Defending Mason Cup champ Minnesota State gets another crack at title, beats Ferris State
The top-seeded Mavericks scored two quick goals in a span of 30 seconds at the end of the first period to get the sellout crowd back into the game and didn’t look back.
MANKATO, Minn. — As Minnesota State’s record in Mankato over the past five or so seasons should tell you, the importance of home ice advantage in the college hockey playoffs shouldn’t be underestimated.
Mike Hastings was certainly grateful to be playing in front of the fans at Mayo Clinic Health Systems Events Center on Saturday against Ferris State. The Mavericks had fallen behind the Bulldogs midway through the first period, and the home crowd was growing a tad nervous. After all, they’d seen Ferris State beat the Mavericks here twice back in November.
But Minnesota State didn’t want to see that happen again. The top-seeded Mavericks scored two quick goals in a span of 30 seconds at the end of the period to get the sellout crowd back into the game and didn’t look back, winning their CCHA Mason Cup semifinal game 7-2, preventing the upstart, sixth-seeded Bulldogs from pulling another conference tournament upset.
“We were fortunate enough to be playing in our own building,” Hastings said. “I thought after we scored the first one, the energy in the building increased and I thought we had a little bit more momentum from that. To be able to go into our locker room with a lead after how the game was back and forth with both teams feeling each other out was big for us.”
That momentum change was big for the Mavericks (24-12-1), who have struggled at times on home ice this season.
“I think answering in that first period, and not going into the locker room and sitting and thinking about it was big for us like the last two times they were, that was one,” Hastings said. “But two, I thought we stayed with it. We didn’t go away. We ended up allowing ourselves to extend the lead, which allows you a little bit more freedom. We were able to roll four lines, we were using our entire bench back at the blueline, and I think that’s been a strength of ours this entire second half.”
Connor McGrath’s goal had given Ferris State (14-19-4) the lead 15 minutes into the game, but the Mavericks evened it up when Christian Fitzgerald poked home a third-change rebound past FSU goaltender Noah Giesbrecht with 1 minute, 28 seconds left in the first.
Moments later, the Bulldogs’ Antonio Venuto went to the penalty box for boarding and the Mavericks made them pay. Just 11 seconds later, David Silye buried his 23rd goal of the season – a snipe from between the circles – past Giesbrecht and made it 2-1.
“We went up first, which was the plan, but they answered with two right back going into the second, but we were still in the game, and pretty confident we could get another one and even it up,” Ferris captain Brendan McLaren said. “I don’t think we were off track or anything, but their power play is really good and we gave up too many power play goals there. It just didn’t go our way tonight.”
MSU’s Brendan Furry gave the Mavs another power play tally early in the second – they went 3-for-4 on the man-advantage – before Cade Borchardt’s goal midway through the second made itn 4-1.
That wasn’t a dagger, though. Bradley Marek gave the Bulldogs a power play goal of their own with just over nine minutes to play in the second and it was only 4-2 at second intermission.
However, MSU proved to be too strong for them in the third. Ondrej Pavel made it 5-2 with eight minutes to go in the third, then Daniels pulled Giesbrecht with five minutes to go to make a last-ditch effort at a comeback. Lucas Sowder made it 6-2 on the empty net before Jake Livingstone added the seventh goal, the final power play tally of the evening.
“I thought we played a much better game than a 7-2 outcome, and I think that’s borne out of the fact that it was 4-2 late in the third,” Ferris head coach Bob Daniels said. “The locker room had a pretty good vibe going out for the third. Obviously we needed to get one, and we didn’t get it, but I felt we still had a chance. I wouldn’t have pulled the goalie later if I didn’t think so.”
Minnesota State will return to action next weekend when they will host fourth-seeded Northern Michigan in the CCHA Mason Cup championship game. The winner gets the league’s automatic NCAA tournament berth. The Mavericks, who were No. 13 in the PairWise rankings following the win, are not a lock for an at-large bid for the tournament. NMU upset Upper Peninsula archrivals Michigan Tech 4-0 on the road in the other semifinal and need to win next week to make their first NCAA tournament berth since 2010.
“They’re a good hockey team right now,” Livingstone said of the Wildcats. “They beat us here in overtime in the first half of the year. It’s a week away, though, so we’re going to enjoy this win as a group, realize we earned ourselves another week as a family and take it day-by-day as it comes.”
Minnesota State 7, Ferris State 2
Ferris State 1 1 0 – 2
Minnesota State 2 2 3 – 7
Scoring – 1, FSU, McGrath (Marek, Slick), 15:32; 2, MSU, Fitzgerald (Silye, Sandelin), 18:32. 3, MSU, Silye (Livingstone, Fitzgerald), 19:00, PP.
Penalties – FSU, Noel (Interference), 7:37; FSU, Venuto (Boarding), x:xx.
Scoring – 4, MSU, Furry (Sowder, Carroll), 3:27, PP; 5, MSU, Borchardt (Sowder, Furry), 9:07; 6, FSU, Marek (Pokorny, Slick), 10:51, PP.
Penalties – FSU, Schultheis (Tripping), 1:48; MSU, Eisele (Interference), 10:40; MSU, Sowder (Interference), 17:27.
Scoring – 7, MSU, Pavel (Livingstone), 12:17; 8, MSU, Sowder (Furry, Livingstone), 15:14; 9, MSU, Livingstone (Sandelin, Fitzgerald), 16:42.
Penalties – FSU, Gault (Cross Checking), 16:02.