Knowles’ overtime goal helps top UNDMANKATO, Minn. — The University of North Daktoa won’t be grabbing one last MacNaughton Cup for the road.
By: Brad Schlossman, Forum News Service
MANKATO, Minn. — The University of North Daktoa won’t be grabbing one last MacNaughton Cup for the road.
Minnesota State-Mankato forward Brett Knowles scored with 1 minute, 38 seconds left in overtime to spoil UND’s hopes at grabbing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s championship trophy in its final year before leaving for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
The goal lifted the Mavericks to a 2-1 victory in front of 5,088 fans in Verizon Wireless Center.
Had UND won the game — and it had plenty of chances in the overtime session — it would have shared the conference title with St. Cloud State and Minnesota.
“It stings to lose it in overtime when a different result in overtime would have gave us the opportunity to have a piece of the MacNaughton Cup,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol, whose team found out after regulation that St. Cloud State had lost to give UND that chance.
“That being said, it’s done. We’ve got playoffs.”
UND will enter the WCHA playoffs with the No. 3 seed and will host Michigan Tech in the first round beginning Friday in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Even if UND had won the game, the team would have had the third seed in league play because it lost tiebreakers to the Huskies and Gophers.
But that didn’t come into play.
Jean-Paul Lafontaine made a nice backdoor feed to Knowles, who tapped home the winner. The Mavericks piled up in the corner to celebrate the victory, which clinched home ice for the playoffs for their team.
UND scored a goal in the opening 63 seconds on Saturday night, but couldn’t get anything else past rookie standout Stephon Williams, who finished with 30 saves. The biggest stops came against UND freshman Rocco Grimaldi in the extra session. He had a chance on a two-on-one and another as he cut across the slot.
“From the start of the game, I had a lot of opportunities,” said Grimaldi, who had a game-high eight shots on goal. “In the first period, I had a couple of chances on the breakaway and the backdoor chance. It just wasn’t going in for me, so I’m pretty upset with myself right now. I feel that if I would have buried at least one of those, we wouldn’t have even had to go into overtime. But that happens. I’m going to try to forget about this one and move on.”
The goal by Knowles helped Minnesota State shake its terrible fortunes against UND in recent years. It marked only the second time that the Mavericks have topped UND in this building in the last decade and snapped a 10-game losing streak against UND, which fell to 19-10-7 overall and finished league play at 14-7-7.
UND got off to a great start, outshooting the Mavericks 13-3 early and taking a lead on a goal by Danny Kristo.
On the top line’s first shift of the game, its new left winger Brendan O’Donnell fired a shot high on Williams from the right circle.
Williams unknowingly dropped the puck at his feet and Kristo raced in and knocked it home.
The Mavericks were able to tie the game with just 25 seconds left in the second period when Dylan Margonari led a rush up the left wing and fired a shot off the far post and in.
The Mavericks had the better of the chance in the third period, but UND goalie Zane Gothberg (35 saves) put together his second straight outstanding game and held Minnesota State at bay.
“Tremendous,” Hakstol said about the goaltending. “On both ends. Use whatever adjective you want to describe it. It was excellent at both ends.”
The overtime period was wide open.
UND moved Grimaldi up to the top line with Kristo and Corban Knight and the trio immediately created some offense. Grimaldi had two outstanding opportunities. The first was on a two-on-one rush. The second was after he got a defenseman down and out of the play and snapped a shot from the slot area.
The Mavericks came back down the other way and got the winning goal.
“Obviously, we were excited to get out there and hopefully get a piece of the MacNaughton Cup,” Grimaldi said. “It would have been great to get a split of that. But that wasn’t our main goal at the beginning of the year. It’s always been Pittsburgh.”
Notes: Grimaldi, who registered eight shots on goal, had an eight-game point streak snapped. . . UND is now 19-2-1 against the Mavericks in the last 22 meetings.