Minnesota State’s scoring is becoming all too predictable … for the most part.
The Mavericks (3-4-2 WCHA, 4-6-3 overall) received goals from their three leading goal-scorers as they beat Alaska-Anchorage (0-8-3 WCHA, 1-10-4 overall) by a score of 5-1 at home in a WCHA matchup.
Grant Stevenson, Shane Joseph, and Cole Bassett, who are one, two, and three respectively on the MSU goals list, each had one in the game.
“Your older kids are the kids you’re going to count on,” said MSU coach Troy Jutting. “Those kids need to score if we’re going to be successful.”
The team also got decent goaltending from junior Jason Jensen, who came within 1:43 of the first shutout of the season for the Mavericks. Jensen turned away 23 shots in just his second win of the year.
The Mavericks got on the board early with a goal from their leading scorer, Stevenson. The play started as freshman Brock Becker came out of the right corner with the puck. He stickhandled around UAA center Curtis Glencross and slid the puck across the ice to Stevenson. Positioned on the left side of the net, Stevenson fired the puck past Seawolf goalie Kevin Reiter for his 12th goal of the season at 3:54 of the first.
Joseph got the next goal as MSU took advantage of a power-play chance early in the second to increase the lead to two. Stevenson got the puck and came down the left side. While faking around the net, the sophomore slid the puck into the crease, where Joseph tipped the puck in for his 10th goal of the season at 4:40.
Stevenson, who came into the game leading the country in points per game with 2.08, has 27 points on the season after his goal and assist Friday night. Stevenson has at least one point in each of the last nine games and one in 12 of 13 games this year.
Joseph, second on the team with 22 points, has at least one point in the last seven games and has only been held pointless in two of his 13 games.
The Mavericks increased their lead to four with two breakaway goals later in the second. Bassett tallied at 10:39 of the period as the junior put the puck past Reiter while being hooked to the ice by UAA’s Lee Green. Bassett’s goal, his sixth of the season, was his first not on the power play.
The next breakaway goal came from perhaps the most unlikely of sources on the Maverick team. Defenseman Peter Runkel, who has admitted in the past that he’s not an offensive player, scored on a shorthanded breakaway at 12:07 of the period. The senior intercepted Matt Shasby’s pass at mid-ice and beat Reiter stick-side for the unassisted goal, just his seventh career goal.
“I was just trying to get the shot off,” Runkel said. “The guy was pretty much on my back. That was a pretty good goal, I guess. Actually it wasn’t pretty, but it went in.”
“It was kind of a play that you’ve got to be careful about doing because you just can’t jump up like that,” Runkel continued. “I thought he kind of had his head down, and he was on his backhand and made a backhand pass. It’s a chance you can take not too often — one out of 50 times, maybe.”
Runkel said he hasn’t had a breakaway goal since his freshman year against Bemidji State.
“Good for Peter,” Jutting said. “It doesn’t happen very often. He converted too. Maybe we should give him all our breakaways.”
MSU finished its scoring in the third as Dana Sorenson converted a beautiful pass from Ryan McKelvie into Minnesota State’s third breakaway goal of the night.
The Mavericks had two other breakaway chances in the game for a total of five. Joe Bourne, another defenseman, had his stopped by Reiter in the second. Stevenson had one, shorthanded, in the third, but his shot hit the post.
In goal, Jensen played decently for the Mavericks and came up big when he needed to.
After stopping a breakaway in the first, Jensen’s toughest test came in the second. With Bassett in the penalty box, the goaltender stopped a flurry of chances by the Seawolves, including a point-blank shot from the slot by Glencross.
But on UAA’s seventh power play of the night at 18:17 of the third, Jensen could not stop another Glencross shot. From the right side of the crease, the freshman put the puck through the goalkeeper’s legs for his seventh goal of the year.
“Too bad we didn’t get him a shutout,” Runkel said. “I think everybody’s pretty disappointed about that. But he made a lot of good saves. They could have had some more goals if not for the great saves he made.”
“I thought Jason played well,” Jutting added. “He almost got to that one, too. He got a piece of it, but it just kind of squeezed through him. Unfortunate, but I thought he played a good hockey game.”
But when it was all said and done, the Mavericks were too much for the Seawolves, who looked lost during most of the game. MSU’s early offense proved to be enough as they won 5-1.
UAA coach John Hill was disappointed with his team, winless in its last 14 games and in all 11 league games.
“I think it’s lack of preparation and determination in the defensive zone and our inability to score goals,” Hill said. “We had a couple of flurries in the second period on the power play, got the power-play goal in the third, but other than that, really no sustained offensive momentum.”
Asked whether his team has any confidence right now, Hill said, “No. None.”
“I think our young guys need our older guys to show them the way, and it hasn’t happened,” Hill said. “I think the upperclassmen are trying, I just think that right now, for whatever reason, it’s just not happening for them. For us, we need our best players to be our best players. Tonight that was not the case.”
Meanwhile, although Jutting was pleased with a win, he thought the Mavericks were a little sloppy as well.
“I thought our legs were pretty good,” Jutting said, “and the kids moved their feet pretty well tonight. A few mistakes we got to clean up, but I thought all in all it was a pretty good game.”
Runkel agreed, saying, “It was a good win. I think we can play a little better, but they’re a good team.”
The two teams will finish their series Saturday night in Mankato. Game time is set for 7:05 p.m.