For the first time in program history, a Minot State University men's club hockey game was broadcast across the area on local television.
The Beavers could've had a better public showing.
MSU surrendered the game's first four goals and was held scoreless for the opening 47:55 in a 4-2 loss to third-ranked Ohio University on Saturday at Maysa Arena. A Beavers win would have all but assured them a top-five seed in the national tournament come March.
Minot State University goaltender Riley Hengen makes a stop on a shot by Ohio University’s Nicholas Hudeck (7) on Saturday at Maysa Arena.
Less than 24 hours after a hard-fought 4-3 victory against the Bobcats, MSU didn't appear to have anything left in the tank for the second matchup. Ohio came out firing and never let up, leaving Minot with a weekend split against the defending national champions.
The Bobcats (21-6-1) dictated the tempo in the first period, spending most of the opening 20 minutes in the MSU's defensive zone. Ohio peppered Beavers goaltender Riley Hengen with shot after shot until sophomore forward Michael Harris found an opening behind the junior netminder at 11:46 of the first period.
"We didn't play very well in the first period," MSU coach Wade Regier said. "In fact, it was one of our worst first periods. It's frustrating because it's a big game. (Ohio) came out fired up and kind of took it to us for the better half of the first part of the game."
It didn't get much better in the second period as the Bobcats added two more goals to stretch their lead to 3-0. Ohio senior forward Brett Agnew atoned for a slashing penalty earlier in the second period by scoring the Bobcats' second goal of the game at 6:18. A missed checked at the MSU defensive blue line allowed Agnew to skate in on net unaccounted for and bury a shot glove side past Hengen.
"We had a slow start the first half of the game and against a team like that, you can't do that," MSU junior forward Michael Jordan said. "They have a good hockey team and they're going to capitalize on their chances. We just didn't come out with the right amount of energy to start with."
The Bobcats made it a three-goal lead on the power play midway through the second period. At the tail end of MSU defenseman Brad Olynyk's hooking penalty, Ohio freshman
forward Patrick Spellacy batted in an airborne puck off a rebound on Hengen's glove side. Hengen made the initial save on Ohio forward Matt Hartman, but the rebound came to Spellacy on the opposite side of the net and he quickly swatted in the puck before Hengen had time to slide over.
"The biggest thing about this whole season is that we have a target on our back," Regier said. "They're
motivated, especially (Ohio). We knocked them out of the national tournament. They were a little upset and ready to go. For our guys, we just did come hard out of the gates and maybe that's on my end."
MSU's frustration boiled over early in the third period after Agnew scored his second goal of the game just 53 seconds into the frame to give Ohio a four-goal lead. After Mitch Peeke was taken out at center ice on a hard hit that led to the goal, MSU forward Josh Rutherford was called for charging on the ensuing faceoff. A 10-minute misconduct and two game misconducts followed after Rutherford had choice words for the officials.
"It's tough because emotions are running high," Regier said. "Missed call and I know our guys were fired up, but the problem is you can't change that. You can't take your focus off the task at hand and unfortunately things boil over, but at the same token it fired them up."
Freshman forward Jeremy Johnson got the Beavers on the board with a power-play goal at 7:55 of the third period. Olynyk and Jordan were credited with the assists. Forward Logan Herauf added another power-play goal with 4:07 left, but the Beavers ran out of time on their comeback attempt.
MSU travels to Dakota College at Bottineau on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.