MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. – After surrendering nine goals Thursday night to No. 3 Minnesota State, the St. Thomas men’s hockey team was just hoping to keep things manageable in the rematch Saturday, Nov. 20.
On the plus side for the Tommies, the Mavericks didn’t score as many goals, but the outcome was never really in doubt as MSU cruised to a 5-0 victory. Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay, the NCAA career leader in shutouts, finished with nine saves to get his second straight stonewall, while UST netminder Peter Thome finished with 28 saves.
Tommies head coach Rico Blasi said they tried some new defensive strategies to try to neutralize the Mavericks’ potent offense, but mistakes are what did them in.
“We did a few different things and I thought it worked fairly well tonight,” he said. “But we still lost some battles in that front which they scored and we turned the puck over on one. You can’t turn the puck over in the neutral zone against a good transition team and they made us pay. And then a bad change on another one. So, you’ve gotta clean those up and then maybe it’s a one-goal or two-goal game going into the third period.”
There wasn’t much action in the first period as penalties kept both teams from generating offense. Both big moments came from the Mavericks as defenseman Jake Livingstone rang a shot off the pipe that appeared to go in, but was waved off with a little more than 14 minutes left. MSU did score on its next chance though as Cade Borchardt backhanded a rebound past Thome to make it 1-0 Mavs with 11:35 left. That score carried over to the second as MSU led 7-2 in shots after one.
“Changing coverages like that one day before a game, sometimes there will be learning pains, but I think for the most part, we were really successful at kind of limiting what they could do,” Thome said. “But there was a few breakdowns and hopefully, we can work those out the more we get comfortable with the new system. There were stretches where I thought we were playing really well and kind of going toe-to-toe with them and then, a few breakdowns and they take advantage. That’s why they’re a top-five team in the country.”
It didn’t take long for the Mavericks to capitalize on those breakdowns in the second period. Less than two minutes in, MSU forward Nathan Smith sent a rocket over Thome’s right shoulder to make it 2-0. Exactly three minutes later, Sam Morton deflected a shot from Ryan Sandelin past Thome to pad the advantage to 3-0. Midway through the period, MSU almost picked up its fourth tally of the game, but David Silye’s shorthanded attempt rang off the post.
The Tommies managed to keep the Mavericks offense off the scoreboard for the rest of the period though and had their best scoring chance of the game to that point with just over two minutes remaining. Grant Loven sent a shot on net from the blue line that was kicked aside by McKay and right to UST’s Andrew Kangas. However, McKay stretched out at the last moment to block Kangas’ shot.
If UST thought it had a comeback in mind to start the third, Minnesota Stae put that thought to rest pretty quickly as Lucas Sowder sent a blast past Thome on an early power play to make it 4-0 and Ryan Sandelin pushed the lead to 5-0 at the 11:04 mark.
The Tommies did have one golden chance to break the shutout with just over 11 minutes left as Matthew Jennings tried to one-time a shot past McKay in the slot, but it went off the post and out.
When asked what is gonna be the key to get back in the win column next week, Blasi said his squad has to just put this defeat in the rear-view mirror.
“We’ve gotta put this behind us and we’ve gotta get ready to play Penn State who’s another real top team in the country,” he said. “There’s no real time to be worried about what just happened. We can’t do anything about it now. We’ve just gotta get better on Monday and get back to work and be ready to play on Tuesday.”
First period — 1. MSU, Cade Borchardt 6 (Livingstone, Smith) 8:25.
Second period— 2. MSU, Nathan Smith 9 (Napravnik, Borchardt) 1:39; 3. MSU, Sam Morton 3 (Sandelin, Furry) 4:39.
Third period — 4. MSU, Lucas Sowder 3 (Furry, Carroll) PPG 2:38; 5. MSU, Ryan Sandelin 8 (Livingstone, Lutz) 11:04.
Power-play opportunities: MSU 1 of 6; UST 0 of 6
Penalties: MSU 7-14; UST 7-14
Goalie saves: MSU, Dryden McKay 9 (2-3-4); UST, Peter Thome 28 (6-14-8)