Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mavericks come away with a road split in Omaha

The Maverick men's hockey team from Minnesota State University, Mankato hit the road this past weekend for their first series of the 2014-2015 season. Playing at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, the Mankato Mavericks came away with a series split versus the Mavericks in red. 

On Friday night, things looked to be going well for MSU when senior defenseman Zach Palmquist tallied his first goal of the year to go up 1-0 just 44 seconds into the game with assists going  to Bryce Gervais and Matt Leitner. UNO didn't let the goal kill their momentum at home, though. 

Eden Prairie native and UNO freshman defenseman Luc Snuggerud scored his first collegiate goal to even the score at one apiece before another Minnesota product put one in the net. Former Hill-Murray standout and Woodbury native Jake Guentzel put away a goal on the power play to put the red Mavericks up 2-1 to close out the first period. 

The second period saw the UNO power play strike again as Austin Ortega netted a goal from Snuggerud and Guentzel to extend the lead to 3-1 until sophomore  Casey Nelson scored an MSU power play goal to close the gap. 

MSU freshman Brad McClure scored his first collegiate goal in the third period to tie the game, but Omaha just had more firepower that night. Ortega would strike again on the power play with Guentzel getting the lone assist, then Dominic Zombo collected a late empty net goal to give UNO a 5-3 Friday night win. 

Saturday night's game went a little differently for these two teams. 

After two first period Omaha goals from Duluth native Jake Randolph and Guentzel, MSU Head Coach Mike Hastings pulled goaltender Cole Huggins down 2-0. Junior Stephon Williams played the rest of the game between the pipes. 

Down 2-0 after a period, Minnesota State exploded in the second period. 

Gervais scored his first of the year to cut the lead in half, then Palmquist scored his second goal in as many nights to even the score at two. 

Later in the period, McClure also scored his second of the weekend to give MSU the lead with assists going to J.P. LaFontaine and Sean Flanagan. Senior captain Chase Grant gave MSU an insurance goal to spot a 4-2 lead heading into the third period. 

"I didn't see guys pulling apart at the seems," Hastings said. "That's a positive."

There wouldn't be any scoring in the third period, and Williams would make all ten shots he faced to secure a win for the purple Mavericks. It was an important win for MSU to avoid starting the season 0-2, and a road split isn't a bad way to get things going. Hastings was happy to split, but wasn't pleased with Friday night's effort. 

"We should have had a lot left in the tank after [Friday]," Hastings said. "There weren't a lot of ice bags handed out."

Heading into this weekend where MSU will play a tough Minnesota-Duluth team, the purple Mavericks may have a better feel about their team identity with a couple games under their belts. 

"We learned a lot as a staff about our team," said Hastings. "I think we learned a lot about ourselves being down two-nothing on the road and coming back and having the second period we had. "

MSU heads north to Duluth for Friday night's series opener at Amsoil Arena before coming back to Mankato for Saturday night's game. Puck drop is at 7:07 p.m. in Duluth Friday, and 7:07 p.m. Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Center in downtown Mankato. 

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