Dryden McKay bounced back.
Minnesota State’s defense bounced back.
And though the No. 3-ranked Mavericks finished Saturday’s game against Ferris State with just one of their four captains on the ice, the end result was exactly what they’d hoped for.
Minnesota State turned in a dominant effort at Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids, Mich., beating WCHA rival Ferris State 5-1 in the finale of a two-game non-conference series.
McKay was steady in a game that didn’t ever have a good flow or rhythm, thanks to 65 combined penalty minutes called against the two teams. That included three major penalties — two against Ferris State and one against MSU’s Dallas Gerads, who was called for checking from behind, on a play that looked more like a clean hit than anything.
Regardless, MSU played a complete game Saturday, limiting the Bulldogs (1-19-1) to only a first-period goal by Stepan Pokorny, who redirected a Jake Willets point shot past McKay 12:41 into the game.
It was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect night for McKay, who improved to 14-1-0 this season and rebounded from Friday’s start, in which he allowed four goals on 10 shots and was pulled after 40 minutes in an eventual 5-4 overtime win for the Mavericks.
Saturday, McKay stopped 14 shots and for the 12th time in 16 starts this season, he allowed one or fewer goals in a game.
MSU’s offense was on-point, though by the end of the game, senior defenseman Riese Zmolek was the only one of the team’s four captains still on the ice.
Senior forward and assistant captain Jared Spooner missed his second consecutive series after being hit into the boards from behind two weeks ago late in a game against Bowling Green.
Senior defenseman and assistant captain Jack McNeely missed Saturday’s game after taking an elbow to the head on Friday night. MSU coach Mike Hastings said on the KTOE radio pregame show that McNeely was being held out of Saturday’s game for “precautionary reasons.”
And senior forward Dallas Gerads, the team’s third assistant captain, was ejected from the game 6:57 into the second period after being called for a questionable checking from behind call that looked more like a clean shoulder-to-shoulder check into the glass.
The rest of the Mavericks stepped up in the absence of three of the team’s leaders. Nine players recorded at least one point and five had two-point games.
Jake Jaremko, Walker Duehr and Brendan Furry had a goal and an assist each, while Reggie Lutz and Todd Burgess had two assists apiece.
Wyatt Aamodt and Cade Borchardt also scored as Minnesota State scored five or more goals in a game for the eighth time this season.
Jaremko and Ferris State’s Stepan Pokorny traded first-period goals, leaving the score tied 1-1 after one.
MSU took control with three goals in the second period, including two in the final 2:35. Wyatt Aamodt snapped a shot past Bulldogs goalie Logan Stein at the 8:33 mark, a goal that held up as the game winner.
Furry then finished a picture-perfect tic-tac-toe play from Burgess and Lutz with 2:35 to go in the period, making it 3-1. Borchardt then made it 4-1 with a power-play goal with 12 seconds to go in the period.
Borchardt’s goal was the Mavericks’ lone power-play goal of the night. MSU entered the weekend with the country’s best power play, while Ferris State had the country’s worst penalty kill. But the Mavericks finished 1-for-5 on the power play Saturday and just 2-for-12 on the weekend.
Saturday’s game marked the final non-conference game of the regular season for the Mavericks (15-2-1), who play a home-and-home series against in-state rival Bemidji State next week.
The Beavers play at Mankato at 7:07 p.m. Thursday, then the teams play in Bemidji at 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
One regulation victory against Bemidji will give the Mavericks at least a share of the WCHA regular season title and the MacNaughton Cup.
MINNESOTA STATE 5, FERRIS STATE 1
Minnesota St. 1-3-1—5
Ferris State 1-0-0—1
First period — 1. MSU, Jake Jaremko 3 (Walker Duehr 3, Julian Napravnik 13) :50. 2. FSU, Stepan Pokorny 2 (Jake Willets 4, Marshall Moise 4) 12:41.
Second period — 3. MSU, Wyatt Aamodt 2 (Jaremko 11) 8:33. 4. MSU, Brendan Furry 3 (Reggie Lutz 8, Todd Burgess 7) 17:25. 5. MSU, Cade Borchardt 8 (Lutz 9, Riese Zmolek 8) 19:48 (pp).
Third period — 6. MSU, Duehr 5 (Furry 5, Burgess 8) 18:35.
Shots on goal — MSU 13-16-9—38; FSU 10-2-3—15.
Goalies — MSU, Dryden McKay (W, 14-1-0; 14 saves-15 shots); FSU, Logan Stein (L, 0-8-1; 33 saves-38 shots).
Power-play opportunities — MSU; 1-for-5; FSU 0-for-3.
Penalties — MSU 7-25 minutes; FSU 9-40 minutes.