Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mavericks 5, Falcons 3

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. C.J. takes over: There's a lot in my game story (link below) on the night C.J. Franklin had as he led the Mavericks' come-from-behind victory. He had two goals as MSU scored four unanswered to beat Bowling Green. Here's a little more about him from coach Mike Hastings that missed the cut in the story: "I think he can be a dominant player in any game we play whether we’re playing in league or nonconference, just because he has a unique package as far as being able to play any type of game. If you want to play a fast game and get up and down the rink. He’s got the skating ability and the talent to be able to make plays. If you get into some games that are very physical ... tonight, he put a body on a guy, stole the puck and took it right to the hole." Franklin's three-point game gives him 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists).

2. Upper class: After Friday's overtime loss to Bowling Green, Hastings talked about needing more from his upperclassmen. He got that from Franklin and others on Saturday. Zeb Knutson had a goal and an assist, and Zach Stepan assisted on two goals. "Obviously it wasn’t our best effort through two (periods)," said Hastings, who said he singled out Stepan in the locker room after the game because of his solid play over the last two weekends. "We faced some adversity. ... Our leadership group really stepped up there in the third period, which we needed them to do."

3. Full Nelson: Goaltender Aaron Nelson got his fourth consecutive start since being promoted from the No. 3 job, and he bounced back from Friday's overtime loss, too. Nelson, who stopped 22 of 25 shots, picked up his third victory. "Just tried to have fun and get back to what made us successful last weekend (at Alabama Huntsville)," he said. "When we're good, we're good." There was quite a contrast in goalies on Saturday. Nelson is listed at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds. At the other end of the ice, Bowling Green went with freshman Ryan Bednard, who is 6-5, 205.

Read my game story here.



Around the WCHA: Alaska 2, Ferris State 1 (OT) ... Northern Michigan 1, Lake Superior State 1 (NMU wins in shootout) ... Michigan Tech 1, Alaska Anchorage 1 (MTU wins in shootout)

Live coverage: MSU vs. Bowling Green

Minnesota State will try to bounce back from Friday's overtime loss. Follow along or join the conversation in the blog below tonight's lines.

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 19-McClure
25-Stepan, 17-Huntebrinker, 10-Knutson
23-Rivera, 16-Nelson, 12-Coatta
6-Tuomie, 26-French, 9-Gerard

8-Brickley, 5-Foguth
11-Flanagan, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 27-Schwalbe

29-Nelson
39-Pawloski
34-Huggins

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Hookenson, Madry, Vanko

BOWLING GREEN
22-Craggs, 6-McLain, 29-Schilling
10-Dufour, 7-Spezia, 20-Pohlkamp
13-Baylis, 18-D'Andrea, 8-Letourneau
17-Linkenheld, 2-Mercier, 27-McKeown

23-Rauhauser, 28-Walker
14-Friedman, 21-Dalton
12-Pohlkamp, 4-McDonald

35-Bednard
33-Nell

Friday, January 13, 2017

Falcons 3, Mavericks 2 (OT)

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Missed opportunities: As I write about in my gamer (link below), the Mavericks failed to cash in on a power play in overtime (they were 0 for 4 with the man advantage) and ended up falling later in the extra frame. They were the only WCHA team that did not secure at least one point for the standings on Friday as the other three games were decided in 3-on-3 play. Minnesota State also had one goal in the first period despite a 15-6 shot advantage and a whole lot of time spent in the Bowling Green zone. They missed nets, too. Brad McClure had a rock-solid six shots on goal and played well, but missed the net on some good chances, too — shots that looked as if they had goalie Chris Nell beat.

2. All in on Nelson: Junior goalie Aaron Nelson started his third game in a row (his third-ever game) and made 23 saves. There was little he could have done about any of the Falcons' goals, which came from two of their best snipers, Kevin Dufour (two goals) and Mitch McLain (the OT winner and league-leading 15th of the season). "I've got no blame for (Nelson)," coach Mike Hastings said. "He gave us an opportunity to win a hockey game. That's all you can ask out of your goaltender. ... Competitor."

3. Step forward: Senior forward Zach Stepan gave Minnesota State a 2-1 lead late in the second period, putting back the rebound of a Jordan Nelson shot. It was Stepan's third goal of the season and third in the last two games. Playing with Michael Huntebrinker and Zeb Knutson, Stepan had five shots on goal and looked like an impact player. It's taken awhile for him to get to that spot this year after starting the season on the injured list. "Coming off the injury with us starting out so hot, it was a hard lineup to crack," he said. "I got a shot last week; I just had to make sure I was ready for it." That secondary scoring could be a key down the stretch; but the top line can't be blanked.

Read my game story here.



