Friday, October 9, 2015

Omaha 3, MSU 2

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

1. That's entertainment: It may not have been the outcome Minnesota State or its fans wanted, but Friday's game lived up to the hype of a season-opener between two top-10 teams. No. 6 MSU's furious attempt at a comeback against No. 10 Omaha in the third period after turning a 3-0 game into a 3-2 one made for an electric atmosphere in the Verizon Wireless Center. It's nice when there are 4,400+ in the building, a full student section and a 50-member pep band (including seven tubas!). The crowd didn't get the start it wanted but it hung on, as MSU out-attempted Omaha 32-14 in the second period. The Purple Mavs just weren't able to finish some excellent chances — Bryce Gervais' short-handed breakaway shot with 12 minutes left hit the post — and goalie Kirk Thompson made a couple of huge stops in the final minute when MSU had an extra attacker on.

2. Top-line players: Omaha got off to a fast start, thanks to its best players. Austin Ortega, who led the Red Mavs in goals last year, had a goal and an assist and had a whopping nine shots on goal. His goal, which came 53 seconds into the second period was the game-winner. Jake Guentzel, last season's top scorer, also had a goal and made a couple of fine defensive plays on C.J. Franklin, including one in which he checked the sophomore out of a potential back-door power-play goal before he could get off a shot. Jake Randolph, who had 26 points as a freshman, scored UNO's first goal. "That line (Guentzel, Ortega and Fredrik Olofsson) had the majority of all their opportunities," MSU coach Mike Hastings said. "Good hockey players."

3. Mullin it over: Senior forward Jimmy Mullin scored Minnesota State's first goal, a power-play goal at 13:28 of the second period. He celebrated almost like it was an overtime winner. "There was a lot of emotion on that shift; you have no idea," he said. "It was fun out there." Mullin, a graduate transfer from Miami, was playing in his first college game in 22 months. He missed his final season and a half at Miami due to injury and opted to transfer to MSU this spring after graduating. It was the 19th career goal and 48th point for Mullin, who played on the third line with Jordan Nelson and Zeb Knutson. Another transfer, Clint Lewis, who started off at Cornell and spent last season in the USHL, assisted on Franklin's goal for his first point as a Maverick (his third collegiate point).

Deep thought: Nice to see the 1980 D-II national champions be honored with a banner on Friday when MSU also dropped ones honoring last season's WCHA regular-season and Final Five titles and one for the program's history of NCAA appearances. Former coach Don Brose was on the ice to unfurl the '80 banner. Interesting that all three of MSU's coaches were in the building, as Troy Jutting is an assistant coach for Omaha.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: North Dakota 5, Lake Superior State 2 ... Bowling Green 6, Ohio State 3 ... Western Michigan 3, Ferris State 2 ... Northern Michigan 2, Wisconsin 2 (OT) ... Connecticut 5, Alabama Huntsville 2 ... Bemidji State at Minnesota Duluth (ppd.) ... St. Cloud State 3, Alaska 0 ... Alaska Anchorage 3, Arizona State 2 (OT)

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