Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mavericks 5, Wildcats 4 (OT)

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

But first, check out Pat Christman's great photo gallery from the game, including pics of the game-winning goal in OT.

1. Ain't it Grand? Rapids, that is. The Mavericks are off to Grand Rapids, Mich., for the Final Five following a thrilling overtime game on Saturday. Despite putting 58 shots on goal, Minnesota State never led in the game until Zach Stepan (above, center) scored with 3:28 remaining in overtime. They fell behind by a goal four times and kept finding ways to tie it up. Even though a loss would have meant a Sunday game, the Mavericks were thrilled about the sweep. They're going to the Final Five in back-to-back years for the first time in their history and still might need to win the whole thing to get to the NCAAs.

2. Young guns: Stepan (read more about him in my game story here) had a goal and two assists in the game and a goal and four assists in the series. He now has 20 points. There were some high expectations on him coming into the season and he didn't make the All-Rookie team, but he scored  MSU's biggest goal of the season. Then there's sophomore Bryce Gervais, who continues his hot streak. He also had a five-point weekend, with three goals — two in the third period on Saturday. He has 10 goals in his last 13 games games and has 15. Sophomore Teddy Blueger had an assist and showed his physical side throughout the game.

3. Stay aggressive: The Mavericks didn't play scared or not to lose in overtime. They outshot the Wildcats 14-7 and put two shots off pipes (blasts by Johnny McInnis and Brett Stern). Stepan said confidence in goalie Cole Huggins (28 saves) as well as a solid defensive corps allowed them to keep pushing without having to look over their shoulders. Hastings praised defenseman Zach Palmquist for his all-around play. Palmquist's blast from the point got through goalie Mathias Dahlstrom, but the puck trickled to the side of the net where Stepan picked it up and tucked into the net for the game-winner.

Around the WCHA: Ferris State 3, Bemidji State 2, 2OT (FSU wins series 2-0) ... Bowling Green 5, Michigan Tech 2 (BG win series 2-0) ... Alaska Anchorage 5, Alaska 4 (UAA wins series 2-1)

What's next: The Mavericks will play in the 1 p.m. CST game on Friday against Bowling Green. Anchorage and Ferris State will play in the nightcap.

Around college hockey: Big upsets in the NCHC with Miami (over St. Cloud State), Denver (over Nebraska Omaha) and Western Michigan (over Minnesota Duluth) keeping the local flavor out of Target Center next week. North Dakota and Colorado College will play Game 3 of their series on Sunday night.

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