In the month of October alone, three players from the Minnesota State University (Mankato) Mavericks have won WCHA accolades. Danielle Butters, Tracy McCann and Lauren Smith have been bestowed with the accolades and have been crucial in the early success. Compared to October during the 2011-12 season, there was only one winner (Kathleen Rogan).
The Mavericks have emerged as one of the early feel-good stories of the 2012-13 NCAA women’s ice hockey season.
Senior Lauren Smith, one of the best players in the history of the program, is playing to her potential as an elite player in the conference. She is on pace to break last season’s points mark of 19. Kathleen Rogan, having come back from injury, is a solid forward whose presence gives the team a chance to win. Danielle Butters, who once competed for Team Ontario Blue at the Canadian Under-18 Nationals, is starting to emerge as a premier backstop.
The tone was set early in the season when the Mavericks upset the nationally ranked North Dakota Fighting Sioux in Grand Forks.
Featuring the Lamoureux twins, North Dakota is one of the programs favored to appear in the NCAA Tournament this spring. In the final 10 minutes of an October 5 contest versus the Fighting Sioux, the Mavericks fought back from a two-goal setback.
Although North Dakota had a 2-0 lead heading into the second period, the Mavericks made adjustments and outshot them 10-2. The third period would see Tracy McCann scored the first goal for the Mavericks at the 10:37 mark. Lauren Smith buried the puck past Shelby Amsley-Benzie to make it 2-2, while logging the club’s first power play goal of the night.
With 38 seconds in the final stanza, Lauren Smith logged the game-winning score. As Danielle Butters made 16 saves in the win (her first of the season), it marked the first come from behind win in Grand Forks since February 19, 2010.
An October 12 match versus the Lindenwood Lady Lions found Lauren Smith, the Mavericks alternate captain, and Danielle Butters, one of the more underrated goaltenders in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, provide the heroics.
Lauren Smith scored the game-winning goal for the second time this season as the Mavericks won by a 3-0 tally. Smith scored the game-winner at the 17:45 mark of the first period on a breakaway versus Lindenwood backstop Nicole Hensley. In addition, Butters earned her first career shutout by blocking 20 Lady Lions shots.
The following day, the Mavericks would earn their first series sweep of the season as they bested the struggling Lady Lions by a 4-1 score. Sophomore Casey Hirsch earned two goals in the contest. She provided leadership in the contest as Lauren Smith was ejected from the game with a major penalty and game misconduct. During the game, Butters showed great poise. In the first period, Lindenwood outshot the Mavericks 17-14.
Against the storied Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs program at All Seasons Arena, Tracy McCann factored in four goals for MSU. The October 19 contest versus the Bulldogs saw McCann play the best game of her Mavericks career. With 10 minutes left in the final frame, the Mavericks faced a 3-0 deficit. She scored a goal while registering two assists to force overtime.
McCann’s goal came with 1:31 left in the third as the Mavericks pulled the goaltender for the extra attacker. Kathleen Rogan scored the game tying goal with 11 seconds remaining in the third.
In the shootout, McCann would log the winner while being rightfully named First Star of the Game. She scored on Bulldogs freshman netminder Kayla Black, who shutout the nationally ranked Wisconsin Badgers in two straight wins the week before.
In the final game of the series, McCann delivered the goods again as she logged the game-winning goal. The unassisted marker came at 11:34 of the period as the Mavericks prevailed by a 1-0 tally.
Veteran netminder Danielle Butters stopped 28 Bulldogs shots for the shutout. In the shootout win, Butters blocked 36 shots, although sophomore goaltender Erin Krichiver stood between the pipes for MSU-Mankato during the shootout. The 1-0 win marked the first win in regulation time over the Bulldogs since November 21, 2009. Prior to the weekend series, the Mavericks participated In 55 contests against the Bulldogs, and only prevailed in four of them.
A watershed moment in the history of the program, the sweep of the Bulldogs gave MSU-Mankato an impressive 4-2-2 mark. More importantly, it provided the Mavericks with the belief that they can be one of the better teams in the WCHA.