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Different start, different outcome as No. 13 Minnesota State rebounds against St. Thomas

The win was also important because it kept Mankato in first place in the CCHA, just one point ahead of Michigan Tech as the season enters its final stretch.

Minnesota State's Andy Carroll keeps his eyes on the puck as St. Thomas' Josh Eernisse gives chase during a game Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023 in Mendota Heights.
Shannon Stieg / Special to The Rink Live

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — Starting off strong is important in hockey and No. 13 Minnesota State found that out the hard way Friday night as it was upset at home by St. Thomas.

However, the Mavericks bounced back and exacted their revenge Saturday on the Tommies’ ice as Mankato scored three goals in the first period and cruised to a 5-2 victory to force a split in the series.

“For us we tried to focus a little bit more on our start,” Mavericks head coach Mike Hastings said. “It’s been a little bit of an issue here in the second half. It hasn’t burned us. Last night, I thought it did. Tonight, I thought we did a better job.”

The win was also important because it kept Mankato in first place in the CCHA, just one point ahead of Michigan Tech as the season enters its final stretch.

“At this time of the year, if you can have an opportunity to try to make your own way and not have to worry about other people, we’re in that spot,” Hastings said. “Tonight was just really big for us. St. Thomas is playing good hockey right now. They’re getting points every single weekend and we knew that would be a challenge and it was.”


For the Tommies, it was a tough blow as they looked sharp against the Mavericks down in Mankato, but appeared to be a step behind them on Saturday.

“I thought we started the game off really well and you can’t give good teams power plays,” UST head coach Rico Blasi said. “They make you pay. I think we probably want the first one back. It was a little bit of a missed assignment. We knew they were gonna push. They’re playing for first place and that’s what good teams do. They come back and play hard and try to impose their will.”

Just like on Friday night, the Tommies struck first while on the power play and once again, it was Luc Laylin who scored the first goal. The freshman forward snapped a shot past Mankato goalie Keenan Rancier at 4:42 mark for his third power play tally of the series and his sixth goal in the last seven games.

However, things shifted decidedly in favor of the Mavericks for the rest of the period. With 9:40 remaining, Mankato’s Brenden Olson scored his first collegiate goal to tie the game at 1-1 and a little more than a minute later, Zach Krajnik scored on a tipped shot to give the Mavs the lead at 2-1. Things continued to go MSU’s way at the 13:56 mark. With Mankato on the power play thanks to a UST roughing call, Christian Fitzgerald fired a nice shot past Tommies goalie Aaron Trotter to make it 3-1 Mavericks.

Minnesota State's Jake Livingstone tries to dodge a check from St. Thomas' Matt Jennings during a game Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023 in Mendota Heights.
Shannon Stieg / Special to The Rink Live

Mankato struck again on the power play late in the period, but after a review, the goal was waved off due to goalie interference and the score stayed 3-1 heading into the second period. Shots were 20-3 in favor of the Mavs after the first.

The shot disparity remained heavily in favor of Mankato in the second, but the play on the ice evened out. UST cut the deficit to one with 9:33 left in the period after Andrew Kangas scored on a delayed penalty, tucking the puck just past Rancier and across the goal line. However, the Mavericks weren’t deterred. At the 16:47 mark, Andy Carroll sent a shot from the point past Trotter on the power play to put Mankato back up by two at 4-2. The Tommies had successfully killed off a major penalty just seconds before Carroll’s goal.


Compared to the first two periods, the third was relatively quiet. The Mavericks had a Brendan Furry goal waved off after a review due to goaltender interference with less than 15 minutes left. Mankato then got an empty netter from Furry to close out the win.


“I think tonight was a really good learning experience for our team because we were able to be in a game where the mindset now has to change,” Blasi said. “We’re not just playing games anymore. So, I think that happened tonight. I think our guys understood that at this time of the year now, things are a little bit different. Everybody’s in shape. Everybody knows what you’re gonna do and now, it’s about will. It’s about determination. It’s about discipline. It’s a different type of game and you’ve gotta be willing to play that game.

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“So, I think we learned a little bit of a lesson tonight and that’s good because we’re growing as a program and we’ve never been in this spot before. We’ve got 12 freshmen and guys that have never been in this spot before, and tonight, we got a lesson in that. I take it as a huge positive this weekend. We battled back last night, we were in a hostile environment, and tonight, we learned a lesson. It’s all part of the process. So, we work the process.”

The Tommies host Northern Michigan next week, while the Mavericks are on a bye. When asked if the week off is coming at a bad time since his team is fighting for points to stay in first place, Hastings said he’s not looking at it that way.

“I think it was 10 (games) in a row from break till when we got here,” he said. “We’ll take it. We’ll take the break right now and try and get rested up. Work on some things that I think we still need to work on and just refresh the minds and the body a little bit and then come back and be focused for our last four games.”

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