By: Dave Souza
BOSTON — The Minnesota State Mavericks were big underdogs coming into their weekend series with the No. 2 Boston University Terriers. An unranked squad, the Mavericks had played just one game all season, where they were shellacked, 4-0, to No. 6 St. Cloud State. And despite keeping pace with the Terriers in the first period with a pair of goals, Minnesota State still went into the first intermission deadlocked with BU.
But in the second frame, the Mavericks came to life, erupting for a trio of scores en route to a big, 6-3, win over the second-ranked team in the nation. Head Coach Mike Hastings attributed his team’s offensive explosion in the middle frame to a more disciplined approach.
“When you’re not killing six minutes of penalties, the period has a tendency to potentially get a little bit more flow to it,” Hastings said. “We were able to roll four lines, play six defensemen, and I thought the rhythm of the game benefited our bench because of that.”
After a half-dozen penalties were levied against Mankato (1-1) in the opening period, the Mavericks settled down, and struck for a pair of early goals in the second. Just under four minutes into the middle frame, Charlie Gerrard broke the 2-2 tie with a wrist shot from point-blank range. Cutting quickly into an unoccupied slot, Gerrard caught a quick pass from forward Nick Rivera before elevating the puck over the shoulder of sophomore Jake Oettinger in one motion.
About a minute and a half later, the Mavericks doubled their lead on a blast from defenseman Ian Scheid. Moments after BU’s Jordan Greenway was whistled for slashing, center Jake Jaremko won an offensive zone face-off back to Scheid, who teed up a slap shot from the point for the strike.
The Terriers’ repeated inability to clear the puck was their undoing in the contest, something that Coach Dave Quinn stressed in his postgame press conference.
“Really disappointing because I thought for the first ten minutes we actually played well, and then after that it’s almost like we completely changed our mindset and lost focus; for the next 50 minutes they played men’s hockey and we played boy’s hockey,” Quinn said. “Every time they shot a puck we turned and watched for it. We didn’t defend with our feet in the defensive zone; we looked like we never played D-zone coverage before. Just no urgency, and they beat us to a lot of loose pucks.”
Issues clearing the puck in front of the net led to the first Maverick goal of the game. With Mankato on the power play, the Terriers (2-1) looked to hold an early 1-0 lead. But, a C.J. Suess shot bounced around right in front of the BU net that Zeb Knutson cleaned up before Oettinger could smother the rebound.
Jared Spooner’s goal in the third period – which essentially iced the game for the Mavericks – also came off of a rebound when the freshman was able to collect the extra chance after skating uncovered in on Oettinger.
Minnesota State was led by standout junior defenseman Daniel Brickley, who tallied four points, including a game-tying goal near the end of the first period. Having a hand in the first three Mankato goals, Brickley pulled the Mavericks even when he unleashed a wrister from the point that beat Oettinger bar-down with just under four minutes remaining in the first. He would tally a trio of assists before the game’s end on goals from Knutson, Gerard and Riese Zmolek .
“I noticed the middle was open, they were trying to flip it out of the zone, only had one guy in front of me, [and] I took my opportunity ” Brickley said of his goal.
In net for the Mavericks was a familiar face used to backstopping teams to wins in Agganis Arena. And while Connor LaCouvee had spent the majority of his career being the last line of defense for the Terriers, his first game in a Mankato uniform was an impressive one.
The senior tallied 32 saves on 35 shots, and held a Terrier squad historically known for stellar play in the third period scoreless in the final frame. His only blemishes were a pair of goals in the first allowed to Greenway and Shane Bowers, as well as another Bower tally towards the end of the second period.
The BU faithful recognized LaCouvee before the game with a round of loud applause when his name was announced during starting lineups.
“It’s awesome coming back to play at BU; nothing but good things to say about the city of Boston and Boston University hockey, it’s an awesome program, run by great people,” LaCouvee said. “It’s really great to have a little shout-out there.”
The two teams will square off again tomorrow night at Agganis Arena, with the Terriers looking to rebound from their first loss in the young season. Coach Quinn says he is looking forward to how his team faces this adversity and is glad to have such a quick turnaround.
“Every guy in [that locker room] has to make a commitment to tomorrow night [and] playing the right way,” Quinn said. “There’s really no mystery to what happened. I said this last week, what gets lost on all of us is how simple this game is.”
BU will get the chance to split the weekend when the puck drops Saturday night at 7 p.m.