Todd Knott said it during a press conference Wednesday.
Mike Hastings said it before Friday’s game.
Their Minnesota State University hockey players had to be prepared for two tight games, with not a lot of room to move, games where everything happens a little bit faster. On top of that, the Mavericks were facing a Ferris State team that, despite the fact it hasn’t won a game against a Division I team this year, has been quite competitive in more than half of its games.
No. 3-ranked MSU received a run for its money, but the Mavericks were able to breathe a sigh of relief when Reggie Lutz fired a hard wrist shot from the high slot past Bulldogs goalie Roni Salmenkangas with 48 seconds remaining in overtime to help MSU escape with a 5-4 non-conference victory.
“We’re playing in a facility where things happen in a hurry,” Hastings, MSU’s head coach, said in a pregame interview on KTOE radio. “The ceiling is low; it’s about as intimate a setting as you can have in college hockey.”
Things happened in a hurry Friday, and strange things happened throughout the night. The Mavericks outshot the Bulldogs 41-11, including 31-4 from the start of the second period on, yet they had to go to overtime and score in the final minute, to get the victory.
MSU’s No. 1-ranked power play was held in check by Ferris State’s penalty kill, which was the worst in the country entering the game. The Mavericks went just 1-for-7 with a man-advantage Friday.
On top of that, goalie Dryden McKay — the frontrunner for the Mike Richter Award and a contender for the Hobey Baker — was pulled from the game after two periods, after allowing four goals on 10 shots. Despite giving up four goals in two periods, his goals-against average this season jumped from 0.79 to only 1.03.
Senior grad transfer Ryan Edquist replaced McKay to start the third period and faced only one shot the rest of the way.
“Our veteran guys who’ve been around know that things happen really fast in that rink,” Knott said on Wednesday. “You have to play a smart game. Ferris State is not going to lay down.”
That was certainly the case Friday. The Bulldogs (1-18-1 overall) made the Mavericks scratch and claw and come from behind twice to earn their latest victory. Salmenkangas was sharp throughout, making 36 saves and robbing the Mavericks on a handful of quality scoring chances.
Ryan Sandelin put MSU (14-2-1) up 1-0 just 2:28 into the game, but the Bulldogs scored twice in a 22-seconds pan late in the first period to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Jake Jaremko and Brendan Furry scored in the first six minutes of the third to help the Mavericks regain the lead, 3-2. Ferris State didn’t go away, though, as Marshall Moise and Ethan Stewart scored less than four minutes apart to make it a 4-3 game in the Bulldogs’ favor.
MSU again battled back, though, as sophomore forward Nathan Smith — a third-round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets — made perhaps the best individual play of the season by a Maverick with the clock ticking down in the second period. Smith gathered the puck below the goal line, skated it up the right wall, cut back through the circle, deked a Bulldogs defenseman, then shifted the puck to his forehand and beat Salmenkangas to his glove side.
Smith’s goal tied the score 4-4 after two periods.
Pretty goal by Nathan Smith to even things up. Minnesota State and Ferris State tied 4-4(!) after two periods. pic.twitter.com/mAp1PW80Gd— Chris Dilks (@ChrisDilks) February 20, 2021
That’s how it remained until Lutz’s goal 4:12 into the 3-on-3 OT. Defenseman Riese Zmolek earned an assist on the winner, making a nice to play to keep control of the puck after falling down in the right circle. He quickly got to his feet and slid a hard pass back to Lutz, who skated it down from the point into the high slot before firing it past Salmenkangas.
The teams will meet again Saturday at 6:07 p.m., the final non-conference game of the regular season for the Mavericks, who might be happy to see non-conference play end. They have allowed 16 goals in seven non-conference games, while they have allowed just five goals in 10 WCHA games.
Sophomore forward Lucas Sowder returned to the Minnesota State lineup after a 74-day absence. Sowder last played on Dec. 18, 2020, a 5-4 win against Bemidji State, in Mankato.
Sowder was listed as the extra skater on Friday, but he played a regular shift, moving up and down the lineup.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pounder played alongside Ondrej Pavel and Ryan Sandelin, Jake Jaremko and Chris VanOs-Shaw, and Nathan Smith and Dallas Gerads at times through the first 25 minutes. When VanOs-Shaw was ejected from the game 3:37 into the second period because of a contact-to-the-head penalty, Sowder moved into his spot next to Pavel and Sandelin for the rest of the game.
Sowder is MSU’s top returning scorer this season, after posting 31 points as a freshman a year ago. He has one assist in four games this season.
Prior to Friday, the last time McKay was pulled from a game was in a 7-2 loss to St. Cloud State at the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis on Dec. 28, 2019. He allowed five goals on 14 shots that night, then recorded shutouts in three of his next four starts, and allowed two total goals in his next five starts. ... Ferris State's last win against a Division I opponent came on Jan. 25, 2020, a 2-1 win at Michigan Tech. ... Lutz's goal gives him the team lead in that category (8).
MINNESOTA STATE 5, FERRIS STATE 4, OT
Minnesota St. 1-3-0-1—5
Ferris State 2-2-0-0—4
First period — 1. MSU, Ryan Sandelin 5 (Ondrej Pavel 4, Chris VanOs-Shaw 1) 2:28. 2. FSU, Coale Norris 8 (Blake Evennou 9, Mitch Deelstra 3) 14:25 (pp). 3. FSU, Liam McDougall 1 (Jacob Dirks 1) 14:47.
Second period — 4. MSU, Jake Jaremko 2 (Jake Livingstone 6, Akito Hirose 11) 2:23 (pp). 5. MSU, Brendan Furry 2 (Wyatt Aamodt 3) 5:49. 6. FSU, Marshall Moise 3 (Norris 8, Ben Schultheis 5) 13:03. 7. FSU, Ethan Stewart 6 (Deelstra 4, Jake Transit 7) 16:43. 8. MSU, Nathan Smith 4 (Livingstone 7) 19:46.
Third period — no scoring.
Overtime — 9. MSU, Reggie Lutz 8 (Riese Zmolek 7, Cade Borchardt 12) 4:12.
Shots on goal — MSU 10-19-8-4—41; FSU 7-3-1-0—11.
Goalies — MSU, Dryden McKay (40:00, ND; 6 saves-10 shots); Ryan Edquist (24:12, W, 1-1-1; 1 save-1 shot); FSU, Roni Salmenkangas (L, 1-9-0; 36 saves-41 shots).
Power-play opportunities — MSU 1-for-7; FSU 1-for-1.
Penalties — MSU 5-21 minutes; FSU 10-34 minutes.