A quick start by Lake Superior State could not be sustained in the first game of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Semifinals, as the Lakers fell 2-1 to Minnesota State – Mankato on Friday night.
With the semifinals being a best of 3 affair, Lake Superior must win on Saturday to keep its season alive in their quest for the league tourney crown.
Lake Superior (23-12-2) got on the board first when senior captain Diego Cugletta got in the Maverick zone on a 2 on 1 and fired the puck over the left shoulder of Minnesota State netminder Dryden McKay.
For Cuglietta, it was goal number 25 on the season and point number 100 in his collegiate career, as the forward from Kamloops, British Columbia, became the first Laker to reach the century mark since Dominic Monardo did so with a goal in a 3-0 win over Northern Michigan in 2013.
Two goals by the Mavericks (30-7-2) later that period quickly turned the Laker lead into a deficit. Charlie Gerard scored his eleventh goal of the year on a breakaway that beat Laker goalie Nick Kossoff on the glove side at 6:18 of the first. 1:02 later, Walker Duehr made it 2-1 Mankato by collecting a pass from behind the net and firing it point-blank at the net, giving Kossoff little chance.
With the Mavericks styming the Lakers at nearly every turn, a comeback just wasn’t in the cards for the visitors. The Lakers were 0 for 5 with the man advantage and had a remarkably difficult time setting anything up on their chances. Even pulling Kossoff for an extra attacker proved difficult, as Lake Superior could not maintain zone possession long enough to get their netminder pulled.
Early in the third, Minnesota State briefly appeard to go up 3-1, as Gerard put the puck in the net while being taken down by Laker defenseman Steven Ruggiero. A review disallowed the goal, but permitted a penalty shot, which Kossoff deflected up high and away.
In net, Kossoff made 29 saves on 31 shots, while McKay stopped 20 of 21 to collect the win.
Since New Year’s, the Mavericks have allowed just 25 goals in 19 games. Of the 19 games, they have allowed more than 2 just once, a 5-3 win against Lake Superior.
Lake Superior will look to extend their season tonight, as they aim to hand the Mavericks just their second loss on home ice all season (a 1-0 win by the Lakers on January 19th was the first). Game time is at 8:07 p.m. EST.