College Hockey:
Huggins’ 36 saves lifts Minnesota State over Bowling Green at WCHA Final Five

Minnesota State’s Cole Huggins makes one of his 36 saves in a shutout of Bowling Green (photo: Adelle Whitefoot).

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The last time Minnesota State freshman goaltender Cole Huggins took to the ice, he gave up four goals in a 5-4 overtime win over Northern Michigan in Mankato, Minn.

So come Friday in the opener of the WCHA Final Five, Huggins felt it was time he repaid his teammates for his first-round, Game 2 performance a week ago.

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“I saw the puck really well tonight,” Huggins said after making 36 saves in a 4-0 victory over Bowling Green at Van Andel Arena. “Compared to [last] Saturday night against Northern Michigan, I saw it a lot better. I knew I kind of owed my team a little bit because I made it a little tougher on them than I should have.

“Obviously its a big bounce back. I didn’t really think much about last weekend, but it was good to bounce back.”

Huggins didn’t need to nab his sixth shutout of the season to give the Mavericks their first WCHA Final Five victory in five games, but he weathered six Falcons’ power plays and 13 shots by BGSU in the third period to improve to 20-7-1 in goal this year.

“It’s a bounce here, a break there,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “Shots were even today and the guy sitting to my right here [Huggins] did a great job of pulling our bacon out of the fire when we needed to.”

The Mavericks’ top forward line of Chase Grant, Matt Leitner and Bryce Gervais broke a scoreless tie 3:52 into the second on a rush that resulted in the ninth goal of the year for Grant, with assists from Leitner and Gervais.

Gervais gave the Mavericks a 2-0 lead 12:47 into the second with a shorthanded goal that sucked the wind from BGSU’s sails, picking up a misplayed puck behind the net and wrapping it around the post and past Bowling Green goalie Tommy Burke for the easy score.

“It was just a little miscommunication there by the goalie and their defenseman,” Gervais said about his goal. “I was lucky to grab the puck behind the net and put it in. One of our keys was getting pressure on their penalty kill and getting a good forecheck. I just listened and tried to get pressure on the goalie and defenseman.”

The Mavericks added two more goals in the third period when Johnny McInnis scored his 21st goal of the season via an assist by Teddy Blueger 10:47 into the third.

Leitner then walked in an empty net goal with 1:32 to play in the game for his 43rd point of the year.

For BGSU’s Ryan Carpenter, the shorty by Gervais was tough to come back from.

“It was a little bit of a momentum killer, but we tried to stay as positive as we can,” Carpenter said “We tried bouncing back from it as quick as we can, but obviously, we didn’t. I think we got outworked on the power play today.”

Burke made 32 saves for the Falcons, but got no offensive support from a group that posted five goals on Michigan Tech in Game 2 to finish off a first-round sweep of the Huskies last weekend to reach their first Final Five and second conference semifinal game in three years.

The Falcons, who held the Mavs scoreless on four power plays, finished 0-for-6 on the man-advantage themselves.

BGSU outshot MSU 13-11 in the third period, but just couldn’t solve Huggins, the All-WCHA rookie team goalie.

“The game plan was to get the puck high on the goaltender and I don’t think we did that every time,” BGSU forward Pierre-Luc Mercier said. “We had a few good chances, but unfortunately, couldn’t bury them. It would have been nice to get a bounce here and there.”

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