HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Senior goaltender Johnny Griggs stopped 51 of 53 shots and Craig Pierce scored his second goal in as many nights, but it was not enough as a late Eriah Hayes goal brought Minnesota State level with host Alabama-Huntsville in a game that ended in a 2-2 tie in front of 1,431 at the Propst Arena in Huntsville.
Mavericks coach Mike Hastings saw this one coming. “I thought that what was going to happen did happen; they were going to come out with a little bit of bite. I thought that they played with a will tonight more than our guys did early.”
“I think we came back today with a little chip on our shoulder from yesterday’s loss hungry for that win today,” said Pierce.
Results came at 5:53 of the first period when captain Curtis deBruyn shot one through traffic and in. What followed was a penalty-filled first period for the Chargers, who picked up four minors in 9:32, including :55 of five-on-three. Unlike Friday night’s tilt, the team’s penalty killers were up to the task.
“I thought the difference from last night to tonight is that we didn’t cash in on our power play,” Hastings said. “You have [seven] opportunities, and I know that we had a lot of shots, but we didn’t finish.”
Griggs was happy with the support that he got from his teammates.
“I felt good out there tonight,” Griggs said. “They were doing a good job in front of me, keeping shots out on the perimeter. The guys played their butts off tonight.”
Chargers coach Kurt Kleinendorst was pleasantly surprised with what he saw from his netminder.
“You don’t win at any level if you don’t have goaltending,” said Kleinendorst. “It’s only two games, and you don’t want to get carried away, but from what I’ve seen so far, he’s pretty impressive.”
Johnny McInnis and Pierce scored two minutes apart to keep the affair a one-goal matter with just 4:57 gone in the second.
Kleinendorst was happy with the results that he saw from his team.
“We played our hearts out, and for me as a coach, that’s where it’s got to start,” Kleinendorst said. “If you watched that game closely, there are a lot of things that we’ve been working on that will jump out at you.”
Hayes’s goal with just 2:14 left in regulation brought the Mavericks level against a fatigued Chargers squad.
“It’s unfortunate,” Kleinendorst said. “We ran out of gas in the third period against a pretty darn good club.”
Griggs was positive about the strides that he and his teammates have made to-date.
“Tonight’s a good step for us,” said Griggs. “Obviously the past few weeks have kinda been crazy around here. This is a good start for our team, to have a little adversity and build on that.”
The Mavericks return home to host RPI next weekend, while the Chargers will travel to St. Cloud State in the first of six straight road weekends.