The Bemidji State men's hockey team had the crowd at the John Glas Fieldhouse on its feet roaring loudly Friday, having just scored the tying goal 4:11 into the third period. Bemidji State kept up the pressure after knotting the score at 1-1 and looked ready to connect on the go-ahead goal.
Then the roof caved in.
After the officials did not call a single illegal contact penalty the entire game, BSU junior forward Matt Read was whistled for a five minute major for elbowing-contact to the head.
And the Mavericks made the home team pay - big time.
MSU scored three power play goals in less than two minutes to take a commanding 4-1 lead and went on to defeat Bemidji State 5-1. Before it was over MSU scored four times on the power play to post the victory.
The Mavericks scored the first goal, near the midway point of the first period. MSU held onto the lead into the early parts of the third when the Beavers connected on the equalizer. But then the MSU power play took over.
"I thought Mankato controlled most of the first period," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "But I was very happy with how the guys responded and pleased with the way they played the second and into the third - until the major penalty. After that first period we played on our toes and when we do that, we're a pretty good team."
Mankato State got the first goal, always a plus when playing on the road. Zach Harrison got control of the puck and zipped around the BSU net, attempting a wraparound. BSU goalie Dan Bakala made the save but the rebound went to Tyler Thompson, who connected for his first goal of the year. The goal at 10:22 gave MSU the 1-0 lead.
The Mavericks lived up to their billing as a fast, high pressure team and kept the Beavers out of an offensive flow most of the first period. The Beavers had a couple good chances to score, the best coming when a rebound off a shot from Matt Read came out to Ben Kinne, but he was unable to corral the bouncing puck and find the open net.
MSU maintained the one goal lead through the second, despite considerable pressure by the Beavers. Bemidji State controlled the puck for long stretches, but the MSU defense stood tall and kept them off the board.
The Beavers best chance to score came near the midway point of the period as defenseman Brad Hunt ripped a shot from the point that deflected just wide.
Emil Billberg also generated a good chance with a strong move to the net. His backhand was saved with the rebound going to the side of the net. Darcy Findlay had a hard time gathering in the rebound and couldn't get off a shot.
The Beavers held a 12-9 shot advantage in the period.
"Mankato has a strong team and at times they made it difficult to penetrate," Serratore said. "But we were to move the puck well and keep the pressure on for some long stretches."
MSU was called for a bench penalty for too many men on the ice at 2:34 of the third and the Beavers converted. Brad Hunt slid a pass to Ian Lowe at the blue line with Lowe moving in on MSU goalie Phil Cook. His wrist shot from the near face off circle cleanly beat Cook to make it 1-1 with just less than 16 minutes left.
The Beavers kept up the pressure and held at 10-1 shot advantage in the period with 14 minutes left. Then came the big penalty. Jerad Stewart, Kael Mouillerat and Tyler Pitlick all scored during the major to make it 4-1. The Mavericks added another power play tally at 16:04 as Stewart scored his second of the night. It was all over for the Beavers from there.
"Mankato out special-teamed us," Serratore said. "That's the difference in a lot of games. We needed a break to go our way and it didn't get one."
The Beavers did have a chance early in the major as Tyler Lehrke blocked a shot, picked up the rebound and went in alone on Cook. The MSU goalie, however, came up big and made the save on Lehrke's backhand attempt. If he would have scored it would have made the score 2-2 at that point.
Shots ended even for the night with both teams generating 31. Bakala experienced just his second loss of the year, falling to 10-2-1. Cook got the victory in net for MSU, making his first start of the season.
"It's going to be another battle (Saturday)," Serratore said. "They have a tough team and we haven't matched up well against them. We have to be ready for another tough game."
The teams conclude the series tonight in a 7:05 p.m. start for The Glas.