Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mavericks 5, Huskies 2

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

1. Not yet a captain, but certainly clutch: When asked how he would have reacted to someone telling him, before the WCHA Final Five, that Brad McClure would be the best player on the ice this weekend, MSU coach Mike Hastings said, "There's a possibility of that." Then he grinned a bit and added, "Not going to say I'd take it to the bank." But there, after the game, was the freshman forward, nicknamed "Captain Clutch" when he played for the BCHL's Penticton Vees last season, getting the Final Five's Most Valuable Player trophy after scoring a third-period hat trick and finishing the weekend with five goals and an assist. Talk about a coming-out party! "He made a tremendous impact both nights," Hastings said, "and I'm glad he's wearing our jersey."

2. Williams still shines: The Mavericks struggled to score over the first two periods. Jamie Phillips stopped 12 of 13 shots in the first period, and MSU only mustered four shots on goal in the second period before going into the third trailing 2-1. "They made it extremely difficult," Hastings said of the Huskies. "They pretty much squeezed the life out of us there in the second period." Give credit to Stephon Williams, who finished the game with 23 saves. He kept the Mavericks within striking distance, allowing a pair of power-play goals — the only two goals he gave up on the weekend. One of those goals, Blake Pietila's to make it 1-0, came 9 seconds after a Chase Grant goalie interference penalty. Grant made up for his blunder by scoring MSU's first goal. "I came back to the bench (after the penalty), and I said, 'That one's on me. I gotta get that back.'"

3. Not to be overlooked: Can't forget about Jordan Nelson's goal that tied the game at 2-2 at 8:08 of the third period. That really set the table for McClure. The play was a dirty, greasy goal by a fourth liner. Defenseman Brett Stern fired a shot that went wide by caromed back to the goal line off the Xcel Energy Center's lively boards. Michael Huntebrinker zipped a shot on goal, and Nelson was right there to put back the rebound. Huntebrinker and Stern each had two assists, as did Zach Palmquist and Teddy Blueger. Stern seemed to take over the game at times, carrying the puck deep and trying to make plays. He was the guy who went around the net and got the puck centered to Grant for his goal. Hastings said Stern played like a captain should.

Deep thought(s): It seems pretty clear that Minnesota State will be the top seed at the Midwest Regional in South Bend, Ind., on Saturday and Sunday. And as the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament the Mavericks should get RIT in the first round. Some early speculation has Minnesota and Nebraska Omaha as the others in the regional. Interesting. We'll find out for sure at 11 a.m. Sunday. ... Meanwhile, the first team out of the tournament is Bowing Green. Really tough break for the WCHA's third-best team. Sounds like the Falcons would have been in the tourney had Tech beaten MSU on Saturday night. Ouch. ... Really nice and somewhat surprising crowd of 8,204 for the final. Two bands and the fans were really into it. Good atmosphere.

Read my game story here.

Around college hockey: Here are the conference tournament winners: Big Ten—Minnesota, NCHC—Miami, Hockey East—Boston University, ECAC—Harvard, Atlantic Hockey—RIT

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