MANKATO, Minn. — For the first time in three Saturdays, Dryden McKay didn’t have to leave the rink a few minutes early.
Instead, he was the one who had to hold off a team with an extra attacker on the ice.
“Most Saturday nights, except for the last month or so, we’ve had the lead,” the Minnesota State Mavericks goaltender said. “It was nice to get back to that pattern.”
McKay and the third-ranked Mavericks held off that late push by No. 15 Northern Michigan to win 1-0 for a WCHA series sweep before 5,090 fans at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center.
The 22-save shutout was the 12th of McKay’s career, setting Minnesota State’s career record.
“It’s pretty cool anytime you set a school record and make some history,” said McKay, a sophomore. “But a lot of them have been team shutouts, not goalie shutouts. I end up getting credit for how well the team has played this year.”
Jared Spooner scored at 13:35 of the first period, and that’s all that his goaltender needed to get an eighth clean sheet of the season and extend the single-season school record he also owns.
McKay improved his season goals-against average to 1.37, which leads the nation, and his save percentage to .939, which is second. He also leads the country with 25 wins.
“He earned it,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “I’m happy for him. He’s carried a lot of the load, and he’s been very good for us.”
As he mentioned, McKay got some help. The Mavericks blocked 11 shots, seven in the third period when the Wildcats outshot them 9-3. He also caught a break when Northern’s Mitchell Slattery hit a post during a 2-on-1 early in the third period.
“That always helps,” he said with a smile.
Late in the first period, MSU defenseman Connor Mackey showed off his slick skating and savvy stick on a backcheck to prevent the nation’s leading goal scorer, Griffin Loughran, from getting a shot off on a breakaway.
“It’s so special,” McKay said. “Everybody on this team cares about defense and cares about each other. Guys aren’t afraid to make mistakes because we’re going to bail each other out.”
In each of the previous three Saturday games, the Mavericks trailed 2-0 after two periods. Spooner bucked that trend at 13:35 of the first, scoring his third goal of the series. The junior center skated hard to the net and tapped in Walker Duehr’s shot off a rush with Dallas Gerads.
That ended up being the lone goal in a game that followed Friday’s 7-3 MSU victory.
“We knew tonight would be a different game,” Hastings said. “That was a little more playoff-type — tight. Both teams did a good job of killing penalties. There weren't as many tonight. There wasn’t a lot of easy ice. Both teams were physical.”
The Mavericks were 0 for 3 on the power play, including a five-minute major early in the second period. The Wildcats were 0 for 4.
With 2 minutes remaining, Northern Michigan pulled goalie Nolan Kent (20 saves) for an extra attacker, something the Mavericks had to do each of their last two series finales.
Minnesota State scored twice with the goalie pulled against Bemidji State but lost 4-2 and twice again at Alaska Anchorage in a 2-2 tie and eventual 3-on-3 overtime win. Northern Michigan managed two shots on goal in its last-ditch effort as the Mavericks salted away the win.
“I’d much rather be in (this) spot,” Hastings said. “For the most part we managed it pretty well. They made a push; they’re a good hockey team.”
The Mavericks (26-4-2, 20-3-1 in WCHA) are idle next weekend and next host Alabama Huntsville on Feb. 14-15.