MANKATO, Minn. — A little desperation and a clutch goal by a freshman gave Minnesota State its first WCHA win of the season.
Dylan Morgonari scored with 3:21 remaining in the game to lift Minnesota State over second-ranked Minnesota 5-3 Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center.
The freshman from Greensburg, Pa., hopped over the boards and immediately found an opening in the middle of the ice took a pass from Max Gaede at the right circle.
“[Bryce] Gervais dumped the puck in and went off for a change,” Morgonari said. “I was coming down the slot and Gaede put the puck on my tape and I was just able to beat the goalie.”
Morgonari ripped a wrist shot past Gophers’ goaltender Adam Wilcox for his second goal of the season.
“Margonari came off the bench and he didn’t make a mistake,” said MSU coach Mike Hastings. “He’s a good hockey player. We’re lucky to have him.”
After three straight losses to open the WCHA schedule, including a 3-2 loss to Minnesota Friday, the Mavericks needed a boost immediately Saturday night.
MSU applied heavy pressure from the puck drop, getting 11 shots on goal by the midway point of the first period. The Mavericks also had a 2-0 lead by that point.
“We knew we needed a win,” Morgonari said. “We got one tonight and I think the sky’s the limit for this team.”
Josh Nelson put MSU on the board with a wrist shot from the blue line that floated through traffic and got past Wilcox at the 6:20 mark of the first period.
Zach Lehrke scored 3:34 later to give MSU a 2-0 lead. Lehrke slipped past Nick Bjugstad and took a pass from Margonari as he broke down the slot and shot it past Wilcox glove side.
The Gophers tied the game on a goal by Christian Isackson with 3:40 left in the period and wasted no time knotting game 56 seconds into the second period.
Bjugstad finished off a nice tic-tac-toe passing sequence from Nate Schmidt and Erik Haula to make it 2-2.
MSU’s Johnny McInnis and Nate Condon traded goals 26 seconds apart just after the 12-minute mark of the second period.
Then came what Hastings called the game’s turning point, a remarkable toe save by Phil Cook with 12 seconds before the second intermission to keep the game tied at three.
Cook stuck out his right skate in desperation mode to stop Haula on a cross from Condon.
“I told [Cook] in the locker room after that save that he was going to give us a chance to win,” Hastings said.
Four minutes into the third period, Cook lifted his left shoulder high enough to knock down a shot by Zach Budish.
Cook finished with 25 saves. Wilcox finished with 30.
“The best, most consistent and probably the most desperate team won tonight,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “[Minnesota State] had a good start and I think that was the difference in the game.”
J.P. Lafontaine added an empty-net goal with 11 seconds left.