The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

March 31, 2013

MSU Hockey Notebook: Williams bounces back despite loss

TOLEDO, OHIO — Minnesota State goaltender Stephon Williams bounced back from a rough game in the WCHA Final Five to give the Mavericks a chance against Miami in Saturday’s NCAA Midwest Regional.

Williams stopped 22 of 25 shots. Two of Miami’s goals against him came on odd-man rushes and another was on a scramble in front of the crease.

“It’s playoff hockey,” said Williams, the WCHA’s Rookie of the Year. “It tends not to be a 6-5, 6-4 game. Every goal against is hard to overcome in the playoffs.”

Mavericks coach Mike Hastings praised Williams for rebounding from MSU’s 7-2 loss to Wisconsin last week. Williams allowed five goals in that game.

“When you don’t give a guy any run support it’s hard for him to win a hockey game,” Hastings said of the 4-0 loss to Miami. “He kept us in it, made some saves that he shouldn’t.”

Williams’ freshman season ended with a 21-12-2 record, a .924 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average.

“He’s had a special year. He’s a special young man. He is one of the main reasons that we are here in Toledo. I have a lot of respect for him as a young man and an athlete. And for him to come back from what happened in the Final Five in St. Paul, I think that says a lot about him and a lot about his future.”

What’s next?

Minnesota State co-captains Eriah Hayes and Tyler Elbrecht had their college careers end on Saturday. But the two hope their hockey seasons aren’t over.

“It’s a tough time,” Hastings said in the postgame press conference. “Just because the two guys that are sitting next to me are very special. They mean a lot to our program, and they’re going to have a chance to play later down the road.”

Both players are free agents, and NHL scouts have been watching Hayes for a long time. He had his best season this year, scoring 20 goals and assisting on 16 others.

“I’m not sure at this point,” Hayes said of his future. “I’ll wait and see. I hope to have some offers. I hope I can keep playing. That’s been my goal all along.”

It’s also the end of the MSU careers of Evan Mosey, Phil Cook and Eli Zuck.

Attendance woes

The two games on Saturday drew 2,988 fans to the 7,431-seat Huntington Center. There were plenty of good seats available.

The empty chairs prompted Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson to call for a change to the regional format and have games back on campus sites.

“You know, this is the NCAA tournament,” Jackson said. “Anybody watching college basketball? It’s not like this. Something needs to be done. You have two great teams playing their hearts out; you’d think there would be a better environment.”

Both Notre Dame and Miami had their pep bands at the regional.

One-timers

The last time Minnesota State was shut out was March 3, 2012, at North Dakota. … Miami’s Jimmy Mullins had to be assisted off the ice after the knee-to-knee hit with MSU’s Evan Mosey; he did not return to the game. … After being a minus-5 in the Final Five loss to Wisconsin, defenseman Zach Palmquist was even against Miami. … The officiating crew was from the ECAC.

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