Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mavericks 7, Wildcats 4

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Taking offense: The Mavericks once again poured in the goals against Atte Tolvanen. Who would have imagined they'd put up 12 goals on a guy who entered the weekend on a five-game shutout streak? But that's sports, right? Seven different players scored goals. Seven different players had multiple-point nights (led by Daniel Brickley's three). Players from all four lines had points. For the weekend, the Mavericks got goals from 10 different players, and all 12 forwards had at least one point. "I like that we're talking about multiple people," coach Mike Hastings said.

2. Unsung freshmen: Marc Michaelis scored MSU's seventh goal, a beauty of a shot off a nice play from C.J. Franklin. That was his 13th goal and 34th point of the season. But he's received a ton of attention. Parker Tuomie had two assists in the game and finished the weekend with four points. And the fourth line of rookies Nick Rivera, Charlie Gerard and Josh French was very good again with two goals. For the weekend that group had three goals and three assists. "I thought they were the line that kind of carried us early," Hastings said.

3. Chasing Tech: With the win, the Mavericks moved within three points of Michigan Tech for second place, which would mean a second weekend at home for the playoffs (if you win your first series, of course). The Mavericks go to Bemidji State to close the regular season, while Tech will play Northern Michigan in a home-and-home series. Minnesota State has to hope Tolvanen gets his groove back, along with its own goalies. Aaron Nelson allowed four goals on a 11 shots (three on power plays) before being pulled for Cole Huggins. "Cole came in and shut the door," Hastings said. "I thought he played really well, not a lot of rebounds, and we’re going to need that going forward."


Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Ferris State 3, Alaska Anchorage 0 ... Lake Superior State at Alaska (late)

Deep thought:

Live coverage: MSU vs. Northern Michigan

The Mavericks look to sweep the Wildcats when they play at 7:07 p.m. Saturday. It's the final regular-season home game of the season for MSU, which will return to Mankato in two weeks for the WCHA playoffs. To follow along with the action, check the box below tonight's lines.

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

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson

29-Nelson
39-Pawloski
34-Huggins

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Madry, Schwalbe, Vanko

NORTHERN MICHIGAN
10-Hanson, 11-Sooth, 15-Shine
13-Voltin, 2-Purpur, 9-Loggins
29-Payne, 24-Diamantoni, 37-Craighead
19-Starzynski, 21-Paskaruk, 8-Pierce

40-Klimek, 6-Yaremko
14-Maschmeyer, 25-Beaulieu
44-Black, 4-Frantti

41-Tolvanen
32-Israelsson

Mavericks 5, Wildcats 3

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. The streak ends: Minnesota State put a quick end to Atte Tolvanen's great shutout streak, getting a goal from Zeb Knutson just 3:26 into the game. Tolvanen needed to shut out the Mavericks for two periods to get the NCAA's all-time shutout minutes record after tying the mark for most shutout games with five last week. His streak ended at 339 minutes, 5 seconds. The record was 375:01. From there, the Mavericks poured on the goals, making nifty plays and scoring five in all from five different players. Minnesota State scored three goals in the first period, playing one of its finest opening periods of the season.

2. Third line shines: The Mavericks' third line scored two goals and was all-around solid throughout the game. Jordan Nelson returned after missing five games with an injury did a lot of dirty work, killing penalties, winning faceoffs. He set up Parker Tuomie's goal by controlling the puck below the goal line and extending a shift. And although he didn't get a point on Max Coatta's goal, he buzzed through the slot just a the right time to distract Tolvanen as Coatta banged in a rebound. Each player on the line was +2. Tuomie had a goal and an assist and had six shots on goal.

3. The fourth, too: Freshman forward Nicholas Rivera scored the game-winning goal, a beauty of a play in which he batted Josh French's shot out of the air and behind the goalie. Rivera was scratched for the first time this season in the second game at Alaska Anchorage, MSU's last game, and ... message received. His short-handed goal came 58 seconds after the Wildcats made it 3-2 in the second period. "Nicky had a phenomenal week of practice," coach Mike Hastings said, adding that players called Rivera the MVP of the week. "It was great to see that roll over to his Friday game." The fourth line was an all-freshman group with Charlie Gerard on it, too.

Deep thought: Sorry for the late post and for no video. Tonight was the annual "media game," in which media (Puckato included) and other dignitaries skate at the Verizon Center after the MSU game (and, for me, after my main story is filed). A good time was had by all, and I suspect I'll be sore in the morning.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Ferris State 2, Alaska Anchorage 1 ... Alaska 4, Lake Superior State 2

Friday, February 17, 2017

Live coverage: MSU vs. Northern Michigan

The Mavericks and the Wildcats square off at 7:07 p.m. tonight. Will history be made by goaltender Atte Tolvanen? Will the Mavericks clinch home ice for the WCHA playoffs? Will both happen? The live blog can be found below tonight's lines.

