MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin (1-6-2, 1-4-2 WCHA) was unable to get going early, dug itself a hole and was never able to climb out, as Minnesota State (4-5-2, 2-5-0 WCHA) earned the 4-2 in the Kohl Center on Friday night.
"I can't put my finger on it," Ryan Little (Fond du Lac, Wis.) said of the loss. "I know no one in that room is going to give up, the coaching staff is not going to give up. The leadership group is not going to give up.
"That's our only option right now."
Little tried to provide the much-needed spark for the Badgers, tying the game late in the second period behind a great hustle play. With 8:03 left in the period, Little pressured the Maverick defenseman in front of the MSU net, and forced a turnover that he turned into his second goal of the season. His shot squeaked past MSU goalie Stephon Williams for the score and tied the game at 2-2.
That would be the second and last time the Badgers would score all night, however, as Williams put together a 32-save performance, including 27 over the final two periods, to secure the MSU win.
The Mavericks scored first on the night, as Dylan Margonari took a pass from Matt Leitner and Jon Jutzi, got free on the right side, and fired MSU's first shot of the game past Landon Peterson (Oregon, Wis.) to make it 1-0 at the 2:11 mark of the first period.
It didn't take long for the UW's leading scorer, Michael Mersch (Park Ridge, Ill.), to come up with the response, however, as 1:11 later the junior forward answered with his seventh goal of the season.
After Derek Lee (North Vancouver, B.C.) brought the got the puck on net by batting a puck out of the air, Mersch eventually connected with a jab for the score on the rebound and tied the game at 1-1 at the 3:22 mark of the period. Keegan Meuer (Madison, Wis.) was also credited with an assist.
Though the game was tied, it felt as if the Badgers were skating from behind the rest of the period, lacking energy and momentum. It wasn't until the 10:18 mark of the first period that they actually would fall behind again. Ranked third in the WCHA with nine assists, Matt Leitner showed he could score as well, going backdoor from left circle and putting it home to make it 2-1 MSU.
Following Little's hustle play that evened things up at 2-2 midway through the second period, the Badgers seemed on the verge of seizing control of the game on their home ice, outshooting the Mavericks through the second period, 16-8.
Though the Badgers were able to kill off nine of 10 power plays last weekend against No. 3 Minnesota, they allowed a third-period power-play goal to the Mavericks on this night. After Chase Drake (Mosinee, Wis.) was called for a two-minute boarding penalty, Eriah Hayes made the Badgers pay. At the 5:48 mark of the final period, Hayes skated down the high slot unnoticed and fire one past Peterson to make it 3-2 MSU.
The Mavericks would ice the game with a late empty-netter at the 19:15 mark of the third period, as Eli Zuck finished from near center ice and give MSU the 4-2 lead. Johnny McInnis and Tyler Elbrecht earned assists on the play.
The Badgers and Mavericks return to the Kohl Center tomorrow night, as UW looks to earn its first home win of the season. The puck is set to drop at 7 p.m. (CT). The game airs live on FS Wisconsin+ (Check local listings).
- Senior forward Ryan Little scored a goal for the second-straight game
- Junior forward Michael Mersch scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season and has accounted for nearly half of the team's 16 goals
- UW outshoot Minnesota State 34-24 marking the second time the Badgers outshot an opponent this season