Team of the Week: Minnesota State
by Dan Myers/CHN Staff
MANKATO, Minn. In two previous years at the Shillelagh Tournament in Hoffman Estates, Ill., host Notre Dame had yet to lose a game.
That changed Friday when Minnesota State rolled into town, jumped ahead early, fell behind, then roared back late to escape with a 4-3 win.
Less than 24 hours later, the Mavericks overcame dead legs in the first period and rolled to a 7-3 win over Brown (which dispatched Boston University 6-1 the day before) to capture the tournament championship.
"To beat a team like [Notre Dame] in their own tournament, a tournament where they haven't lost and won the previous two championships, it's a big win for us," said Mavericks head coach Troy Jutting. "That will hopefully be an added bonus for us towards the end of the year."
"It's always nice to bring home some hardware," added Mavericks captain Rylan Galiardi. "It's also big for us in the Pairwise and beating some nonconference teams."
It was an especially good weekend for junior forward Michael Dorr, who had perhaps his best weekend as a Maverick. He tallied an assist in MSU's first goal of the game against the No. 12 Irish, then scored the game winning goal with 23 seconds remaining in regulation.
Dorr added a pair of goals in the title game against Brown, including the team's second goal, which gave MSU a 2-1 lead and an advantage they wouldn't relinquish. He also assisted on the Mavs' third goal.
The five-point outburst will likely be enough to capture WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors when that award is announced Wednesday.
"We need Michael to score for us," Jutting said. "Obviously, that's an area we have struggled with this year, so the fact that, not only did he score five points, but three goals, that's big for us. He's been a scorer, he's scored his whole life, so hopefully this weekend will give him some confidence."
Junior defenseman Cameron Cooper and Illinois-native Phil Cook also turned in solid weekends for the Mavericks. For Cooper, his three point weekend matched his career point total from his freshman and sophomore seasons combined. Cook stopped 34 shots in the win over Notre Dame and had 24 saves against Brown. Andrew Sackrison chipped in with a pair of assists in both games and Eli Zuck had his first career three point outing in the win over the Bears.
Cook, a Wheaton, Ill., native, has had quite the last year. He made the squad last season as the team's third goalie. He got his first starts in a Christmas break sweep of Bemidji State and started all three playoff games. Now, just over a year after his first start, the sophomore has seemingly nailed down the No. 1 job on a nightly basis.
"I don't think the start of the year went as well as Phil would have liked, but when Phil's playing well, we're a hard team to beat," Galiardi said. "We have confidence in him and I think he's showed he can be a No. 1 for us. He's been an anchor back there."
The victories provided the Mavericks an opportunity to restart a winning streak that could, and probably should, reach four games by the time Denver comes to town for a home series Jan. 14 and 15. MSU will host American International this weekend at the Verizon Wireless Center. The Mavericks are 4-0-2 in nonconference games so far this season and unbeaten over their last eight games outside the WCHA.
The Mavericks hope their recent better play will lead to better things in the second half of the season. When the team reached its high water mark of 11-9-2 after wins against RIT last season, MSU lost seven of its next eight games back in the WCHA, relegating the team to a eighth place finish and trip to the National Hockey Center to open the playoffs.
"I think we've learned some things this year, we played well against North Dakota and I think we could have won that first game at Denver," Galiardi said. "In the WCHA, every game is going to be close, most nights it's going to be a one goal game.
"We've had some young guys come along the last few weeks and have learned what it's like to play college hockey. We know that if we want to win games, it's going to take a full effort for all three periods."