MADISON, Wis. -- At first glance, Wisconsin's 4-2 loss to Minnesota State (5-5-2, 3-5-0 WCHA) on Saturday night in the Kohl Center may have left some saying, "Same score, same result."
However, even though the losing scores matched up from both nights of the weekend series, the effort did not, as the Badgers (1-7-2, 1-5-2 WCHA) displayed a much more spirited effort in the second game of the series, competing at the same level throughout and outshooting the Mavericks 35-29.
"When you get in these funks, it's like trying to turn a freight liner in the middle of the ocean," UW head coach Mike Eaves said. "You don't turn it on a dime. With the effort that the boys made tonight, they started to make that thing turn.
Eaves and his team hope that the continued effort and persistence to make a turn in their season begins to translate over to and show up in the win column as well. With Saturday night's loss, UW fell to 0-5-2 in its last seven games.
"We wish success for them so they have some reward," Eaves said. "The mindset as (an athlete) is that, 'I work hard, therefore I will be rewarded with wins.' We're not being rewarded right now with goals or wins."
MSU goaltender Stephon Williams played a big part in denying those goals and wins from UW, recording a total of 65 saves over the weekend, including 33 on Saturday night to secure his team's victory.
The Mavericks also came into Madison, Wis., and completed their first road series sweep of the Badgers in program history.
"They took advantage of their opportunities," Eaves said. "They were very opportunistic."
As they had the night before, MSU took advantage of their opportunities early. At 4:38, Matt Leitner positioned himself in front of the net, grabbed the rebound and punched it past UW goaltender Joel Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan) for the 1-0 MSU lead.
In need of a score, the Badgers showed their first signs of improvement, finding and producing the game-tying goal on the power play.
Whiffing on a shot attempt from right side of the net just seconds before, Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, Wis.) got a second chance on from nearly the same spot and made it count, blasting one past Williams for the power-play score and tied the game at 1-1. The five-on-three goal was assisted by junior defenseman Frankie Simonelli (Bensenville, Ill.) and senior forward Derek Lee (North Vancouver, British Columbia).
It was the first power-play goal from UW in five games, as the Badgers were a combined 0-for-13 in the four games prior.
The Mavericks would get a power-play opportunity of their own, however, after Brendan Woods (Yorba Linda, Calif.) was called for hooking. MSU's Eriah Hayes planted himself in front of the net and was there to punch in a rebound for the power-play score with 6:32 left in the period, giving MSU at 2-1 lead.
At the 15:10 mark of the period, MSU extended its early lead to 3-1 as Bryce Gervais trailed behind on the play, came unnoticed and slid down the slot to receive the pass from Max Gaede and chipped the puck past Rumpel for the score.
Though the Badgers outshot the Mavericks through the first period 18 to 12, they were looking for quality rather than quantity in the second period, and came out quickly with a score to cut the deficit.
Just 49 seconds into the period, Michael Mersch (Park Ridge, Ill.) came through yet again for UW, scoring his eighth goal of the season on the redirect from McCabe and Derek Lee to trim the MSU lead to 3-2.
Following the three-score first period, Landon Peterson (Oregon, Wis.) replaced Rumpel in goal for the Badgers to begin the second period and finished out the game with 16 saves on 17 shots faced.
The lone goal came at the 3:54 mark of the third period, as Hayes struck again for MSU on the power play--his third power-play goal of the weekend--and all but put away the hopes of a UW comeback. The goal made it 4-2 MSU off an assist from Jean-Paul Lafontaine and Gaede.
"Every team goes through tough times," John Ramage (St. Louis, Mo.) said. "At the beginning of last year we struggled as well and really came on strong at the end. Right now, we still have a lot of games left."
The next set of games in front of Wisconsin take place next weekend when the team travels to Denver for a series, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The puck is set to drop 9 p.m. (CT) on Friday and 8 p.m. (CT) on Saturday. Friday's game will air live on NBC Sports.
- Mersch continues torrid scoring pace, notching eighth goal of season.
- McCabe records a goal and an assist to lead UW offense
- Derek Lee collects two assists