Mack Byers plays hero as St. Thomas stuns Mavericks in OT
It was St. Thomas’ first victory over Minnesota State since the 1996-97 season when MSU was a first-year Division I program and D-I was just a pipe dream for the D-III Tommies.
MANKATO, Minn. — Minnesota State spent January righting its ship, overcoming a tough stretch of games in November and December with an eight-game winning streak to begin 2023. The streak moved the Mavericks to the top of the CCHA standings and into a more comfortable spot in the all-important Pairwise Rankings .
But as the calendar flipped to February, the Mavericks suffered another stumble, as they were upset 3-2 in overtime at home to St. Thomas.
“It’s February,” said fifth-year senior Andy Carroll, who scored the Mavericks’ first goal. “This is the grunt time of college hockey. You win or lose championships in February. You can set yourself up for as much success as you want, but it comes down to this month.”
St. Thomas freshman goaltender Aaron Trotter stopped 43 shots, and junior center Mack Byers scored on a breakaway 57 seconds into 3-on-3 OT to give the Tommies the stunning victory. Luc Laylin scored two power-play goals for the winners, including a game-tying 5-on-3 power-play goal with 2:29 remaining in the third period. Cameron Recchi had a pair of assists.
It was St. Thomas’ first victory over Minnesota State since the 1996-97 season when MSU was a first-year Division I program and D-I was just a pipe dream for the D-III Tommies. Now in its second season of Division I, St. Thomas has been on the rise since Thanksgiving, garnering points in every CCHA series it’s played since. They’re 4-2-1 in their last six conference games.
Mack Byers scores the overtime-winner for @TommieMHockey!— CCHA (@CCHAHockey) February 4, 2023
🎥: https://t.co/yRw1IaFf0i#CCHAHockey pic.twitter.com/kmJOqcE1Wq
Meanwhile, with one point on Friday, Minnesota State missed out on a chance to maintain some distance atop the standings. Michigan Tech, with a 2-0 win over Bemidji State, is now tied with the Mavericks for first place.
“They’re all learning experiences, whether you win a game or lose a game,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “I told the guys after the game that this doesn’t end the season for us, so it’s a learning experience for us.”
St. Thomas had upset on its mind from the start, putting heavy pressure on the Mavericks, drawing an early penalty and scoring on the ensuing power play. Laylin fired into a gaping net from the left circle at 5:34 after Josh Eernisse’s initial shot was blocked straight to him.
Thanks to some tight-checking, physical defensive play, St. Thomas clung to that lead through until 7:16 remained in the third period when Carroll finally fired up Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center crowd of 4,814 with his goal. It came on Minnesota State’s 40th shot on goal of the game and needed a perfect screen by Ondrej Pavel in front of Trotter to pull off.
Just 68 seconds later freshman Christian Fitzgerald gave the Mavericks a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal, and all seemed right in Mankato.
But over the final 3:22, the Mavericks were whistled for back-to-back penalties, giving the Tommies a two-man advantage, and Laylin cashed in. Just prior to the goal, a physical play behind the net got a livid Hastings to jump up on the bench, but there was no call and the game was tied.
“We had some self-inflicted wounds at the end that put us down 5 on 3,” Hastings said. “It hurt us.”
In overtime, Byers poked the puck off the stick of Jake Livingstone just on the Mavericks side of the red line and went in all alone for the game-winner.
“Hockey is a game of mistakes and opportunities,” Hastings said. “They took advantage.”
The Mavericks (18-10-1, 13-7-1 in CCHA) and Tommies (8-17-2, 7-10-2) will play again Saturday as the series moves to Mendota Heights.
Highlights from @TommieMHockey's 3-2 overtime victory at No. 13 Minnesota State on Friday night.— CCHA (@CCHAHockey) February 4, 2023
🎥: https://t.co/yRw1IaFf0i#CCHAHockey pic.twitter.com/aloWlJIDGc
Minnesota State associate head coach Todd Knott on Wednesday was named the top assistant coach in men’s college hockey, as the American Hockey Coaches Association announced him as this year’s winner of the Terry Flanagan Award.
Knott, 43, has been on the MSU staff since 2009 and was promoted to associate head coach in 2018. As the team’s recruiting coordinator, he’s been instrumental in the Mavericks’ success over the last decade.
“I’m a big supporter of Todd Knott,” Hastings said earlier this week, “through his work and how he has help our program grow, from Day 1 when I (arrived) here and previously when he was here with Troy Jutting and Darren Blue. He’s just incredible in all areas. …
“And all the things that he’s done professionally still dwarf the idea of what the young man is and what he stands for.”
St. Thomas 1-0-1-1—3
Minnesota State 0-0-2-0—2
Scoring: 1. UST-Laylin 7 (Eernisse 5, Recci 8) ppg 5:34
Penalties: Sandelin, MSU (holding) 4:14
Penalties: Daly, UST (high sticking) 3:14; Byers, UST (interference) 13:12
Scoring: 2. MSU-Carroll (Tassy 3, Pavel 8) 12:44; 3. MSU-Fitzgerald 9 (Silye 12, Livingstone 20) ppg 13:52; 4. UST-Laylin 8 (Recchi 9) ppg 17:34
Penalties: Eernisse, UST (interference) 13:11; Furry, MSU (kneeing) 16:38; Pavel, MSU (hooking) 17:27
Scoring: 5. UST-Byers 14 (unassisted) :57
Shots on goal: UST 4-6-3-1—14; MSU 9-19-16-1—45. Penalties: UST 3 for 6 minutes; MSU 3 for 6 minutes. Power plays: UST 2 for 3; MSU 1 for 3. Goalie saves: UST Trotter 9-19-14-1—43 (2 GA); MSU Rancier 3-6-2-0—11 (3 GA).