Coming into the weekend, the series between the No. 2 Minnesota State Mavericks and the Michigan Tech had all the makings of an instant classic: two-Top 5 teams, every statistic very close to the same, one point separating them in the standings, etc. After Friday night’s game, nothing had been decided between the two teams as they skated to a 1-1 time. Saturday night, the Huskies jumped out to a lead, but could not hold off the Mavericks, who hung on for the 4-2 victory.
With the loss and tie, the Huskies would need to sweep the Northern Michigan Wildcats and hope the Bemidji State Beavers sweep the Mavericks if they want the McNaughton Cup outright. More likely, the Huskies will finish second and face whomever is seeded seventh in two weeks’ time when they host a playoff series at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Despite playing a very even first period, the Huskies found themselves trailing 1-0 after a power play goal from Jean-Paul Lafonataine. It took 11:18 of second period action for sophomore Reid Sturos to tie the game with an even-strength goal. Freshmen Matt Roy and Dylan Steman assisted on the goal.
Junior Jamie Phillips, who made 23 saves through the first two periods, went to work in the third with his hard hat on. He made 18 saves as opposed to just five for Stephon Williams. In overtime, Phillips made two more saves to finish the night with 43.
The Huskies were outchanced early in the game, but it was David Johnstone who struck first when he scored a timely goal at 15:41. Co-captain Tanner Kero assisted on the goal. It did not take the Mavericks long to tie the game back up, just 15 seconds. They would strike again with four seconds left in the period.
Sophomore Chris Leibinger took a penalty early in the second period. The Huskies managed to kill it off, and spring him coming out of the box. Taking a pass from sophomore Mike Neville, Leibinger beat Williams cleanly at 4:55 of the middle frame. The Mavericks responded 7:03 later to regain the lead for good. They would score once more on the power play in the third to seal the win.
This week’s Stick Salute goes to junior goaltender Jamie Phillips if for no other reason than his performance Friday night when he made a season-high 43 saves. The Huskies fought hard to tie the game, but failed to bring that same intensity to start the third period, while the Mavericks clearly looked for the game-winner anywhere they could. Phillips made 18 stops in the third alone, which is actually more than he made in five games this season where he was not pulled.
Saturday night, he was much more pedestrian, stopping 27 in the loss. He is still the fifth in the NCAA in goals against with a 1.80 goals against average. He is sixth in save percentage, having stopped 93.4 percent of opponents’ shots.