Playing underneath a brand new video scoreboard, Minnesota State picked up their first home win of the season and third consecutive win with a 5-2 victory over Alaska-Fairbanks on Friday night at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato.
The Mavericks picked up first period goals from a trio of defensemen to build a 3-0 lead they would not relinquish. The Nanooks made a push for a comeback with two goals in the first minutes of the second period to make it a 3-2 game, but Bryce Gervais' goal at 10:11 of the period stopped the rally. Sean Flanagan would add his second goal of the night in the third period as insurance in the 5-2 win.
Jason Pawloski made 13 saves for his second career victory, while Davis Jones stopped 40 shots in the loss. The win moves Minnesota State to 3-4-0 on the season, while Fairbanks in 2-3-0 on the year.
-Minnesota State had given up the first goal of the game in each of their first six games. Tonight, they got the first goal of the game after an impressive power play yielded a goal six seconds after the penalty expired. Their puck movement, both 5-on-5 and on the power play was much more crisp than in the early weeks of the season. The way their power play is set up, it generates a lot of shots from the point, and it helps that a few of those are starting to find some holes, something that didn't happen early in the season.
-Playing from ahead really changed the dynamic of this game. Alaska-Fairbanks was forced to use their forwards a little more aggressively when playing from behind, which meant Minnesota State was often facing just two defenders instead of three when trying to enter the zone on the counterattack. That allowed Minnesota State to use their speed and take advantage of a very slow UAF defense. The end result was a lot of easy, clean zone entry for the Mavericks, and a lot of time spent chasing the puck in their own zone for the Nanooks.
-There was a really nice pushback by Fairbanks to start the second period after a dreadful first period. They got two quick goals and all of a sudden, what looked like a comfortable lead for Minnesota State was not so safe. Minnesota State's fourth goal, which looked a little bit soft, was a back-breaker though. The Nanooks managed just one shot on goal in the third period.
The Nanooks just don't have the depth to skate with a team like Minnesota State for sixty minutes, but if they can get one of those spurts at the right time and build a lead, they could ugly things up enough for the rest of the game to steal points from anybody.
-I felt like the Nanooks got the short end of the stick a few times from the officials, especially in the third period, but that frustration boiled over in an ugly way with Josh Atkinson taking a five-minute major penalty for a high cross check, and then Tyler Morley delivering a pretty nasty cheap shot away from the puck late in the third period. It would be very surprising if he is not suspended for tomorrow's game. UPDATE: Here's a Vine of the hit by Morley.