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Defenseman Akito Hirose steps up in overtime as Mavericks edge Lake Superior State

While the Mavericks are trying to remain in the mix for the MacNaughton Cup and the Lakers are at the bottom of the league standings, nothing came easily for the home team.

Minnesota State defenseman Akito Hirose, shown here in an Oct. 21, 2022 game at St. Cloud State, scored in overtime Friday, Jan. 20, to help the Mavericks topple Lake Superior State.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

MANKATO, Minn. — Akito Hirose found himself in a rather uncomfortable position on Friday night.

No, it wasn’t the unusual spot for a defenseman, next to the left post, from which he tapped in the overtime game-winner in No. 17 Minnesota State’s 3-2 CCHA victory over Lake Superior State. Rather, it was the spot that goal put him in after the game.

“I’m not a goal scorer,” Hirose said. “I don’t don’t like talking to the media, but if I keep scoring goals, I’m going to keep doing it.”

The goal was his second of the season and just the fifth in the junior’s 90 college games. Hirose went to the net in a 3-on-2 rush in which Ryan Sandelin barely missed the net off a Brendan Furry pass before the puck found Hirose at the post. In 3-on-3 overtime, he and coach Mike Hastings agreed, his job is less of defenseman and more of just player.


“Play free. Be a hockey player,” Hastings said. “(Hirose’s) ability to see the game and his decisions over the last 2½ weeks have been outstanding.”

Hirose also had an assist for a two-point game. Sandelin also had a goal and an assist, and freshman Christian Fitzgerald scored the Mavericks’ other goal. Goaltender Keenan Rancier made 15 saves for his fifth straight win.

The victory, which came before a Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center crowd of 4,637, also extended Minnesota State’s winning streak to five games — all since the calendar flipped to 2023 — and it broke a rather dubious streak of four losses in a row at home before the holiday break.

“I don’t even remember anything that happened before Christmas,” Hirose said. “For us, it’s a new team, it’s a new season and I like the direction we’re going.”

Said Hastings: “Glad to finally win a home hockey game. We knew it would be a difficult night.”

While the Mavericks (15-9-1, 10-6-1 in CCHA) are trying to remain in the mix for the MacNaughton Cup and the Lakers (4-19-2, 3-13-1) are at the bottom of the league standings, nothing came easily for the home team.

Akito Hirose Mankato Mavericks mug 20-21.jpg
MSU-Mankato defenseman Akito Hirose

Lakers goalie Ethan Langenegger made 34 saves, and he had a tight-checking defense in front of him.

“They did a really good job of defending against us,” Hastings said. “They did a better job defensively than we did getting hungry and going to the net.


After a scoreless first period, Fitzgerald got the scoring started at 4:59 of the second, firing in the puck after a great effort to retrieve the puck in the corner by fellow rookie Simon Tassy.

The Lakers tied the game on a fluky play as Dawson Tritt casually centered the puck from behind the net. The puck hit defenseman Mason Wheeler’s skate and trickled just over the goal line with 3:44 left in the middle period.

Sandelin gave MSU the lead with a power-play goal at 8:49 of the third, burying the rebound of defenseman Jake Livingstone’s shot that rang off the post. But less than five minutes later, the Lakers’ Louis Boudon tied the game again, finishing a 2-on-0 with teammate Brandon Puricelli.

I’m not a goal scorer. I don’t don’t like talking to the media, but if I keep scoring goals, I’m going to keep doing it.
Akito Hirose

The Mavericks made a great push after that, with plenty of near missing that could have put the game away and given them three points instead of two for the conference standings, but they couldn’t finish things in regulation. They outshot the Lakers 35-17 in regulation, 11-2 in the third.

“I’ll never be negative about a win,” Hastings said. “We did some really good things tonight. Give (Lake Superior State’s) goalie credit. Give their defense credit. We need to be a bit sharper.”

Tassy time

Friday marked the much-anticipated collegiate debut for the Mavericks’ Tassy. A 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward from Montreal, Tassy was the British Columbia Hockey League’s MVP last season and scored 66 goals and 122 points in three seasons with Salmon Arm. Tassy’s first game for Minnesota State was delayed more than three months due to a knee injury suffered in the BCHL playoffs last spring and a subsequent surgery.

Besides his assist, Tassy had four shots on goal, a couple of hits and made some nifty passes that set up solid scoring chances.


“He’s a good hockey player,” Hastings said. “This has been a long time coming for him. He’s put in a lot of work, a lot of effort and a lot sweat.”

Hirose and Tassy were teammates at Salmon Arm in 2019-20.

“I’m happy for him, getting over his knee surgery,” Hirose said. “He’ll be a big piece. I love his game. In junior, he was the best. He’s been talking about how he wants to show me how much better he’s gotten. You definitely saw out there tonight, him creating chaos.”

Up next

Minnesota State and Lake Superior State wrap up the series at 6:07 p.m. Saturday.

Lake Superior State 0-1-1-0—2

Minnesota State  0-1-1-1—3



Scoring: None

Penalties: Puricelli, LSSU (hooking) 8:56; Fitzgerald, MSU (slashing) 10:51; Gervais, LSSU (elbowing) 16:27


Scoring: 1. MSU-Fitzgerald 8 (Tassy 1) 4:59; 2. LSSU-Tritt 8 (Bakos 5, Gervais 1) 16:16

Penalties: Gervais, LSSU (holding) 11:26; Krajnik, MSU (roughing) 11:26; MSU bench (too many on ice) 14:01


Scoring: 3. MSU-Sandelin 12 (Livingstone 18, Hirose 17) ppg 8:49; 4. LSSU-Boudon 8 (Puricelli 7, Westcott 6) 13:30

Penalties: LSSU bench (too many on ice) 8:11; Westcott, LSSU (boarding) 13:36



Scoring: 5. MSU-Hirose 2 (Sandelin 6, Furry 11) 2:20

Penalties: None


Shots on goal: LSSU 7-8-2-0—17; MSU 11-13-11-2—37. Penalties: LSSU 5 for 10 minutes; MSU 3 for 6 minutes. Power plays: LSSU 0 for 2; MSU 1 for 4. Goalie saves: LSSU Langenegger 11-12-10-1—34 (3 GA); MSU Rancier 7-7–1-0—15 (2 GA).

Attendance: 4,637


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