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

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson

29-Nelson
39-Pawloski
34-Huggins

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Madry, Schwalbe, Vanko

NORTHERN MICHIGAN
10-Hanson, 11-Sooth, 15-Shine
9-Loggins, 7-Salminen, 86-Hannoun
29-Payne, 24-Diamantoni, 37-Craighead
13-Voltin, 21-Paskaruk, 8-Pierce

40-Klimek, 6-Yaremko
14-Maschmeyer, 25-Beaulieu
44-Black, 4-Frantti

41-Tolvanen
32-Israelsson


Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks will close out their regular-season home schedule when they take on Northern Michigan this weekend. This is the beginning of a four-game stretch to close out the season and a four-games stretch against two of the best goalies in the WCHA, starting with the Wildcats' Atte Tolvanen. Next week they go to Bemidji State where Michael Bitzer has led the Beavers.

Minnesota State is hoping to get its game tuned up for the postseason. If it wins tonight (and/or gets some help around the league) it will clinch a home-ice spot for the WCHA playoffs. One player who seems to be playing well right now is senior Zach Stepan, who has eight of his 10 points in the last nine games. "I’ve got a little puck luck now, and pucks are starting to go in," he said. "I’d rather it be now than at the beginning of the season because we’re coming down the stretch."

Read more about the series in The Free Press' College Hockey Gameday feature. Read more on Northern Michigan's hot goalie from The Mining Journal in Marquette.

There are only two other series in the WCHA this weekend as every team will be even (finally!) at 26 games going into the final week.

Alaska Anchorage is at Ferris State and Lake Superior State is at Alaska.

Anchorage has played well of late but still remains in last place by four points. The Seawolves will need to make some hay against the Bulldogs in order to make the playoffs. Ferris State, meanwhile, still has a shot at catching Bowling Green for home ice, trailing by six points.

As for Lake Superior State and Alaska, they are locked in a tight battle. The Lakers are tied with Northern Michigan for sixth, one point behind Ferris State but also one point ahead of the Nanooks and Alabama Huntsville, and Anchorage is surging behind them. Someone from that group isn't making the playoffs, and the next four games will figure that out.

This week's USCHO column focuses on Bemidji State's first-ever MacNaughton Cup victory. The Beavers have a week off to enjoy the championship before MSU rolls into town.

And if you're starting to get curious about where the WCHA playoff champion will go in the NCAA tournament, there are some Bracketolgy columns here and here.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The night 'Slap Shot' came to Mankato

A year and a half before the movie "Slap Shot" came out, a exhibition game was played in Mankato featuring some players who would go on to fame in the move. The Carlson brothers, two of whom would join the Dave Hanson as the Hanson brothers, played with the Minnesota Fighting Saints and their farm team, the Johnstown Jets, in what amounted to an intrasquad game at what was then known as the Mankato Ice Palace. Descriptions of the event read like a deleted scene from the movie.

I wrote about it in this week's Free Press column, which can be found here.

If any Puckato readers have any memories of the game, I (and other readers, I'm sure) would love to read them. Please post comments below.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Atte's coming

Minnesota State will be back in action at home on Friday when it begins a series against Northern Michigan.

That's Northern Michigan, which comes in on a nine-game unbeaten streak. Northern Michigan, with goaltender Atte Tolvanen, who has shutouts in his last five games (including a 48-save performance against Alaska on Saturday), which has tied an NCAA men's record.

In total, his shutout streak has gone 335 minutes, 39 seconds, which ranks second in NCAA men's history. He has made 207 saves over that span.

The Wildcats were in last place in the WCHA standings at one point but are now tied for sixth. Less than three weeks until the league playoffs begin, it's fair to say that no one wants to face them. But Minnesota State, trying lock down third place and maybe slide into second, will have the task of breaking Northern's and Tolvanen's stress this weekend.

Here's what teams have left in the WCHA season (in order of standings, points in parenthesis):

1. Bemidji State (61)* — bye ... vs. Minnesota State
2. Michigan Tech (51) — bye ... at/vs. Northern Michigan
3. Minnesota State (42) — vs. Northern Michigan ... at Bemidji State
4. Bowling Green (38) — bye ... vs. Alabama Huntsville
5. Ferris State (32) — vs. Alaska Anchorage ... at Lake Superior State
6. Lake Superior State (31) — at Alaska ... vs. Ferris State
    Northern Michigan (31) — at Minnesota State ... vs./at Michigan Tech
8. Alaska (30) — vs. Lake Superior State ... at Alaska Anchorage
    Alabama Huntsville (30) — bye ... at Bowling Green
10. Alaska Anchorage (26) — at Ferris State ... vs. Alaska Anchorage

* MacNaughton Cup champion