CANTON — St. Lawrence, by its own admission, did not play its best hockey against Minnesota State on Friday at Appleton Arena.
It was a game that the Saints of two months ago would have lost. Friday, St. Lawrence persevered through the tribulations and put together a valiant third-period effort to take a 4-3 nonconference win.
“We have more confidence now,” St. Lawrence associate head coach Mike Hulrbut said. “Early in the season, it’s a loss for us.”
St. Lawrence (8-10-2 overall) gave up a tying goal late in the second period and Minnesota’s Jean-Paul LaFontaine put the Mavericks ahead, 3-2, at 11 minutes, 14 seconds of the third.
Minnesota State (5-15-1) made a critical error three minutes later when Justin Jokinen went to the box for high sticking. It gave St. Lawrence’s power play, operating at 20 percent efficiency, a seventh chance to score. The Saints were 1 for 6 on the man-advantage to that point in the game.
“We took a penalty that you can’t take,” Minnesota State head coach Troy Jutting said. “They took good advantage of that.”
All game, SLU’s top scoring threat Greg Carey was thwarted on shots from the slot. The power play was mostly ineffective until Carey, drawing the defense, passed up the shot and found Patrick Doherty just left of the crease to knot it at 3-3 at 14:41 of the third.
“You have to score on that power play,” Doherty said. “(Carey) just draws everyone to him. I can stand there back door and he basically just shoots it off my stick. We knew that would give us a great chance because there was a good amount of time left.”
Less than 90 seconds later, Gunnar Hughes netted his second career goal on a slap shot from just inside the blue line that sailed over Minnesota State goalie Austin Lee’s left shoulder. Mark Armstrong also found that hole at 9:19 of the second.
“We kind of saw that (Lee) was always going down,” Hughes said. “We saw that in the first period and everyone was thinking about going up top. I was due.”
It put closure on a game during which St. Lawrence primarily struggled. It started promisingly enough for the Saints. Kyle Flanagan, playing in his third game back from an upper body injury, scored the first goal, on a power play at 12:28 of the first period.
St. Lawrence dominated the early portion of the period, but struggled late and nearly gave up a short-handed goal. The poor play spilled into the second period, when Matt Leitner tied it for Minnesota State just 3:27 into the frame.
Armstrong’s score put the Saints back up by one, but Johnny McInnis tied it again on a power play at 12:59.
“We came out pretty good in the first and let them back in it in the second, and they took the game over for a little bit,” Hurlbut said. “We were really disappointed with our second period. It was a good response by the guys. The scored when they had to.”
Flanagan finished with a goal and an assist to lead the Saints. He now has 10 goals and 11 assists in 12 games. His 1.75 points per game would lead the nation, but he hasn’t met the minimum games played requirement. George Hughes, who also missed time with an injury, had two assists on the night.
“They didn’t look like they missed any time at all,” Hurlbut said. “At the same time, while they were out, the rest of the team picked up the slack and improved.”
Gunnar Hughes interview
Patrick Doherty interview
Patrick Doherty goal
Kyle Flanagan goal