MANKATO, Minn. — St. Cloud State found a somewhat unconventional way to get a couple of pucks by Dryden McKay on Saturday night.
Call them greasy. Call them lucky. The Huskies will call them goals.
“We felt, (Friday) night, that we didn’t know what else we could do to score a goal,” Huskies coach Brett Larson said.
After getting blanked by McKay on Friday, the Huskies got a series split at Minnesota State, defeating the Mavericks 3-1 in the finale of the two-game set between the top two ranked men's hockey teams in the country. Two of St. Cloud State’s goals went in behind McKay off MSU defensemen, one by Nolan Walker and one by Veeti Miettinen. Freshman Mason Salquist scored the game-winner, his first career goal.
“We call those ‘greasepan goals’ — we got those tonight,” Larson said, “whatever you have to do to get it by him.”
On Friday, the Mavericks’ senior goaltender recorded his 26th career shutout, blanking the Huskies 1-0 on 20 shots, to tie Ryan Miller’s NCAA shutout record. On Saturday, McKay finished with 16 saves in his and the Mavericks’ first loss of the season.
“We had to get our players to the net, drag checkers to the net and get bodies to the net,” Larson said.
Huskies goaltender David Hrenak, a fifth-year senior who stopped 28 of 29 shots in a tough-luck loss Friday, made 22 saves for the win. His bid at a 13th career shutout ended with 3:10 remaining in the game on a goal by Reggie Lutz.
It was the Huskies’ early action, though, that was the difference in the game, as they scored on two of their first three shots before the game was 7 minutes old.
Walker, a senior center who finished with a goal and an assist, got things started for the Huskies, racing down the left side of the rink, and his centering pass deflected into the net off MSU defenseman Jake Livingstone at 3:20.
“(McKay’s) a great goalie,” Walker said. “Last night, he stood on his head. We talked before the weekend that we have to get in front of him and take away his eyes. If he sees it, he’s going to stop it.”
Just under 3½ minutes later Salquist, a first-year player who was in the lineup because of a Friday-night upper body injury to senior and Minnesota Wild draft pick Sam Hentges, fired in the rebound of a shot by linemate Joe Molenaar, quieting the crowd of 4,838 at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center.
Walker said, after a year of games in front of little or no fans, it was great to play in front of a big crowd — even on the road — but it was also nice to keep the Mankato faithful quiet.
“It was huge for us (to score early),” Walker said. “We didn’t want to play catchup. We kind of silenced the crowd and took the pressure off ourselves.”
With 90 seconds remaining in the second period, Miettinen made it 3-0 with a power-play goal. His shot from the left faceoff dot went through traffic and into the net — again off the skate of Livingstone.
“They found a way to get pucks to the net and off our defensemen,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “Those things happen, and you have to react to them. … When we pushed back, we didn’t push enough.”
St. Cloud State clamped down on Minnesota State defensively, keeping second chances to a minimum and blocking 17 shots. The Huskies also held off a late Mavericks’ push with an extra attacker on the ice for the final 3:10.
Huskies senior defenseman Nick Perbix finished with two assists.
Both Larson and Hastings echoed their thoughts from Friday about the intensity of the series, especially with them taking place so early in the season.
“Those two games were battles, absolute battles,” Hastings said.
Larson said it’s not often that the top two ranked teams in the country are playing each other during the second weekend in October. Besides being in-state nonconference rivals, the last time the two teams met was during last April’s Frozen Four semifinals.
“I don’t know if I’ve been part of two games like this on Oct. 8-9,” Larson said, “with the intensity of the crowd and and the intensity on the ice. These were two really good teams going at each other. … This will push our players to a higher level.”
The Mavericks (3-1) and their tough nonconference schedule to begin the season continues next week in Duluth where they will play in the Ice Breaker Tournament. Minnesota State, which opened the season with a sweep at defending national-champion UMass, will face No. 11 Providence on Friday and either No. 3 Michigan or No. 5 Minnesota Duluth on Saturday.
“Now we have to look in the mirror, refocus and be accountable,” Hastings said.
St. Cloud State, also 3-1, will play a home-and-home series against No. 4 Minnesota (2-0), going to Minneapolis on Friday and hosting the Gophers on Saturday.
Prior to the game, Minnesota State honored longtime assistant coach Darren Blue with a video featuring former MSU players David Backes, Ryan Carter, Tim Jackman and Chad Brownlee, along with Hastings, former head coach Don Brose and Blue’s family.
Blue stepped down this offseason after 21 seasons as a Minnesota State assistant with Hastings and, previously, Troy Jutting. Blue, an East Grand Forks native, also played for the Mavericks from 1991 to 1995 and was a two-time captain.
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SCSU 3, MSU-M 1
First period scoring — 1. SCSU, Nolan Walker 2 (unassisted) 3:20; 2. SCSU, Mason Salquist 1 (Joe Molenaar 1, Aidan Spellacy 1) 6:16. Penalties — SCSU, Brendan Bushy (roughing) 3:43; SCSU, Easton Brodzinski (roughing) 3:43; SCSU, Zach Okabe (roughing) 3:43; MSU-M, Reggie Lutz (roughing) 3:43; Benton Maass (roughing) 3:43; Wyatt Aamodt (roughing) 3:43; SCSU, Jack Peart (high-sticking) 4:15; MSU-M, Jake Livingstone (holding) 16:10; SCSU, Bench (too many men) 18:02; SCSU, Easton Brodzinski (misconduct) 18:12.
Second period scoring — 3. SCSU, Veeti Miettinen 1 (Nick Perbix 2, Walker 1) 18:30 (pp). Penalties — SCSU, Nick Perbix (interference) 2:22; MSU-M, Brendan Furry (high-sticking) 3:30; SCSU, Brady Ziemer (roughing) 10:57; MSU-M, Lucas Sowder (interference) 17:57.
Third period scoring — 4. MSU-M, Reggie Lutz 2 (Julian Napravnik 3, Akito Hirose 2). Penalties — MSU-M, Nathan Smith (charging) 4:07.
Goalie saves — SCSU, David Hrenak 6-7-9—22 (1 GA). MSU-M, Dryden McKay 6-5-5—16 (3 GA).
Penalties-minutes — SCSU 8-24; MSU-M 7-14.
Power plays — SCSU 1-4; MSU-M 0-4.
Faceoffs — MSU-M 34-24.
Referees — Rick Nelson and Stephen McInchak.
Linesemen — Matthew Tyree and Kyle Domin.
Attendance — 4,838.