The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 21, 2013

Mavericks battered at Final Five (PHOTO GALLERY)

ST. PAUL — Minnesota State came out of its first WCHA Final Five game in 10 years bruised, battered and beaten.

Not exactly the experience it had been waiting for a decade.

“Part of this is the maturation for the future of our program,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “We learned from winning in the first round, being excited about it, and we’ll learn from our first game here. If you don’t take something out of it, it’s a lost experience.”

The eighth-ranked Mavericks had a disastrous start, allowing three goals to No. 14 Wisconsin before the first period was half over and lost 7-2 in the tournament’s first game Thursday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.

Now they hope their season isn’t over.

After dropping to a still-comfortable but nervewracking 12th place in the Pairwise Rankings, Minnesota State (24-13-3) will await the announcement of the NCAA tournament field on Sunday night as the rest of the Final Five plays out.

“It’s not in our hands anymore,” senior and co-captain Eriah Hayes said. “We hope we get selected on Sunday.”

If their season continues, the Mavericks hope to get healthy and get a better start to that tournament’s opening game.

Goalie Stephon Williams and forwards Chase Grant and Eli Zuck did not finish the game due to injuries. Hastings said all three will be re-evaulated today.

Williams appeared to be kicked in the head on Wisconsin’s fifth goal, the second of the game for junior Tyler Barnes. Hastings was set to pull the WCHA Rookie of the Year after that score anyway.

It just wasn’t Williams’ night, as he stopped 14 of 19 shots.

Barnes jumped on a turnover and scored a breakaway goal just 63 seconds into the game, and Jefferson Dahl scored two short-handed goals.

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