By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
Just because Dylan Margonari is a Pennsylvania kid doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how important a hockey game against Minnesota is for Minnesota State.
“I know Minnesota is the state of hockey; I’ve followed college hockey all my life,” the MSU freshman forward said on Saturday night. “For any Minnesota college team this is a huge rivalry.”
Margonari, who is from Greensburg, Pa., and played junior hockey for a United States Hockey League team in Youngstown, Ohio, got himself right into the thick of the rivalry, scoring the game-winning goal late in the third period of the Mavericks’ 5-3 WCHA victory over the second-ranked Gophers.
Jumping off the bench, Margonari skated down the slot untouched and fired Max Gaede’s pass out of the corner past goalie Adam Wilcox with just 3:41 remaining in the game. The goal sent the Verizon Wireless Center crowd of 4,854 — the first sellout since the 2008-09 season into a frenzy.
“I’m glad to be part of it,” Margonari said.
Jean-Paul LaFontaine’s empty-net goal with 11 seconds left in the game sealed the win, the Mavericks’ first this season in conference play.
It also snapped a three-game losing streak for the season and a three-game losing streak against Minnesota. It was MSU’s third straight win over the Gophers at home.
“We needed that,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “One, we needed to get our first WCHA win, and two, they needed to taste a little bit of success for all the work they’ve put in.”
The Mavericks (3-3-2, 1-3-0 in WCHA) led 2-0 midway through the first period and had a 2-1 lead at the first intermission. However, Margonari took a penalty in the closing moments of the period, and the Gophers’ Nick Bjugstad scored a power play to tie the game less than a minute into the second.
A Johnny McInnis goal to put MSU up 3-2 at 12:14 was answered just 26 seconds later by Nate Condon.
With 15 seconds left in the period, the Gophers had a great scoring chance with a 3-on-1 rush, but senior goalie Phil Cook did the splits and kicked away a shot by Minnesota’s best player of the game, Erik Haula. Hastings called the save the game’s turning point.
“I more or less felt like I owed it to our team,” said Cook, an Illinois native who has three wins over Minnesota. “(The Gophers) scored a couple goals I felt like I should have stopped. I owed it to my teammates to make a big save. … The biggest thing coach preaches is: Find a way.”
Cook finished with 25 saves.
One night after allowing three power-play goals in a 3-2 loss at Minnesota, the Mavericks allowed just one on six tries on Saturday. In the third period, their kill of a Bryce Gervais tripping penalty led directly to Margonari’s game-winner. Gervais dumped the puck in deep after coming out of the box and then went to the bench while Margonari took his place.
“Margonari didn’t make a mistake,” Hastings said. “He’s a good hockey player. … We’re lucky to have him.”
Minnesota State led 2-0 on defenseman Josh Nelson’s wrister from the blue line at 6:20 and forward Zach Lehrke’s power play goal at 9:54.
The Mavericks outshot the Gophers 19-7 in the first period (35-28 for the game) but had their lead cut in half on Haula’s goal with 3:40 left. Haula redirected Christian Isackson’s pass behind Cook while being hauled to the ice by Matt Leitner.
Up next for Minnesota State, a home series Friday and Saturday against Denver.
Minnesota State 2-1-2—5
Scoring: 1. MSU-Nelson 1 (Knowles 3, LaFontaine 3) 6:20; 2. MSU-Lehrke 1 (Leitner 7, Palmquist 4) ppg 9:54; 3. UM-Haula 4 (Isackson 4, Condon 5) 16:20
Penalties: Schmidt, UM (cross-checking) 9:33; Marshall, UM (roughing) 9:33; Gervais, MSU (roughing) 9:33; Alt, UM (roughing/contact to the head) 10:06; Leitner, MSU (holding) 16:20; Margonari, MSU (cross-checking) 19:55
Scoring: 4. UM-Bjugstad 4 (Haula 3, Schmidt 3) ppg :56; 5. MSU-McInnis 4 (Jutzi 2) 12:14; 6. UM-Condon 2 (Haula 4, Helgeson 1) 12:40
Penalties: M.Reilly, UM (checking from behind) 4:27; Grant, MSU (tripping) 16:11
Scoring: 7. MSU-Margonari 2 (Gaede 2) 16:19; 8. MSU-LaFontaine 1 (unassisted) eng 19:48
Penalties: Hayes, MSU (tripping) :12; M.Reilly, UM (tripping) 7:41; UM bench (too many on ice) 9:59; Gervais, MSU (tripping) 13:59
Shots on goal: UM 7-10-11—28. MSU 19-8-8—35. Penalties: UM 6 for 12 minutes; MSU 6 for 12 minutes. Power-play opportunities. UM 1 of 5; MSU 1 of 6. Goalie saves: UM Wilcox 17-7-6—30 (4 GA); MSU Cook 6-8-11—25 (3 GA).
MSU used its timeout at 18:41 of third period. UM used its timeout at 19:12 of third period.
Referees: Don Adam, Timm Walsh. Linesmen: Nick Bradshaw, Sam Shikowsky.