MANKATO — Stephon Williams wanted to skate the length of the Mariucci Arena ice and put his arms around Brett Knowles.The Minnesota State goaltender was in the midst of stopping 20 third-period shots against No. 1-ranked Minnesota and 37 in all when his fellow freshman scored the game-winning goal with just 44 seconds remaining in regulation.
“To be honest, I was celebrating harder than he was,” Williams said after the 14th-ranked Mavericks’ 2-1 WCHA victory. “I’m so happy for him. Growing up, guys dream of goals like that.”
Williams couldn’t go down there, though, as he had to finish off the upset victory, He stopped a Gophers’ flurry in the closing seconds with 10,076 fans screaming. He snatched up a last-second shot and held up his closed glove until the final horn sounded.
“It was a great team effort,” he said, “a great family effort, especially the last 44 seconds.”
On the game-winner, Knowles got to a spot few Minnesota State players were able to find over the course of the game, slipping down to an open spot at the right post.
“It was a big play to get to the paint, which we hadn’t gotten to in the first two periods, and score a five on five goal, which we needed,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said.
Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox made two of his 31 saves before Knowles scored. Zach Palmquist fired a shot from the point, and Eli Zuck tried to put back the rebound, which Wilcox kicked right Knowles’ feet.
“(Wilcox is) a heck of a tendy,” said Knowles, who came into the game with just one goal. “We talked about trying to get second and third opportunities against him.”
Wilcox and Williams are both freshmen, and the latter showed why he, too, ranks among the top goalies in the WCHA, especially when the Gophers opened up their offense in the third period. Hastings even used his timeout with just under seven minutes to play to try to calm down his defenders and quell Minnesota’s attack.