutting. “Played extremely well against an exceptional hockey team, but left some goals on the table that you can’t leave if you’re going to win.”
“They played terrific,” said his DU counterpart, George Gwozdecky. “We got one more bounce than they did.”
While the game had an exciting finish, it didn’t start out that way. Both teams had some chances in the first period, but exited the frame tied 0-0.
Just 46 seconds into the second period, MSU got on the board with 21 seconds left on a five-on-three power play. The Mavericks crashed the net on a play and Ben Youds slammed home a Kurt Davis rebound past Pioneers netminder Sam Brittain (32 saves).
The Mavericks thought they went up 2-0 about a minute later while still on the power play when Michael Dorr fired a shot from the high slot that beat Brittain, but it was waved off due to goaltender interference.
Instead, the Mavericks carried their lead into the third period and held onto it until 9:35 into the frame, when Matt Donovan snuck a shot over MSU goaltender Austin Lee’s right leg pad while on a four-on-three advantage.
MSU reclaimed the lead about two and a half minutes later when J.P. Burkemper came down on a two-on-one on Brittain and roofed the puck top corner from the left faceoff circle.
Denver kept fighting, however, and its efforts paid off on their second power-play goal of the game with 6:15 remaining to knot the game at two. David Makowski wristed a shot from the top of the zone that beat Lee five-hole (31 saves).
“I thought we got two big power-play goals in the third period, especially the second one,” said Gwozdecky. “Just after they had scored that goal, not much time left, a big screen by Kyle Ostrow in front and a great shot by David Makowski”
The Mavericks almost scored at the end of the third to force a game three when the Joe Schiller came down with less than five seconds remaining and fired a shot on Brittain. Brittain made the save, but bobbled the puck right into the net seconds after the buzzer sounded.
“We had our opportunities there and unfortunately it’s kind of bit us all year,” said Jutting. “That third period, we had four or five chances and the good Lord didn’t want us to score I guess.”
“We’re running a face-off in the offensive zone with seven seconds to go and our guys know that if we win the draw, the play is on and if we don’t win the draw, we’ve got to be in good defensive position,” said Gwozdecky. “We didn’t really win the draw and all of a sudden, we’re still pushing offensively and we gave them a pretty good opportunity.”
Instead, fate shined on league rookie of the year Jason Zucker, who skated in and took a shot from the top of the right circle. Lee made the initial save, but the puck bounced high in the air, appeared to bounce off of Lee’s stick and into the back of the net.
“I’ve always believed in the saying, ‘Any shot in overtime is a good shot,’” said Zucker. “I just tried getting to the middle, shooting and it happened to go up and rainbow in, so it’s pretty lucky if you ask me.”
The Pioneers head to St. Paul next weekend for the WCHA league tournament, the Final Five, and wait to see who they will play next.
Interview with David Makowski
Interview with Jason Zucker
Interview with George Gwozdecky