Goals on separate major power plays were the difference as No. 4 Minnesota State defeated UAH 3-1 on Friday in the opening game of the WCHA quarterfinal series in Mankato, Minn.
Connor Merkley scored for the Chargers in the second period to pull within one, but MSU clamped down and held UAH to two shots on goal in the third.
Game 2 of the series is Saturday at 4:07 p.m. Central Time. The game was pushed up three hours ahead of a winter storm expected to hit southern Minnesota Saturday night.
Minnesota State (28-7-2) put the Chargers off balance at the start and it lead to the first goal of the game. A wide open Walker Duehr cleaned up a rebound, snapping the puck past Mark Sinclair at the 5:09 mark of the game.
That was the only blemish on Sinclair’s record in the period, as he made some clutch saves to keep UAH (8-27-2) within one.
The Chargers started to get their bearings as the first period wore on, and began to get a few looks on Maverick goaltender Dryden McKay.
UAH was dealt a blow early in the second period, when Andrew Dodson elbowed Jack McNeely near his face in a corner of the UAH end. After a lengthy video review, officials determined that it was contact to the head, ending Dodson’s night with a game misconduct and putting the Mavericks on a major power play.
Minnesota State would get one goal by Marc Michaelis about a minute into the five-minute advantage to take a 2-0 lead.
The Chargers withstood the rest of the power play, and then got three power plays of their own in the second. UAH would not convert, although they did allow the Chargers to keep the puck away from the high-powered Mavericks.
But UAH did eventually cut MSU’s lead to 2-1 with 3:32 left in the second. Connor Merkley poked in a rebound under McKay on Dayne Finnson’s shot up the middle for his third goal of the season. Madison Dunn earned his 10th assist of the season on the play.
Sinclair had to come up big to keep it a one-goal game at the second intermission, making big saves on Michaelis and Reggie Lutz in the final half-minute.
The Chargers did not give themselves much of a chance to find the equalizer early in the third period. Brandon Salerno had a hooking penalty, and after UAH killed that one, Kurt Gosselin drew a five-minute major (but no game misconduct) after his high stick hit the face of Lutz.
It was on the Mavericks’ second major power play of the night that Michaelis struck again with his second goal of the night and extended their lead to 3-1 with 14:34 remaining. Minnesota State was 2-for-5 combined on the man advantage.
After that, the Mavericks basically pinned the Chargers, who couldn’t get hardly anything going offensively. They also peppered Sinclair, who finished with 32 saves.
For the game, MSU outshot UAH 35-13.