Minnesota State Left Battered After Loss
by Matt Christians/CHN Reporter
ST. PAUL, Minn. As if losing its first Final Five game in 10 years, resoundingly, wasn't bad enough, Minnesota State was bloodied in ways that could linger beyond this week.
Not only did they fall, 7-2, to Wisconsin at the play-in game, but Eli Zuck, Teddy Blueger, Chase Grant and WCHA Rookie of the Year Stephon Williams all suffered injuries, and in some cases, did not return to the ice.
Pittsburgh prospect Teddy Blueger went down first off a hit by Wisconsin’s John Ramage. Fortunately for the Mavericks, he was able to play shortly after. The team was not so lucky with Williams, who was forced to leave the game after he was slid into during Tyler Barnes’s second goal of the game. He lay on the ice for a while before a fellow teammate and trainer helped him off the ice. Phil Cook took up the goaltending responsibilities in relief for Williams, who did not return to the bench.
By that time, the score was 5-1.
Grant took a big hit and was forced to leave the game, but soon returned to the bench and finished off the remainder of the second period with minimal playing time. Unfortunately, the sophomore did not return for the third. Lastly, Zuck was escorted to the locker room for evaluations after receiving a hit, leaving Minnesota State with a headache’s worth of lineup changes to be made.
For a team hopeful of playing in next weekend's NCAA tournament, it was a great concern.
“Hopefully the guys will be able to see who they need to see tomorrow and we’ll go from there.” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “I hope by Saturday we’ll have a better idea as to where we stand (about injury severities).”
Williams would obviously be the biggest loss, if he out next weekend. He came into the game with a 1.84 goals against average and .929 save percentage.
“Right now we can control our rehab, what we’re doing tonight, and the guys that we’re going to have available.” Hastings said.
Although the Mavericks have a solid goaltender in Cook, Williams has been in the driver's seat since early November.
Still, the Mavericks were trying not to let it temper their enthusiasm for a pending NCAA bid. MSU still appears to have the numbers in their favor. It would be the first time Minnesota State has earned a tournament bid in 10 years; a great accomplishment for Hastings in his first year.
“We’re very excited about having an opportunity to be one of the 16 teams to compete for a championship.” Hastings said.
Said senior Eriah Hayes, “We have some time to rest and get guys back to where we need to go. We always seem to respond when we’re down and I think if we happen to get into the NCAAs I think we’re going to respond in the next game.”
Although Minnesota State is banged and bruised, Hastings is convinced he’ll be ready to compete with what players he has available to him.