|Pat Christman/The Free Press|
(Sorry for the 12-hour delay here. I fell pretty ill after the game and decided to just file my story and go home. It was a pleasant surprise, though, to wake up to the news that the NHL lockout is over!)
1. Surgical: You could tell from talking to Minnesota State's coaches and players last week that they haven't been thrilled with the way the team had been playing since coming back from break. Sure, they won the UConn tournament and a grind-it-out overtime game against Providence on Friday night, but the Mavericks were looking to get back to what made them good during that seven-game winning streak in November and December. They got there on Saturday. Minnesota State controlled the pace of the game from the beginning, and after it got the lead, simply played smart defense the rest of the way. Stephon Williams got his third shutout of the year and was very good, but that shutout should be credited to the entire team, not just Williams.
2. Secondary scoring: The Mavericks have won four games in row and 11 of their last 12. Another reason for their success is they're getting scoring from all over their line chart, not just the top two lines. Matt Leitner and Eriah Hayes scored power-play goals (Hayes now has a nation-leading seven PPGs and 12 in total), but the even-strength goals came with the third and fourth lines on the ice. The fourth line of Bryce Gervais, Max Gaede and Taylor Herndon scored the game's first goal, and coach Mike Hastings said the group played more minutes than they had in any previous game. "They deserved it," Hastings said. It helped that MSU was pretty disciplined, putting Providence on the power play just two times.
3. Small crowd: Vikings games, especially playoff games and playoff games against the Packers, get huge TV ratings in Minnesota, so it was not surprising to see a pretty sparse crowd on Saturday. Officials announced the crowd at 2,475, a season low. St. Cloud State and Bemidji State were also at home, and their announced crowds were 4,248 and 2,545, respectively. Students have yet to return to town, too. MSU senior defenseman Evan Mosey said he appreciated the fans who did show up, thanked them and was glad to give them a good performance. The crowds at the Verizon Wireless Center should be back to normal, or even higher, in the coming weeks, with Wisconsin and Minnesota coming to Mankato.
Read The Free Press game story here.
Around the WCHA: Nebraska Omaha 3, Colorado College 1 ... North Dakota 3, Holy Cross 2 ... Northern Michigan 2, St. Cloud State 1 ... Western Michigan 2, Bemidji State 2 (OT) ... Denver 2, Cornell 1 ... Wisconsin 1, Alaska Anchorage 0