|Pat Christman/The Free Press|
1. Rough start: The Mavericks coughed up the puck and allowed a Tyler Barnes breakaway goal just 63 seconds into Thursday's opening game of the WCHA Final Five. That set the tone. "Obviously, not the start we wanted," coach Mike Hastings said. "Wanted to get at least to the second minute." Rookie goalie Stephon Williams was shaky after that, allowing two more goals in the game's first 8:11. Three-rip that early? Wrong team to do that against. It was 4-0 before MSU got on the board. The Mavericks kept charging (they outshot the Badgers 40-27, 16-4 in the third period), but they couldn't get closer than three.
2. Banged up: Williams stopped 14 of 19 shots, and Hastings was set to pull him after the fifth goal anyway, however, the goalie was hurt on the play and had to be helped off the ice. Williams appeared to be kicked in the head on the play, and officially, it's an upper-body injury. Chase Grant suffered a lower-body injury in the second period and tried to return later in the frame. However, he was held out of the third period. Eli Zuck, who returned to the lineup after missing the last seven games, also got hurt in the third and had to be assisted to the locker room. Hastings said all three would be re-evaluated on Friday.
Note: Williams did make an appearance before the evening game between North Dakota and Colorado College, as the league award winners were introduced and participated in the ceremonial puck drop. Williams was the WCHA's Rookie of the Year. Coach of the Year Hastings also participated.
3. Now what? Now the Mavericks wait to find out their fate for the NCAA tournament. The loss dropped them to 12th in the Pairwise Rankings (PWR). It's not an uncomfortable spot, but MSU is nervous about not controlling their own destiny. The tournament field will be announced at 8 p.m. Sunday night. Wisconsin's fast start may have been because they were the more desperate team. The Badgers remained at 16 in the PWR after the game and might have to win the Final Five and get the league's auto-bid in order to make the national tournament.
Read The Free Press game story here. Pat Christman's photo gallery also can be found at that link.