MANKATO, Minn. – Jake Jackson scored with 4:54 left in overtime to send Michigan Tech to the WCHA Championship Game for the second year in a row. The Huskies defeated No. 3 Minnesota State 2-1 Sunday (March 11) to win the best-of-three WCHA Semifinal series for the second consecutive season over the Mavericks.
"I'm incredibly proud of our group for the effort they put in," Tech coach Joe Shawhan said. "I'm proud of our staff, and I'm happy that we can keep our season alive for our great university. I'm also happy that our league can get another team into the national tournament, knowing that Minnesota State will get an at-large bid."
The two teams combined for 18 penalties in the first two periods. An evenly-played third period saw no players sent to the box to set up overtime.
Munson then made the biggest save of the game with 8:00 left when he gloved down a shot by Brad McCLure on a 2-on-1.
Just over 3:00 later Jackson carried the puck across center ice and into the MSU zone, going up against three defenders. He fired a wrist shot from the top of the circles past Connor LaCouvee who was screened by his own players. The unassisted goal was Jackson's second of the game, third of playoffs, and 12th of the season.
"I was just trying to get it over the red line, and then I saw a loose gap when I came across the blue line," Jackson said. "I tried to get it through that screen like I did earlier in the game when I missed the net. This one just had eyes, so it worked out."
"I was just hoping we would get one good shot and one good look at the net," added Shawhan. "Jake has just that little extra burst of speed that most guys don't have. He made a good cut to the middle, and his shot got screened. We had a good look at it from our angle, and it was great to see it go in the net."
Jackson gave the Huskies the lead 6:09 into the second period with a power-play goal from Brent Baltus and Seamus Donohue. Out of the corner, Baltus fed a backhand pass to Jackson in the slot after getting a feed from Donohue. It was Jackson's third power-play goal of the season and the second time this year he had a two-goal game at the Verizon Center.
"I had so much family here this weekend, and it was awesome to do that in front of them," added Jackson. "Wherever it is doesn't matter. An overtime goal in the playoffs is just surreal."
MSU (29-9-1) almost tied it up with 11:30 remaining in the second, but Munson stopped Nicolas Rivera on a shorthanded breakaway.
The Mavericks did tie it up 2:00 later when Zeb Knutson capitalized on the power play. His initial shot was blocked by Dylan Steman, but the puck bounced back onto Knutson's stick, and he had time and space to fire it over Munson. Parker Tuomie assisted on Knutson's 14th of the season.
L'Esperance had a chance at the go-ahead goal later in the second when he went in on a shorthanded breakaway of his own with 3:13 left. LaCouvee gloved it down.
MSU outshot Tech 42-28 in the game with the majority coming in the first two periods. Munson finished with a career-high 41 saves to pick up his ninth win of the season. LaCouvee had 26 saves for the home team.
"I'm incredibly proud of our goaltending for the job Devin did to get us here, and for Packy stepping in with our backs against the wall and getting two incredible wins," Shawhan said.
Tech will travel to Marquette for a showdown with archrival Northern Michigan Saturday (March 17) at the Berry Events Center.
"It's going to be a great game," said Shawhan. "It's going to be hockey at it's finest. We know that they're a great team and had a tough series against a very good Bowling Green team this weekend. We're honored to be one of the last two teams standing in this league."
Puck drop is set for 7:07 p.m.
"We've been through a lot this year," said Jackson. "We've gone through some rough patches, and it just feels amazing to come in here and beat Mankato. It's just awesome that we're going to another championship game."
The winner of the WCHA Championship Game will get the Jeff Sauer Trophy and the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.