Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mavs Winless in Inaugural North Star College Cup

From last week's MSU Reporter
Minnesota’s capital city was the host to the inaugural North Star College Cup this past weekend when four of the state’s five division one hockey teams came together at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The tournament was a two-day event played Friday and Saturday, with the intent of keeping the in state rivalries we’ve come to love that have now seemingly disappeared with the formation of the Big Ten hockey conference and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

The University of Minnesota Gophers are the host of the tournament with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, the Minnesota State University, Mankato Mavericks and the St. Cloud State University Huskies filling out the tournament field in this year’s tournament. Bemidji State will take part in the tournament next year with teams participating on a rotating basis and the Gophers being the host each year.

The tournament is formatted to that of Boston’s annual Beanpot tournament that includes Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern University, and is played at the Boston Garden. The Beanpot is the most anticipated non-postseason college hockey tournament, and the NSCC is a tournament that could compete with that title.

“Being from Boston, we have the Beanpot” said Minnesota State captain Johnny McInnis, “I think this could be better and it keeps the in-state rivalries going.”

It was a weekend filled with great hockey played at an incredible venue, and teams were able to face off against some familiar faces. While these matchups are no longer the WCHA contests we have seen in recent years, bragging rights were still on the line.

“I think with how competitive hockey is in the state everyone wants to prove they’re the best team in Minnesota, and this weekend is a chance to show that,” McInnis said.

Maverick forward Jean-Paul LaFontaine expressed his take away from the weekend.
“It was an awesome experience,” he said. “We like playing these teams and we miss it, so it was a good experience for us.”

The Mavs faced off in the first game of the NSCC on Friday against Minnesota-Duluth in what turned out to be a great game.

The Bulldogs’ Andy Wellinski got UMD on the board first early in the game on a shot from the blue line that deflected of Mavs defenseman Josh Nelson and changed direction into the net past goaltender Cole Huggins for a 1-0 lead. It was a bit of a fluke for a goal, but the Mavericks got one of their own to tie the game when McInnis took a shot from behind the goal line that squeezed through Bulldog goaltender Aaron Crandall and the nearside post and found its way to the back of the net.

Then the Mavericks, whose power play ranked third in the nation heading into the game, went ahead on the man advantage. While on the power play, Maverick junior Matt Leitner skated around the blue line and fired a shot past Crandall for a 2-1 MSU lead heading into the second period.

Kicking off the scoring in the second period was UMD, who scored on the power play against the Mavericks’ fourth ranked penalty kill. Bulldog forward threw the puck on net, which deflected off teammate Austin Farley’s skate and past Huggins. After a brief video review, the call on the ice stood and it was a 2-2 game. The Mavs kept applying pressure, but the Bulldogs were getting the right bounces.

Shortly after, the Mavs had a defensive lapse as they left Bulldog Adam Krause alone in front of Huggins, and Krause tapped in the tying goal on a seeing eye pass from Alex Iafallo to give UMD a 3-2 lead.

Then, on a strange goal that required video review, Jean-Paul LaFontaine tied the game. Mavs senior Zach Lehrke took a shot off the face off that rung the post and sat behind Crandall, but LaFontaine swatted the puck just past the goal line before a Bulldog defender cleared the puck away from the net. Not called a goal on the ice, play went on and a video review after the next stoppage of play confirmed a goal, and once again the game was tied heading into the third period.

Watching this game, a spectator might think they couldn’t see more odd or fluke goals, but there were more to come.

MSU took a 4-3 lead when they caught a break after killing off a five on three man advantage for the Bulldogs. Just as Maverick defenseman Zach Palmquist was about to ice the puck, Lehrke stepped out of the penalty box to cut the man advantage to five on four and Palmquist threaded the needle to Lehrke all alone on UMD’s blue line. In all alone on a breakaway versus Crandall, Lehrke made a series of quick moves before sliding a beauty of a goal between Crandall’s legs for the Mavericks’ first shorthanded goal on the season.

But again, the Bulldogs found a way to score an unusual goal, also shorthanded. Duluth forward Kyle Osterberg took a shot just as he entered the Maverick zone that Huggins seemed to have controlled with ease, but he unknowingly dropped the puck and Osterberg swooped in and slid the puck into a mostly open net to tie the game at four a piece. UMD would kill off the remaining time on their penalty and the teams headed to overtime.

With the game seemingly heading to a shootout, Mavs defenseman Brett Stern took a boarding penalty late in overtime, sending the Bulldogs to the power play. With only 26 second remaining in overtime, Iafallo chipped the puck into an open net following a scrum in front of the Maverick goal for the game-winning goal, sending UMD to the championship game.

An exciting but strange game, Maverick coach Mike Hastings thought the game came down to puck possession.
“Really back and forth” said Hastings, “we traded chances, but it seemed whoever had the puck on their sticks last would win.”

The evening game pegged the no. 1 Gophers against the no. 5 Huskies in what was expected to be an even better game than the afternoon game, but didn’t quite turn out that way. The Gophers took down the Huskies 4-1 on their way to the championship game, pitting the Huskies against the Mavs in the consolation matchup on Saturday in a game that saw Maverick goaltender Stephon Williams return between the pipes.

“We like to determine what happens Friday and Saturday on what happens Monday through Thursday” said Hastings, “and Stephon had a good week and earned the chance to play tonight.”

Playing in the consolation matchup Saturday afternoon, penalties proved to be fatal for the Mavericks.
The Huskies leading scorer Jonny Brodzinski sent a rocketing slap shot goal past Williams, which was sandwiched between a LaFontaine goal and a goal by Bryce Gervais that had the Mavs at a 2-1 lead, but shortly after the Huskies power play would take the game over.

St. Cloud forward Cory Thorson scored the equalizer on a deflection just as Mavs defenseman Blake Thompson exited the penalty box. Officially an even strength goal, the penalty contributed to the goal as Thompson had not yet rejoined the play.

The Huskies continued to turn the heat up when captain Nic Dowd threw a spin around shot on goal that found its way past Williams for a 3-2 lead before they really started to separate themselves in this game.
With two players in the penalty box, the Mavs were two men short on a five on three penalty kill, which may have determined the outcome of the game.

Brodzinski unleashed another blistering slap shot beyond Williams’ reach on the power play for a 4-2 lead before David Morley increased the lead to three when he buried another power play goal on a feed from Andrew Prochno. After the goal, Williams was pulled in favor of Huggins.

Down 5-2 early in the third period, McInnis scored a power-play goal of his own to make it a two goal game. Matt Leitner recorded an assist on the goal, which was his 100thcareer point in a Maverick sweater.  Again the Huskies would score on the power play, though, as Kalle Kossila swatted a backhand goal past Huggins with the man advantage to bring St. Cloud to a 6-3 lead.

The Mavs again fought back though, as LaFontaine tapped in a goal all alone in front for his second of the game and his team leading 16th of the season to make it a 6-4 game, but that was all the Mavericks had in the tank and they fell to the Huskies 6-4.

“Not a great weekend from us, but a phenomenal tournament, first class as always from the Xcel Center,” Hastings said of the tournament.

The Gophers would go on to win the inaugural North Star College Cup, defeating UMD in a shootout to earn the coveted wooden cup given to the tournament champions. The game counts officially as a 4-4 tie, but the shootout win earned Minnesota the honor of being the first team to have their name engraved on the trophy.

Heading back into league play this week, Hastings wants to have a good week before hitting the road for a weekend series at Northern Michigan University.
“We need to go back to the basement,” Hastings said. “Take a look at what we didn’t do well and correct it.”

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