College Hockey:
Grant’s hat trick lifts Minnesota State in front of record crowd in Huntsville

— Chase Grant didn’t show any rust from having missed most of the 2011-12 season for Minnesota State.

The junior forward doubled his career power-play goal total on Friday night, scoring three goals and assisting on the Mavericks’ fourth as they pulled away for a 4-1 victory over Alabama-Huntsville.

Grant, who missed all but five games last season because of a hip injury, led off the scoring during a penalty-filled first for the Chargers, which saw three minor penalties and a major and misconduct to Alex Allan for checking from behind.

“The first period was nothing but penalty kill,” Alabama-Huntsville coach Kurt Kleinendorst said, “and that’s just putting yourself in a tough spot.”

The Chargers ended up killing Allan’s penalty, which rolled over into the second period, but the next Chargers penalty saw Grant strike again.

“Those two guys were really good in the exhibition game against Lethbridge,” Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said. “With their other winger, Bryce Gervais, they’ve really got a lot of chemistry. And if you go back, they played juniors together in Fargo. We’ve decided to put them together at the beginning of the year, and they’ve really had chemistry.”

The Chargers struck back with sophomore Craig Pierce finding a seam to score a power-play goal at 15:32 to bring it to 2-1.

“Doug Reid dumped it in, and he and I just started cycling the puck, waiting for something to open up,” Pierce said. “Reid finally rolled it up and passed it to [Graeme] Strukoff, who shot it in. I was out front looking for a tip, and it went off of my stick and in.”

The game drew a Division I-era record crowd of 5,106, which greeted WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod and other league representatives in attendance.

“I thought that the atmosphere in the building was outstanding,” Hastings said. “To me that showed quite a bit. They scored a goal to make it 2-1 and this place started hopping.”

Pierce said: “[The crowd was] unbelievable. We appreciate the support from everybody, and we hope that it keeps coming.”

Grant powered a response to Pierce’s goal with an early power-play marker in the third. Grant then broke up a Chargers power play, poking the puck out into neutral ice, chasing it down and feeding Leitner for a short-handed goal to take the Mavericks to the final score.

Kleinendorst was disappointed in the finish. “We just weren’t able to go out and finish the job,” he said. “We had a bad line change on the third goal, and that’s all it took.”

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