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Mankato vs. U could turn into battle of freshman goalies

  • Blog Post by: Roman Augustoviz
  • January 22, 2013 - 1:24 AM

Coach Mike Hastings' Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks warmed up for their upcoming series with the Gophers this weekend by taking three of four points in the 49th state.

The Mavericks tied Alaska Anchorage 3-3 on Friday, then beat the Seawolves 4-0 on Saturday on three goals in the middle period.

Sophomore Matt Leitner gave MSU a 1-0 lead early in the opening period Saturday on a 5-on-3 power play -- the Gophers know killing penalties is not UAA's strength. It came on a rebound.

 In the middle period, all three goals were scored by defenseman. Sophomore Zach Palmquist got two, the second on a power play, and senior Evan Mosey put in one. MSU was 2-for-4 on the power play, UAA 0-for-6.

Stephon Williams, the Mavericks' talented freshman goalie, made 18 saves for his fourth shutout. He is 12-3-1 in his last 16 games.

The first game of the Gophers-Mavericks series is at Mariucci, the second in Mankato.

"When we played them, they weren't playing their freshman goalie," Gophers coach Don Lucia said on Monday during his weekly radio show. "And now he has taken over and he just happens to have the best goals-against average in the WCHA."

Yes, he does. Williams' conference GAA is 1.96. Gophers freshman goalie Adam Wilcox has a 2.17 GAA in the WCHA, that's fifth.

But counting all game, Wilcox's GAA drops to 1.72, best in the WCHA, while Williams' 1.80 is next.

"Their goaltending has been solidified, they are an older, grizzly veteran team," Lucia said. "They have some good skill level. They are certainly a team that is right there in a great position to [have] home ice this year in the WCHA."

The top six teams secure home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs this season. The Mavericks are tied for sixth place with Minnesota Duluth.

As for Williams and Wilcox ...

"Both had good years in the USHL last year," Lucia said. "You play a couple of years down there and you play in difficult environments. And, if you are a good goaltender, I almost believe your transition to college hockey might be easier than ... any other position. You stop the puck, just like you did the year before. For goaltenders, it is all about games and experience and they've both had sensational freshman years."

Williams, of Fairbanks, Alaska, played for Sioux Falls last season, Wilcox for Tri-City.

 * When the Gophers and MSU Mankato played on Nov. 2-3, the Gophers won the first game 3-2 at Mariucci. All but one of the MSU goals were on power plays. Wilcox made 23 saves. Senior Phil Cook had 29 stops for the Mavericks.

MSU Mankato won the second game on its home ice, 5-3. Wilcox made 30 saves, Cook 25. Each team was 1-for-5 on the power play.

* Attendance at the North Dakota series in Mariucci was 20,574. Friday's crowd, announced as 10,318, was the third largest in the building. Saturday's crowd was 10,256.

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