Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mavericks Bounce Back for a Split at Home

Sophomore defenseman Mat Knoll suited up at
forward for last weekend's series
Friday night was not the Mavericks’ night. Playing the Bowling Green Falcons at the Verizon Wireless Center in a WCHA matchup, everything that seemingly could have gone wrong, went wrong.
There wasn’t much flow to the first period though the Mavs seemed to move the puck better than the Falcons and the power play unit looked promising early. Only 2:08 in the first period, sophomore forward Teddy Blueger got the Mavericks on the board with a highlight reel power play goal. Skating into the offensive zone, Blueger beat the defenseman wide and lifted a backhand shot into the short side top corner over Falcons’ goaltender Tommy Burke, a Chaska, Minn. native. Sophomore forward Dylan Margonari and sophomore goaltender Stephon Williams were credited with assists on the play.
It wasn’t long before Bowling Green answered back, though. Just two minutes later, Falcon forward Brent Tate threw a spin around shot on goal that seemed to fool Williams low. Tate’s goal would conclude the scoring for the first period, but the real story of the period was the penalties taken.
The Mavericks took five penalties in the first period, including a bench minor penalty. Just one minute after junior forward J.P. LaFontaine took an interference penalty, the Mavs got caught with too many man on the ice and were reduced to five-on-three play for a minute. Then, with the end of the period in sight, sophomore defenseman Jon Jutzi took a boarding penalty with only seven seconds remaining in the period.
The second period could be looked at as where the Mavericks fell apart in this game. While on the power play early in the period, freshman defenseman Casey Nelson bobbled the puck on the offensive blue line, sending the Falcons on a two-on-one rush. Falcon forward Dan DeSalvo took the puck up the ice and ripped a shot past Williams for a shorthanded goal and a 2-1 lead.
Just 51 seconds later the Mavs responded, tying the game at 2-2 after senior forward Johnny McInnis tapped in a back door goal fed to him from sophomore Brett Knowles. Junior defenseman Zach Palmquist also received an assist on the play.
Once again on the power play, the Mavericks had a hiccup. An errant pass forced Palmquist to dive in an attempt to keep the puck in the offensive zone, but a Bowling Green defender was right on him. Falcon forward Adam Berkle picked up the puck and went in alone on a breakaway on what turned out to be an unusual sight of a play.
When Berkle reached the Maverick blue line, Williams appeared to catch an edge on his skates and fall back into the net, allowing Berkle to skate around him with ease and casually chip the puck into the open net for a 3-2 lead.
Williams tried to rebound after this goal, but the Falcons were relentless. Halfway through the second period, Bowling Green’s Pierre-Luc Mercier jammed home a rebound from point blank past Williams for a 4-2 Falcon lead. Maverick coach Mike Hastings then yanked Williams from the goal after giving up four goals on 16 shots and put in freshman goalie Cole Huggins.
The third period saw Huggins make saves on all nine shots he faced, keeping the Mavericks in the game. With just over five minutes to go in the game they pulled within one goal of the Falcons.
Freshman defenseman Sean Flanagan scored his first career goal for the Mavericks in what was another highlight reel goal on the night. An unassisted goal, Flanagan gathered the puck in the high slot and ripped a shot off the crossbar and in the net past Burke. Flanagan’s goal wasn’t enough though, as the Mavs couldn’t tally another goal, and the Falcons took Friday night’s game 4-3.
Saturday night’s game included a lot of noteworthy moments, but almost no scoring.
Early in the first period, junior defenseman Brett Stern was ejected from the game for checking from behind on a very questionable call. Initially ruled a boarding, the officials took their time discussing the hit and gave Stern the gate, forcing Margonari to serve the five minute penalty.
The Mavs killed off the major penalty, but that was mostly the only action of the first period as there were no goals scored and no notable scoring chances.
The second period saw more action, but yet again no scoring. Twice within a two minute span, the Mavericks were robbed of would be goals by the officials. First, sophomore forward Taylor Herndon took a shot and followed his own rebound, tapping the puck into the net, but the officials blew the whistle early, negating the goal. Shortly after, Casey Nelson blasted a shot from the point that hit the Falcon goaltender in the chest and popped out to LaFontaine for a tap in goal, but again the officials blew the whistle too early. Both teams also rang a shot off the post but just couldn’t find the back of the net.
More frustration with the officials came in the third period when on three different occasions the Mavericks were called offside when on an odd-man rush up the ice. These calls disrupted the flow of the game and neither team could get any legitimate scoring chances, ending regulation time in a 0-0 tie, forcing overtime.
Early in overtime, sophomore forward Bryce Gervais set up junior forward Chase Grant all alone in front of the Bowling Green net, but Grant couldn’t put the puck past the Falcon goaltender. The Mavericks found a savior, however.
McInnis scored 1:11 into overtime to give the Mavericks
the win
Just 1:11 into overtime, McInnis received a spin around pass from LaFontaine and headed up the ice one-on-one. Reaching the offensive zone, McInnis went wide around the defenseman and muscled a shot
between the Falcon goaltender’s arm and body for the game-winning goal.
“We needed something to go right for us” McInnis said. “In overtime you just want to get pucks to the net.”
It was a moment of jubilation for the Mavs as their captain celebrated his goal with a belly flop on the ice and the whole team hog piled on top of him. Huggins, a freshman, posted a 33-save shutout which is the first of his career in only his second start. He may find himself starting more frequently while last year’s WCHA Goalie of the Year in Williams finds his groove.
The Mavericks’ ability to rebound from Friday night’s game and get two more points in the WCHA standings is perhaps something to build on going into this weekend.
“I can’t say it was a must win at this time of the year” said Maverick head coach Mike Hastings. “But it was an incredibly important win.”
Friday night the Mavericks travel to Minneapolis to play the University of Minnesota to play the Gophers in a two-game series. The Mavs have played the Gophers tough in recent history, with a four-game season split last season, and a sweep over the Gophers in 2010-2011. Although no longer a conference rival, with Minnesota being the top ranked team in the nation, even one win next weekend would give the Mavericks considerable points in the NCAA pair wise rankings for the postseason tournament. Since the split with Bowling Green, the Mavericks have fallen out of the top 20 rankings, so a good weekend would be huge for them to move back into the top 20. Both Friday and Saturday night’s games are slated for a 7:07 p.m. start at Mariucci Arena.

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