By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
MADISON, WIS. — Minnesota State hadn’t won a WCHA at Wisconsin since the 2007-08 season, but that’s ancient history to the players who helped end that streak on Friday night at the Kohl Center.Freshmen Stephon Williams and Dylan Margonari and sophomore Matt Leitner sparked a much-needed 4-2 victory for the Mavericks against a downtrodden Badgers team.
The win ended a seven-game losing streak in Madison on a weekend that, because of the conference shakeup coming next summer, likely will be the Mavericks’ last one here for quite some time.
“It feels awesome, my first college win,” said Williams, MSU’s rookie goaltender, who stopped 32 of 34 shots. “The best part about it was that we got contributions from everyone tonight.”
Margonari and Leitner each set up the other for goals in the first period. Senior captain Eriah Hayes’ power-play goal at 5:48 of the third period ended up as the game-winner, while another senior, Eli Zuck, sealed the win with a last-minute empty-netter
The victory was just the second in conference play for the Mavericks (4-5-2, 2-5-0 in WCHA), while the beat-up Badgers remain stuck at one win overall. Two weeks after getting swept at home by No. 2-ranked Denver, Minnesota State needed to take advantage of the beat-up Badgers and a quiet Thanksgiving weekend home crowd, generously announced at 9,118 fans.
“You can only say so often that, hey, we’re getting better,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “The end result is what you’re looking for. I think it was a big win for us for a couple reasons.”
The Mavericks scored on the game’s first shot at 2:11 of the first period, as Margonari aimed at the far post and fired in a Leitner pass over goalie Landon Peterson’s stick-side shoulder while skating in from the right circle.
Wisconsin’s leading goal scorer, Michael Mersch, tied the game on a rebound goal — his seventh of the season — just 71 seconds later.
But a hard-working shift by Leitner’s line resulted in a go-ahead goal by the Mavericks at 10:18. Margonari controlled the puck behind the net before skating it out to the right circle. From there, he threw it toward the net, a perfect spot for Leitner, who was crashing down the slot, to tip it into the net.
“Those two did a real good job of giving us some offensive support,” Hastings said. “We haven’t had a lot that of five-on-five, and we needed to have someone step up. And I thought Matt and Margonari did that together.”
The Mavericks survived the second period, thanks to Williams.
They had to kill off three penalties in the first 10 minutes and then a careless turnover by Jean-Paul LaFontaine right in front of Williams resulted in Ryan Little’s game-tying goal at 11:57.
Williams was perfect for the rest of the period — and the rest of the game. He stopped 15 shots in the second and 12 in the third.
“It felt like the finger was in the dike (in the second period),” Hastings said. “And I thought Stephon did a good job of allowing us to survive. … I thought Willie did a great job of just kind of keeping it at bay. We were fortunate to get out of the second period the way we did.”
On the power play early in the third, Hayes broke the tie, ripping a heavy shot in transition after getting a pass from LaFontaine. Defenseman Zach Palmquist picked up his second assist of the game on the play.
The Mavericks and the Badgers (1-6-2, 1-4-2) will play again at 7 :07 p.m. tonight.
Minnesota State 2-0-2—4
Scoring: 1. MSU-Margonari 3 (Leitner 10, Jutzi 3) 2:11; 2. UW-Mersch 7 (Lee 6, Meuer 3) 3:22; 3. MSU-Leitner 2 (Margonari 2, Palmquist 5) 10:18
Penalties: Woods, UW (cross-checking) 6:53; Palmquist, MSU (holding) 15:22
Scoring: 4. UW-R.Little 2 (unassisted) 11:57
Penalties: Elbrecht, MSU (holding the stick) :35; Nelson, MSU (cross-checking) 5:52; Jutzi, MSU (boarding) 9:13; R.Little, UW (tripping) 12:51
Scoring: 5. MSU-Hayes 5 (LaFontaine 6, Palmquist 6) ppg 5:48; 6. MSU-Zuck 2 (McInnis 3, Elbrecht 1) eng 19:15
Penalties: Drake, UW (boarding) 5:10; Blueger, MSU (roughing) 12:43; S.Little, UW (roughing) 12:43
Shots on goal: MSU 7-8-9—24. UW 6-16-12—34. Penalties: MSU 5 for 10 minutes; UW 5 for 10 minutes. Power-play opportunities. MSU 1 for 4; UW 0 for 4. Goalie saves: MSU Williams 5-15-12—32 (2 GA); UW Peterson 5-8-7—20 (3 GA).
Referees: Don Adam, Craig Welker. Linesmen: Dan Carey, Ed Moberg..