Lake Superior State's Gordy Defiel was the hero on Saturday night, setting a WCHA playoff regulation game playoff record with 57 saves in a 2-0 win to upset second seed Minnesota State and force a decisive game three in the Lakers WCHA playoff series against the Mavericks.
But needing that type of performance out of a goaltender to win is the definition of unsustainable, and on Sunday, the grim inevitably of Minnesota State's constant attack finally caught up to Defiel and the Lakers. The Mavericks scored a pair of power play goals to defeat the Lake Superior State 3-0, staving off the Lakers upset bid and extending their season by earning a trip to next weekend's WCHA Final Five.
It was Minnesota State's Brad McClure that got the Mavericks on the board with the game's all-important first goal at 9:38 of the first period. While on the man advantage, Minnesota State's Jon Jutzi took a shot from the top of the right cirlce into a mass of bodies in front of the net. On the resulting rebound, McClure found the loose puck that so many Mavericks had failed to find the night prior, and deposited it into the goal. The goal was McClure's second of the playoffs, matching his total from the regular season. McClure's goal was his 12th point in seven career WCHA playoff games.
The Mavericks would gain a critical insurance goal 10:13 into the second period when Casey Nelson scored on the power play--his 15th shot on goal on the weekend--to put the Mavericks up 2-0. A fantastic effort by Bryce Gervais along the boards put Teddy Blueger in a prime scoring position. Blueger opted to slide a pass to a wide open Nelson for a one-timed goal into a wide open net.
Trailing 2-0 heading into the third period, the Lakers tried to press to get back into the game, but Minnesota State connected on the counterattack to extend their lead. Teddy Blueger tried to make a pass across the crease on a 3-0 and his pass was deflected into the net by a Laker stick.
Minnesota State goalie Cole Huggins stopped all 22 shots for the shutout and the win. Defiel was fantastic again for the third straight game, making 29 stops on 32 shots in the losing effort.
The win advances Minnesota State to next weekend's Final Five semifinals where they will face Bowling Green on Friday. The Mavericks will need to win the Final Five to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Notes and Thoughts:
-Lake Superior State pulled off a miracle on Saturday night, winning despite being outshot 57-14. It was going to take another miracle for them to pull off the upset. Ironically, it was the Lakers that controlled the early stages of the game, jumping out to a 7-3 lead in shot after an early power play opportunity. But Minnesota State was able to convert on their first power play chance of the game and break out of the funk that Defiel put them in last night.
-Getting that first goal was the guy that came out of junior nicknamed Captain Clutch: Brad McClure. After really struggling through the regular season, McClure scored his second of the playoffs by fighting through traffic and getting his stick on a loose puck in front of the net.
-The power play was key for Minnesota State as the Lakers gave them nothing in terms of quality looks at 5-on-5. McClure's goal to break the seal was huge, and Casey Nelson's power play goal to extend the lead was a back-breaker against a team that didn't average two goals a game during the conference regular season.
That second goal was set up by a gritty play by senior Bryce Gervais, who won the puck off the boards with three Laker defenders battling for the puck. Gervais' play gave Teddy Blueger all the time and space he needed to set up Nelson for the easy goal.
-Nelson finished the weekend with one goal, but perhaps more impressive, 16 shots on goal in the three game series. I've been among the more skeptical of Nelson as a top college free agent--sometimes you get picky when you see a player that many times--but he's looked like a pro in the second half of the season for Minnesota State.
-Down 2-0 after two periods, Lake Superior State had to start gambling and being more aggressive in the third period. That immediately backfired as Minnesota State scored early in the third period, and with Lake Superior having little left in the tank, mostly results in numerous odd-man rushes for Minnesota State.
-This weekend was a tremendous effort from Lake Superior State. They're definitely headed in the right direction. I've said this before, but if I had to bet on the next WCHA program to make it into the elite of the league with Minnesota State, Michigan Tech, and Bowling Green, I would pick Lake Superior State over anyone else.
-Along those lines, freshman forward Mitch Hults was so impressive this weekend. Hults committed to Minnesota as a walk-on last spring, and at the last minute, got a scholarship offer to Lake Superior State that he ended up taking. That was a tough break for the Gophers. Put Hults on Minnesota's fourth line and Minnesota might already be in the NCAA Tournament this year. It was a great move for Hults though, who is seeing as much ice time as he can handle in every situation for the Lakers. He'll be an NHL free agent target at some point in his career.
-Minnesota State's Bryce Gervais set school records tonight playing in his 161st career game, and 161st consecutive game. His final game at the Verizon Wireless Center ended the right way with one final win to give him and the Mavericks a 57-17-3 record in this building over his four year career. For comparison's sake, the Mavericks won exactly 57 games total in the four years prior to the arrival of Gervais and the rest of a very good senior class. They haven't just left their mark here; they've really built Minnesota State's program and taken it to another level.
Shots on goal: MSU: 11-11-10-32 LSSU: 9-4-9-23
Even strength shot attempts: MSU: 23- 15- 13-51-62.9% LSSU: 10-6-14-30-37.1%
Prime scoring area attempts: MSU: 8-5-11-24 LSSU: 2-5-5-12
What do the numbers tell us?
Minnesota State dominated possession for the third straight game of this series. Not only did the Mavericks control the puck more, but they were getting much better quality of shots, and mostly held the Lakers to the perimeter.
9:38 Brad McClure from Jon Jutzi and CJ Franklin (power play) 1-0 Minnesota State
Jutzi took a shot from the top of the right circle into a mass of bodies in front of the net. The rebound ended up behind Defiel and McClure was able to get a stick on the puck to put it into the net.
10:13 Casey Nelson from Teddy Blueger and Bryce Gervais (power play) 2-0 Minnesota State
Gervais won the puck off the right half boards with three Laker defenders battling in the vicinity. That allowed Blueger to walk the puck into the slot, fake a shot, and slide a pass to Nelson at the left face-off circle. With a wide open net to shoot at, Nelson put a one-timer into the back of the net.
0:38 Teddy Blueger from Bryce Gervais and Carter Foguth 3-0 Minnesota State
Blueger took a pass from Gervais on a 3-on-1 rush. Blueger tried to make a pass across the crease from the left side, and his pass deflected off the stick of a back-checking Laker and into the net.