Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mavs Drop Opener of Inaugural North Star College Cup

The Minnesota State University, Mankato Mavericks were close on Friday night in St. Paul, but no cigar. The Mavs headed to Minnesota's capital city for the inaugural North Start College Cup, a tournament hosted by the University of Minnesota for the division one hockey teams in the state. MSU faced off against the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in Friday's afternoon game in what was a back and forth chess match of a game.

Duluth native Andy Wellinski got the scoring started for the Bulldogs with an unassisted goal that Maverick goaltender Cole Huggins likely would have saved, but it took an unfortunate bounce off of Josh Nelson's equipment and changed direction into the net, giving UMD the 1-0 lead 7:28 into the first period. It wasn't long before the Mavericks answered back, though.

Mr. Clutch, senior captain Johnny McInnis, has been scoring big goals for the Mavs all season long. This one was no different. With the Bulldogs seemingly dominating the first period, McInnis threw the puck on net from the corner and it somehow managed to squeak between Duluth goaltender Aaron Crandall's pads and the post, finding its way to the back of the net to tie the game 1-1 at the 10:25 mark of the first. Dylan Margonari recorded the lone assist on the goal. 

Changing the momentum in favor of the Mavs was junior forward Matt Leitner, who buried a power play goal to go ahead 2-1, exactly four minutes after McInnis tied the game. Leitner circled to the blue line and shot the puck to the short side of the net past a screend Crandall. Jean-Paul LaFontaine and Josh Nelson tallied the assists on the go ahead goal, which sent the Mavericks into the locker room with a 2-1 lead headed into the second period.

The Bulldogs seemed to regain the momentum in the second period off another goal coming on an odd bounce. On the power play, UMD's Dom Toninato spun around and fired the puck at the net, which deflected off Austin Farley's skate and into the back of the net past Huggins. The play was briefly reviewed, but the goal stood. 

Then halfway through the second period, the Bulldogs' Alex Iafallo found UMD captain Adam Krause on the doorstep and fed him a tap in goal to take a 3-2 lead over the Mavs, but MSU fought back.
While on the power play, Maverick senior Zach Lehrke fired a shot from the blue line that rung the post, but the puck laid on the goal line. LaFotaine tried to jam the puck into the net, but a Bulldog defender shot the puck into the corner and play resumed. At the next stoppage of play, the shot was reviewed and ruled a goal; tied at 3-3, LaFontaine from Lehrke and McInnis. 

Although outplayed to that point in the game, the Mavericks escaped two periods with a tie heading into the third. The rest of the game would be decided by special teams, as there were a pair of shorthanded goals and a power play goal to finish the game.

The Bulldogs celebrating their overtime victory
Two men short, playing a five on three penalty kill, Zach Lehrke came out of the penalty box, reducing the man advantage to five on four, and lightning struck. Zach Palmquist gathered the puck ready to send it down the ice and kill off more time on the penalty, but instead, saw Lehrke floating behind the Bulldog defenseman and threaded him a pass sending him on a breakaway. Shorthanded, Lehrke made a series of quick moves before sliding the puck between Crandall's legs for a beautiful goal and a 4-3 lead. It was only minutes later that the Bulldogs recorded their own shorthanded goal.

UMD's Kyle Osterberg scored an unassisted shorthanded goal which again seemed like a bit of a fluke. Osterberg shot the puck and what was seemingly an easy save for Huggins, wasn't. Huggins thought he had the puck covered but it sat on the ice in front of his pad, and Osterberg picked up the rebound and buried it to tie the game at 4-4. The third period didn't see any more scoring and the two teams headed to overtime.

With no scoring in the first few minutes of overtime, fans were looking forward to a shootout. However, it wasn't to be. MSU's Brett Stern took a boarding penalty late in overtime that sent the Bulldogs on the power play. With only 26 seconds remaining in overtime, Iafallo notched the overtime game winner after a scrum in front of the Maverick net resulted in the puck popping right out to his stick, giving UMD the 5-4 victory and catapulting them into the championship game of the inaugural North Star College Cup.

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