MANKATO — With 10 ½ minutes remaining in the third period, Rensselaer coach Seth Appert used his timeout. His team had a two-goal lead on the Minnesota State men’s hockey team, but perhaps he could feel what was coming.A little more than a minute later, the Mavericks scored and, six minutes after that, got another one, and Minnesota State’s home-opener before a crowd of 3,266 at Verizon Wireless Center ended in a 3-3 overtime tie.
“This is our building,” said junior Johnny McInnis, who scored the first goal of the rally with 9:22 to play. “We need to make it a lot tougher to play in.”
The tie salvaged what had been a not-so-pretty game for the home team over the first 50 minutes.
Freshman Bryce Gervais scored the game-tying goal with just 3:04 left in the third period. It was his first collegiate goal.
Another highly touted rookie, Teddy Blueger, also recorded his first goal in an MSU uniform, while McInnis had an assist for a two-point game. Senior goaltender Phil Cook stopped 23 shots, including 11 in a second period that was downright ugly for the Mavericks.
“We should be sending some thank yous to Phil Cook tonight,” said Mike Hastings, who made his official home debut as the Mavericks’ coach. “I think he gave us an opportunity to tie the game.”
Cook made two impressive saves during RPI power plays, sprawling out on the ice to get a pad or two on the puck.
“He made some huge saves,” McInnis said. “The game’s not a 3-1 game with 10 minutes left without Phil.”
The Engineers outshot the Mavericks 12-6 in the second period and had a 20-12 advantage and a 2-1 lead after two periods.
Hastings said his team played passively in the second period.
“That’s not us,” he said.
Matt Neal scored the go-ahead goal with 3:24 left in the second period, and Ryan Haggerty’s power-play goal at 7:19 of the third period put Rensselaer up 3-1.
McInnis made it a one-goal game again, finishing off a faceoff play from freshman Brett Knowles and defenseman Zach Palmquist.
Gervais, who wowed a small exhibition crowd on Oct. 7 with a pair of goals, made it official when he found himself wide open in front of goalie Scott Diebold and tapped Matt Leitner’s perfect pass from the wall into the net.
“You get absolutely pounded in the second period, and you go out and forget about it and re-tee it up and play a heck of a third period,” Hastings said.
The two teams traded power-play goals in the first eight minutes of the game.
Blueger tipped in a Josh Nelson shot at the 3:25 mark. And at 7:11, Cook saved a blast by RPI’s outstanding defenseman, Nick Bailen, only to have the rebound carom back behind him.
The Mavericks (1-0-2) and the Engineers (1-0-2) will play again at 7:07 p.m. tonight. It will also be Mavericks Hockey Night in Mankato with festivities in the Civic Center Plaza from 4 to 7 p.m.
Minnesota State 1-0-2-0—3
Scoring: 1. MSU-Blueger 1 (Nelson 1, McInnis 1) ppg 3:25; 2. RPI-Bailen 1 (Laliberte 1, Neal 4) ppg 7:11
Penalties: Bailen, RPI (interference) 2:09; Elbrecht, MSU (roughing) 6:19; Dolan, RPI (holding) 13:21; Bailen, RPI (tripping) 16:17 — penalty shot by MSU’s Margonari saved; Miller, RPI (goalie interference) 17:33; Grant, MSU (interference) 18:23.
Scoring: 3. RPI-Neal 1 (Higgs 2) 16:36
Penalties: Lee, RPI (tripping) 1:14; Grant, MSU (charging) 3:04; Hayes, MSU (holding the stick) 7:08; Dolan, RPI (holding) 11:01; Grant, MSU (slashing) 11:38
Scoring: 4. RPI-Haggerty 2 (Laliberte 2, Neal 5) ppg 7:19; 5. MSU-McInnis 2 (Knowles 1, Palmquist 3) 10:38; 6. MSU-Gervais 1 (Leitner 4) 16:56
Penalties: Laliberte, RPI (hooking) :22; Leitner, MSU (cross-checking) 6:27
Shots on goal: RPI 8-12-6-3—29. MSU 6-6-11-2—25. Penalties: RPI 0 for 0 minutes; MSU 0 for 0 minutes. Power-play opportunities. RPI 2 of 6; MSU 1 of 6. Goalie saves: RPI Diebold 5-6-9-2—22; MSU Cook 7-11-5-3—26,
MSU called its timeout at 17:33 of the second period. RPI called its timeout at 9:22 of the third period.
Referees: Don Adam, Timm Walsh. Linesemen: Matt Tyree, Brandon Polich.