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Minnesota State Cruises Past Northern Michigan with Big First Period

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It was a rocky unofficial first portion of the season for Minnesota State. The Mavericks only managed to squeeze in five games between Covid cancellations and dropped a game to Michigan Tech and tied one with Bemidji State. But the WCHA preseason favorites looked ready to go in their league opener on Saturday as they scored four times in the first 14 minutes of the game to cruise to a 5-0 victory at Northern Michigan.

Here was the final scoring:

First Period

5:16 Jared Spooner from Brendan Furry 1-0 Minnesota State

Facing a heavy Minnesota State forecheck, a Northern Michigan defender overskated a puck behind his own net, leading to a turnover. Furry made a quick pass out to Spooner in the right circle, and his quick shot beat the goalie.

7:49 Nathan Smith from Akito Hirose and Cade Borchardt (power play) 2-0 Minnesota State

Borchardt passed the puck to Hirose at the top of the point. Hirose faked a shot, then slid a pass over to Smith for a wide open one-timer goal.

10:43 Cade Borchardt from Nathan Smith 3-0 Minnesota State

Smith intercepted a weak clearing attempt by Northern Michigan and found Borchardt all alone in front of the net for the goal.

13:20 Julian Napravnik from Akito Hirose and Nathan Smith (power play) 4-0 Minnesota State

Hirose chipped a loose puck along the right boards to Napravnik. Napravnik was given space to skate to the middle of the ice and he fired a wrist shot for the goal.

Second Period

None

Third Period

13:18 Dallas Gerads from Reggie Lutz and Todd Burgess (power play) 5-0 Minnesota State

Jake Jaremko won a face-off in the left circle back to Burgess, who pushed the puck to Lutz at the right point. Lutz took a shot that was deflected by Gerads into the net.

Notes and Thoughts:

-There’s not too much to say about this one because it was over early. The Mavericks took advantage of a very slow start by Northern Michigan that included a couple bad turnovers in their own end, added a couple power play goals it was 4-0 before the Wildcats could even get into the game.

Things slowed down after that, but that mostly seemed to be a case of the Mavericks taking their foot off the gas a little bit due to score effects.

-This is the third time I’ve seen Northern Michigan play this year and they’ve been equally unimpressive each of the three times I’ve seen them. You could maybe chalk some of this up to it being a weird year with the pandemic. But it’s looking like this could end up being the third straight year the Wildcats winning percentage has decreased since Grant Potulny’s surprise 25-win season in his first year in Marquette. It’s not time to push the panic button, but it may at least be time to locate it.

-Cade Borchardt had a goal and an assist tonight, extending his lead as the Mavericks’ leading scorer with eight points in six games. Borchardt saw limited action last year as a rookie on a deep Maverick team. He only played in ten games and didn’t register a point. It really speaks to the way Minnesota State has been able to develop and replace talent in recent years to continue their success.

-Another game and another highlight reel assist for freshman defenseman Akito Hirose, who set up Nathan Smith for a pretty one-timer goal. Hirose’s older brother Taro was one of the top available NCAA free agents a couple years ago with Michigan State, and if Akito continues on this track, he may be too in a few years.

-Speaking of Nathan Smith, the most notable part of his first five games of the season were a couple exceptionally bad penalties that he took. He had a goal and two assists tonight though. If the Mavericks can get the Winnipeg Jets prospect going in the second half, he’s got the physical talent that few players in the WCHA possess, and makes Minnesota State even more dangerous.