Mankato, MN - 18th-ranked Minnesota State extended its unbeaten streak to ten games Friday night as it earned a 3-2 victory over Northern Michigan in the opening round of the WCHA Playoffs in front of 2,157 fans at Verizon Wireless Center in downtown Mankato.
The win pushed MSU's record to 23-13-1 on the season, including a 15-1-1 mark inside its own barn.
Freshman goaltender Cole Huggins earned his 18th victory of the season with the win as he turned away 16 of the 18 shots he faced.
The Mavericks cracked the scoreboard first at the 3:44 mark of the first period when junior Matt Leitner sniped one into the twine on assists from sophomore Bryce Gervais and senior Josh Nelson. The tally was the tenth of the season for Leitner and the 38th of his career.
Minnesota State added a power play marker at the 4:24 mark of the second period to open a 2-0 lead as Gervais tallied 13th of the season.
MSU tallied another power play goal at the 8:23 mark of the second as freshman defenseman Sean Flanagan beat Mathias Dahlstrom with a blast from the point for his sixth goal of the season.
NMU got on the board at the15:01 mark of the second period when Shane Sooth wired a shot the beat Huggins high on the stick side, cutting the Maverick lead to 3-1, which is how the game remained with the two teams entering the locker room at the second intermission.
The Wildcats added another goal at the 3:32 mark of the third when Brock Maschmeyer scored a power-play goal, before MSU held on for the win. NMU pulled its goaltender for an extra attacker with 52 seconds remaining, but failed to record a shot on net. Dahlstrom finished the game with 22 saves.
With the loss NMU falls to 15-20-2 for the year.
The two teams continue their best-of-three series Saturday with a 7:07 p.m., puck drop scheduled for Verizon Civic Center.
Notes: This marks the fifth time that Minnesota State has hosted a first-round WCHA playoff series...MSU is 12-13 all-time in WCHA playoff appearances and is 8-3 in first round home games...Leitner has scored at least a point in ten of his last 12 games and snapped a eight-game goalless streak...Additionally with his goal, Leitner became the fourth Maverick to record ten or more goals this season...Gervais extended his scoring streak to four games, the longest active streak on the team...Gervais had a goal and assist in marked his third multi-point game of the season...Gervais has now scored eight goals in the last 12 games...MSU is 12-3-0 when Gervais tallies at least one point...Nelson's assist was his first since Jan 24 against Minnesota Duluth...Blueger finished with his fourth multi-point game of the year with two assists in tonight's with, while Stephan tallied his fifth multi-point game (two assists)...Flanagan's goal was his third game-winning goal of the season...Minnesota State is 16-0-0 when leading after two periods this season.