Minnesota State's Teddy Blueger completed a hat trick in just two periods to help lead #13 Minnesota State[7-3-0, 5-1-0 WCHA] to a 5-3 victory over Bemidj State[3-5-0, 2-2-0 WCHA] to complete the sweep of the two-game WCHA conference series.
For the second straight evening, the Mavericks got off to a fast start. Brad McClure scored the game's first goal at 11:22 of the first period, followed by back-to-back power play goals by Blueger on similar shots through traffic from the point.
But again like Friday's game, the Beavers would push back. Phil Brewer scored with 1.5 seconds remaining in the first remaining to get Bemidji State on the board. A Graeme McComarck power play goal would cut Minnesota State's lead to 3-2. But it was Blueger again that gave Minnesota State the insurance they would need, when he completed his hat trick at 19:35 of the second period when he knocked home a rebound goal to give Minnesota State a 4-2 lead.
Matt Leitner added an empty-net goal and Bemidji State's Nate Arentz would score in the game's closing seconds to bring the game to its' final total. Minnesota State goalie Stephon Williams would make 20 saves to earn his seventh win of the season, while Bemidji State's Andrew Walsh stopped 28 of 32 shots in a losing effort.
Michigan Tech will be the next opponent for each of these two teams. Bemidji State will host the Huskies next weekend, while Minnesota State will have next weekend off, before heading to Houghton.
Shots on Goal: MSU: 14-9-10-33 BSU: 5-9-8-22
Corsi(even strength shot attempts): MSU: 21-13-13-47 BSU: 9-16-17-42 (52.8% to 47.2% MSU)
Prime Scoring Area attempts: MSU: 10-7-10-27 BSU: 5-9-8-22
-We have to start with the big night for Teddy Blueger. Both Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings and Blueger himself had high praise for Bryce Gervais for taking up space in front of the net and taking away the eyes of the goalie. Hastings also credited Blueger for really camouflaging both his shots and being deceptive as to whether he was going to pass or shot. The third goal was just an effort play where Blueger tracked the puck in traffic and got to a dirty area on the ice for the easy goal. Shooting the puck more and becoming more of a dual-threat has been a focus for Blueger and that paid off for him tonight.
-Speaking of Gervais, he only picked up one assist--which was all he needed to push himself ahead of Cody Wydo and Jack Eichel in the national scoring race for now--but he was tremendous all night. I mentioned the screen he set on both of Blueger's first two goals. He also would have had the third assist on Blueger's third goal of the night. I'll have more on Gervais later in the week, but if he continues to play at the level he has been, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him stay among the national scoring leaders throughout the year.
-And right on the heels of Gervais is his teammate Matt Leitner, who now has 12 points in the year with a goal and an assist tonight. Leitner is one of the best passers I've seen. He makes so many great plays just look effortless. He could perhaps be a bit more selfish and shoot the puck a little more--his two empty-netters are his only two goals of the year--but he's dangerous any time he has the puck.
-Minnesota State was extremely impressive in the first period. Their top three lines were all rolling and were working the puck consistently around the Beavers' zone. There's just so much skill on those top three lines that they're very fun to watch when they get going.
But from the final minute of the first period through much of the second period, they also showed their biggest weakness, which is on the blue line. Give credit to Bemidji State for that. They're a tough team that refuses to go away quietly. They kept attacking Minnnesota State and were rewarded for it with some excellent chances.
The other worry for the Mavericks is in goal. Stephon Williams has a bit of a strange stat line so far this year in that he's got a very good sub-2.00 GAA(1.95 to be exact), but his save percentage is only .901. It's working right now because Minnesota State doesn't give up a lot of shots, but I don't know that MSU's goaltending can carry them through a bad game if need arose.
-Officiating was a mess in this game. Bemidji State got the short-end early on when Phil Marinaccio was called for lashing on a play where most assumed Minnesota State's Dylan Margonari would be receiving a penalty for clearly running into Bemidji State's goalie. Minnesota State would score shortly after that call to go up 3-0, a goal which ended up looming large when Bemidji State scored their second goal to make the game 3-2.
On the other end, Minnesota State's Brett Stern was called for a ten-minute game misconduct for saying something to official Brad Shepherd behind the play late in the first period. I have no idea what was said, but Stern had his back turned to Shepherd and was already halfway onto the bench when the call was made. That was definitely something that could have been let go.
Eight penalties were called in the second period, which included a lengthy, lengthy break to discuss how they were going to hand out coincidental minors after a minor skirmish behind the Minnesota State net after a whistle.
And finally, in the third period, CJ Franklin was whistled for a neutral zone check that was about as clean as a hit can be. The original call was terrible, but then the officials spent a good two minutes deliberating about the call at the scorer's table, which essentially gave Bemidji State a free timeout while the game was still in doubt. It was just an amateur job all around by the officiating crew tonight.
-Minnesota State took care of business this weekend with the sweep, and with the weekend off, should be ranked right around the top ten in the country in two weeks when they head to Houghton. Michigan Tech will have their hands full with a pesky Bemidji State team next weekend, but how fun would it be to see an undefeated Michigan Tech hosting a legit top ten team(sorry, Michigan)? Either way, that is setting up to be a great series between what should be the two best teams in the WCHA.
11:22-Brad McClure from Dylan Margonari 1-0 Minnesota State
Off a face-off at the left circle, Margonari won the puck cleanly to McClure on the right wing. McClure got a clean shot that Walsh stopped on the first attempt, but McClure was able to chip the rebound over Walsh for the goal.
15:27- Teddy Blueger from Jean-Paul LaFontaine and Bryce Gervais (power play) 2-0 Minnesota State
Blueger took a pass at the top of the point and fired a low wrist shot through traffic that beat a screened Walsh
16:26 Teddy Blueger from Matt Leitner and Casey Nelson (power play) 3-0 Minnesota State
Very similar to his first goal, Blueger fired a wrist shot from the top of the point on the power play that went through traffic and beat a screened Walsh. This
19:57- Phil Brewer from Sam Rendle and Mitch Cain 3-1 Minnesota State
Cain broke into the MSU zone with speed and beat an MSU defender to create a scoring chance. Stephon Williams made the first save, and stopped the first rebound shot by Rendle, but Brewer crashed the net and picked up a loose puck that he backhanded into an open net.
18:18 Graeme McCormack from Brett Beauvais and Myles Fitzgerald (power play) 3-2 Minnesota State
McCormack fired a high wrist shot from the top of the left circle that beat a screened Williams.
19:35 Teddy Blueger from CJ Franklin and Zach Palmquist 4-2 Minnesota State
Off an MSU rush, Franklin took a shot from the high slot. Andrew Walsh made the initial save, but the rebound trickled behind him and Blueger dove into the crease to knock the puck into the goal.
17:57 Matt Leitner (short-handed, empty-net) 5-2 Minnesota State
On the penalty kill, Leitner fired a slap shot from his the half-boards in his own zone and the puck found its' way into the empty net.
19:49 Nate Arentz from Myles Fitzgerald and Ruslan Pedan 5-3 Minnesota State
Fitzgerald shot a puck wide that ricocheted off the back boards. Arentz picked it up and stuffed it into the side of the net.