Around the WCHA: Alaska Anchorage 3, Michigan Tech 3 (UAA wins in 3x3 OT) ... Alaska 3, Ferris State 3 (UAF wins in 3x3 OT) ... Lake Superior State 1, Northern Michigan 1 (LSSU wins in 3x3 OT)

Live coverage: Minnesota State vs. Bowling Green

Looks like it's Aaron Nelson in goal again for the No. 18 Mavericks tonight against the Falcons. The live blog can be found below tonight's lines:

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 19-McClure
25-Stepan, 17-Huntebrinker, 10-Knutson
23-Rivera, 16-Nelson, 12-Coatta
6-Tuomie, 26-French, 9-Gerard

8-Brickley, 5-Foguth
11-Flanagan, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 27-Schwalbe

29-Nelson
39-Pawloski
34-Huggins

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Hookenson, Madry, Vanko

BOWLING GREEN
22-Craggs, 6-McLain, 29-Schilling
10-Dufour, 7-Spezia, 20-Pohlkamp
13-Baylis, 18-D'Andrea, 8-Letourneau
2-Merier, 11-Bednard, 27-McKeown

23-Rauhauser, 28-Walker
14-Friedman, 4-McDonald
5-Smith, 12-Pohlkamp

33-Nell
35-Bednard

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks are back home after more than a month off and will host Bowling Green in a series that certainly some fans circled way back when the schedule was first released. The two teams are tied for third in the WCHA standings currently, although MSU has two games in hand. The Falcons were the preseason pick to win the league this season.

It will be interesting to see who Minnesota State starts in goal. Aaron Nelson is in the mix now after his two victories last weekend at Alabama Huntsville. Nelson has proven that patience pays off for players, as difficult as that might be for 2 1/2 years.

For more about the Bowling Green series, read The Free Press' College Hockey Gameday.

For the Falcons, they have had some issues in goal, too, but sophomore Chris Nell, the first-team All-WCHA goalie last year, appears to be returning to form after a tough start, even as he's been splitting time lately. The Falcons expect this weekend to be a challenge. The last time the two teams met was in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Five last March when MSU won 2-1.

Read more about Bowling Green here.

Going around the WCHA ...

Alaska at Ferris State: Sixth place hosts seventh place in this series. The visiting Nanooks had a week off to think about its two shutout losses to Notre Dame. The Bulldogs are winless in five straight, although they got the extra shootout point at Alaska Anchorage on Saturday.

Alaska Anchorage at Michigan Tech: After a 1-11-2 start, the Seawolves are an improved 4-3-1 in their last eight games. Eight of their next 10 games, however, are on the road, starting this weekend in Houghton. The second-place Huskies are coming off a split with Notre Dame but have lost just one league game since getting swept by MSU in October.

Lake Superior State at/vs. Northern Michigan: The Lakers and the Wildcats split their home-and-home series last weekend and will be back at it again this weekend, starting tonight in Marquette. Northern Michigan's Dominik Shine has been heating up as of late.

Michigan Tech is the focus of this week's USCHO column.

In other hockey coverage, the Minnesota State women also return home this weekend to face North Dakota. The Mavericks have become a much different team over their last two months, and Minnesota Hockey Magazine has taken notice.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fargo forward commits to MSU

Fargo Force forward Shane McMahan this week announced that he has committed to play for Minnesota State following his United States Hockey League Career.

McMahan, 20, a native of Irvine, Calif., is in his third season with the Force. He has 15 points, including eight goals, in 21 games and is plus-4. Last season, he played in 59 of 60 games and had 14 points.

“Mankato is a great program,” the 5-foot-11, 205-pound McMahan said in a Fargo press release. “They are a contender every year, and I fit in well with their system and style of play.”

Monday, January 9, 2017

Nelson receives WCHA honor

Minnesota State junior goaltender Aaron Nelson was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Mavericks' sweep over Alabama Huntsville over the weekend.

Making his long-awaited collegiate debut, Nelson had an 18-save shutout on Friday and stopped 29 of 31 shots on Saturday for a .959 save percentage. The Mavericks won 3-0 and 3-2, breaking a fourth-place tie in the league standings with UAH.

The Bismarck, N.D. native hoped hold the Chargers scoreless on eight power-play chances over the weekend, including a 5-minute major in the third period on Saturday with his team up by one goal.

With the wins, Minnesota State moved up to No. 18 in the latest USCHO poll.

Nelson's debut performance was another memorable one for a former third-string MSU goalie. 

Chris Clark famously came in to play in the Mavericks' 8-7 come-from-behind victory over Denver in 2003. Starter Jon Volp and backup Kyle Nixon were both yanked, and Clark, a freshman, came in with the score 7-1 in favor of the Pioneers. He got the win and the "Hollywood" legend was born.

In 2009, freshman Phil Cook seemed to be the third guy behind sophomore Austin Lee and freshman Kevin Murdock. Still, he got some mop-up duty time early in the season and then was given a surprising start at Bemidji State. He stopped 30 shots in a 5-1 win and ended up starting 15 more games that season. Murdock transferred, and Cook and Lee split time for the next two seasons. Cook ended up losing the No. 1 job as a senior, however, to Stephon Williams.