Mavericks Secure Historic Sweep
Minnesota State takes two from Minnesota for the first time in program history
by Dan Myers/CHN Staff
MINNEAPOLIS With 22 seconds remaining Saturday at Mariucci Arena, Minnesota State goaltender Mike Zacharias stood in his crease on the precipice of Maverick hockey history.
His team led 2-1 and was just two dozen seconds away from its first sweep of Minnesota in program history.
“It’s fun, that’s why we play the game,” Zacharias said.
An empty-net goal by Zach Harrison capped the sweep and sent the Maroon and Gold faithful streaming for the exits.
For the Mavericks’ Brian Kilburg, who’s watched many-a-game from the Mariucci Arena stands (his father was a long time Minnesota season ticket holder), the experience was an extra special one.
“To come in here, and not only get a win but a sweep, this is something that will stick out in my mind forever,” Kilburg said.
Credit the Minnesota State penalty kill for lending a huge hand in the victories this weekend. The goats in last weekend’s pair of losses to Minnesota Duluth, the Mavericks allowed the high-powered Gophers only two power play goals all weekend (both Friday), while scoring two shorthanded goals of their own.
The biggest goal of the game Saturday was a shorty by unheralded junior forward James Gaulrapp late in the first period. The goal, which ended as the game winner, was pretty. Gaulrapp took the puck off Jake Hansen’s stick, beat him to it and held off Patrick White between the circles. He deeked Alex Kangas and had just enough space between the post and the goal line to flip the puck over Kangas’ left leg pad.
“I thought it was going to hit the side of the net,” Gaulrapp said. “As soon as I saw that space open up, I just decided to see what I could do with it.”
“We hit, we killed penalties… those are the things we haven’t been doing the last couple of months,” Zacharias said. “Our penalty kill just hasn’t been there and this weekend they made some big plays. A couple of short-handed goals always helps too.”
Of course, as grand as it may have been in the moment, getting the sweep does not cure all ills. A once-promising season had been slipping away quickly from the Mavericks prior to this weekend. Losers of 10 of its previous 13 games, Minnesota State was in danger of falling well below .500 and off the Pairwise map. After last season’s knock-down, drag-out with the Gophers in the playoffs, many had high hopes for a Maverick team which didn’t lose much off last year’s team.
As it stands, the Mavericks are in seventh place, one point out of fourth, but having played more games than any team in the conference.
“It’s definitely been a long time coming,” Zacharias said. “Especially after that series last year, where we had our chances to bury them.”
The wins not only put the Mavericks back into contention for home-ice in the WCHA playoffs, it vaulted them back into Pairwise consideration. It also gave MSU the season comparison victory over the Gophers (2-1-1).
“We obviously had a tough stretch there, and this league is not good, it’s great. You have to be on top of your game every night,” said Mavericks coach Troy Jutting. “We just didn’t have that continuity to be on top of our game every night.”
A season saving series perhaps?
“In terms of save our season, I don’t know if our season was ever over,” Jutting said. “But this is what we needed to show our kids, this is what we need to be and this is how we need to play, in order to be successful in this league.”