He was missing his high-scoring linemate, so Shane Joseph took matters into his own hands.
The Minnesota State junior notched the first four-goal game of his career, including three in the final period, as the Mavericks rallied from a third-period deficit to upset top-ranked Colorado College, 9-6, at the Colorado Springs World Arena on Saturday.
Mankato, which was without leading scorer Grant Stevenson, who sat out with a shoulder injury, scored nine goals for the first time since blanking Findlay Nov. 3, 2001. The Mavericks improve to 17-8-9 overall and complete the league portion of their schedule with a 15-6-7 record.
The Tigers, who allowed more than four goals in a game for the first time this season, drop to 24-5-5 one night after clinching the WCHA regular-season crown.
“It’s somewhat understandable (to lose), but not acceptable,” said Colorado College head coach Scott Owens. “I’m not pleased with the way (the game) went.”
Unlike Friday, MSU weathered a barrage of Colorado College shots to start the game. The Mavericks opened the scoring 10 minutes in, as Jon Hart one-timed a Dana Sorensen pass from behind the net for his second goal of the season.
The Tigers wasted little time tying the contest. Just 1:08 later, freshman Trevor Frischmon won a faceoff back to classmate Mark Stuart. His wrister from just inside the blue line beat a screened Mankato netminder Jason Jensen top-shelf.
With both teams skating four-on-four, Mankato regained the lead two minutes later. Racing in on a two-on-one break, Jeff Marler rifled a shot that was stopped by Tigers’ goalie Kjell Bennemark. The rebound caromed to Peter Runkel trailing the play, who notched his eighth goal in 130 career games.
The seesaw affair continued 30 seconds after Runkel’s tally. Colorado College senior Noah Clarke took a two-line pass from fellow Hobey Baker candidate Tom Preissing, faked a backhand, and beat Jensen to his right.
The Tigers took their first lead of the contest with 3:18 left in the first period, capitalizing on another faceoff win by a freshman. Aaron Slattengren kicked the puck to Colin Stuart, whose shot from the right circle beat Jensen and ended his five-game point drought.
Colorado College appeared to create some breathing room with a power-play marker 7:45 into the second stanza. Peter Sejna slid the puck to freshman Brett Sterling stationed just outside the crease. Sterling converted on the one-timer for his ninth goal in the last six games.
A pair of costly turnovers by the Tigers midway through the frame helped the Mavericks tie the score at four. Brock Becker scored first, as he stole the puck in Colorado College territory and raced in alone.
Just 47 seconds later, Rick Kisskeys picked off an errant Tigers’ pass and, after his sharp-angle shot was denied, Joseph put home the rebound.
“They pretty much (took advantage of) all our turnovers,” said Sejna, whose 70 points are the highest single-season total for the Tigers in 24 seasons. “It was an awful defensive effort as a team.”
Clarke and Sejna, however, helped the Tigers regain their two-goal cushion late in the second period. Sejna shined first, as he drove the net and left the puck for Marty Sertich, who scored for the first time in eight games. Two minutes later on the power play, Clarke shoveled a pass to James Laux, who blasted a one-timer past Jensen.
Then Joseph took over in the third period, helping the Mavericks bounce back one night after having their 17-game unbeaten streak snapped. His second goal of the contest, 2:28 into the final frame, cut the deficit in half and came just seconds after missing an open net.
Just 19 seconds after Ryan McKelvie’s first career goal tied the game at six, Joseph gave Mankato the lead for good. He took advantage of a funny bounce off the end boards, as well as an out-of-position Bennemark.
“Bennemark didn’t have a real good night. That being said, (Mankato’s goals) were really good shots,” said Owens. “(Bennemark’s play) is probably third or fourth on my list of worries, behind lackadaisical play and not protecting the puck.”
A power-play tally by Kisskeys gave the Mavericks a two-goal lead, and Joseph’s empty-netter in the final minute sent the 7,287 in attendance to the aisles.
Although allowing six goals, Jensen stood tall in the third period, stopping all 11 shots he faced. Bennemark, meanwhile, saved just 18 of 26 shots before being pulled with 10:32 remaining.
“I thought we came in with the right mindset, but that’s the way this league goes sometimes,” said Clarke.