Friday, October 31, 2014

Mavericks 5, Falcons 2

Freddy's three thoughts from afar ...

1. Trick is treat: Bryce Gervais recorded his first career hat trick on Friday night to lead the Mavericks to the impressive road victory over Bowling Green. The kid is on fire, and that hot streak goes back to when MSU made its run last year. In his last 15 games (seven this season), he has 14 goals and 20 points. In his last 23 games, he has 18 goals and 27 points. He continued to play on a line with center Teddy Blueger and left wing C.J. Franklin. Franklin, a freshman, assisted on three goals. He now has six points for his young career.

2. Taking over: The first 8 minutes of the game looked to be a back-and-forth, up-and-down-the-ice affair, not unlike MSU's game at Duluth two weeks earlier. Fastest pace of the season, coach Mike Hastings said. Bowling Green struck first, playing as aggressively as Hastings predicted they would. But after a Jean-Paul LaFontaine power-play goal evened the score, MSU really seemed to dominate time of possession and carry the play. In the rare instance that the Mavericks didn't have control, Stephon Williams was there to make a save — including a couple of acrobatic ones — to keep his team in front.

3. Casey at the stick: Sophomore defenseman Casey Nelson continues to improve, especially with his confidence. The brother of former Mav Josh Nelson, Casey had a goal and an assist against the Falcons, which gives him five points, equalling his total from his freshman year He also had three shots on goal, giving him 23 for the season so far, which ranks tied for second on the team. As for other defensemen, Blake Thompson recorded his first assist of the season, and Zach Palmquist had an assist to improve his point total to nine.

Deep though: The Mavericks kept the red-hot Kevin Dufour (eight goals this season) off the board, ending his goal-scoring streak to start the season. Dufour didn't register a shot on goal, either.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 4, Michigan 1 ... Ferris State 1, Michigan State 0 ... Alabama Huntsville 1, Northern Michigan 1 (OT) ... Bemidji State 6, Alaska 1 ... Lake Superior State at Alaska Anchorage (late)

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks are on the road at Bowling Green this weekend in what could be a very good, entertaining series between two teams that played four one-goal games during the regular season last year with three of them decided in overtime.

The series also could also showcase that the WCHA is no slouch this season. Minnesota State certainly understands that, especially knowing there will be no more gimmes now that Alabama Huntsville has been played and is off the schedule (And can you really call UAH a gimme when Friday's game was scoreless after two periods?).

But the Huntsville series did help the Mavericks find some consistency in its lineup. Don't expect any changes from last week to this week. If there is a substitution this weekend, junior forward Brett Knowles is finally ready for some action. That and more in The Free Press' gameday preview.

As for Bowling Green, sophomore Kevin Dufour leads the nation with eight goals in six games and has fans worshiping his game.

Going around the WCHA ...

Michigan at Michigan Tech: For the first time since 1983, the Wolverines will trek all the way to Houghton for a series. It should be a fun weekend on the Keweenaw with Tech 4-0-0, Huskies coach Mel Pearson hosting his longtime boss, Red Berenson, and some of the sport's most famous trophies on display.

Alaska at Bemidji State: The Nanooks and Beavers begin league play after starting the season against some tough nonconference competition. Bemidji State has one win, playing against North Dakota and Minnesota, two of the top three teams in the country. Alaska is 5-1-0 in its early season schedule.

Ferris State at Michigan State: The Bulldogs look to bounce back from a pair of home losses to Michigan Tech against another in-state rivalry, an old CCHA cohort they've beaten four times in a row.

Lake Superior State at Alaska Anchorage: The Seawolves open league play at home where they hope to continue playing well. Meanwhile, the winless Lakers and their new coach have not gotten a break since playing a series on the first weekend that practice could begin.

Alabama Huntsville at Northern Michigan: This is a nonconference series between conference opponents, a quirk from a schedule set up before conference realignement. The Wildcats have not lost yet this season, and the Chargers have not one.

Check out Jack Hittinger's and my USCHO column as well as our weekend picks.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Gervais gets award, Mavs nudged up

Minnesota State junior forward Bryce Gervais was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for his three-goal performance in the Mavericks' conference sweep over Alabama Huntsville over the weekend.

Gervais scored the game-winning goal in each game, a 3-1 victory on Friday and a 4-1 win on Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center.

His two goals on Saturday included a short-handed score. Gervais now has four goals and two assists this season, and the six points rank tied for second on the team with Matt Leitner (six assists). Senior defenseman Zach Palmquist leads the Mavericks in scoring with three goals and five assists for eight points.

Other WCHA players of the week included Michigan Tech goaltender Jamie Phillips (defensive), who stopped 67 of 68 shots in the Huskies' sweep at Ferris State, and Bowling Green foreward Mitch McLain (rookie), who had three points in the Falcons' nonconference tie and win at Clarkson.

Meanwhile, Minnesota State moved up one spot to No. 12 in the latest U.S. College Hockey Online top 20 poll and remained 12th in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine top 15.

Other WCHA teams in the rankings include Ferris State (14/15), Alaska (16) and Michigan Tech (17).

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mavericks 4, Chargers 1

Free Press photo by Pat Christman
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Bryce, Bryce, baby: Bryce Gervais was the star of the show on Saturday, scoring two goals as Minnesota State swept Alabama Huntsville. Gervais scored two goals, the game-winner on a power play at 11:01 of the second period and a short-handed breakaway in the third. On both goals it was just him and the goalie after some hard work and sharp passes from teammates (Michael Huntebrinker and Zach Stepan along the wall on the first and a perfect breakout pass from Matt Leitner on the second). But on a weekend when the Mavericks had trouble beating those good Huntsville goalies, someone had to finish.

2. Don't call them the fourth line: The grouping of Jordan Nelson, Chase Grant and Max Gaede continues to impress. They may be the fourth line on the chart but they've provided energy — and more — when needed. A night after their team went two periods without a goal, they scored the first, as Grant tipped in Nelson's pass at 13:52 of the first period. Grant has three goals, and Nelson has three assists on the year. Gaede didn't have a point in the series, but it wasn't for a lack of effort. Coach Mike Hastings even put the 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior in front of the net on the power play. "We need some net presence," Hastings said, "and he's earned it."

3. Getting the job done: The Mavericks couldn't afford a hiccup against Huntsville if they're going to compete for the MacNaughton Cup, and they found way to get through a weekend where they dominated play but were given no cheap goals along the way. Minnesota State is now 2-0-0 in WCHA play and will face a tough test next weekend when they go to Bowling Green. If goalies Carmine Guerrero and Matt Larose keep playing like they did this weekend, Huntsville will score some upsets along the way and probably get more than the five league points it stole last year. The Mavericks do not play at Huntsville this year.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech, 2, Ferris State 1 ... Northern Michigan 3, Lake Superior State 0 ... Alaska Anchorage 3, Maine 3 (OT) ... Western Michigan 4, Alaska 2 ... Bowling Green 5, Clarkson 4 ... Minnesota 5, Bemidji State 3

MSU vs. Alabama Huntsville — Game 2 live blog

To join the conversation, click on the blog post title above or go here.

Tonight's lines:

MINNESOTA STATE
15-Franklin ... 23-Blueger ... 9-Gervais
12-LaFontaine ... 18-Leitner ... 19-McClure
25-Stepan ... 17-Huntebrinker ... 26-Margonari
21-Grant ... 16-J. Nelson ... 8-Gaede

27-Stern ... 5-Foguth
7-Palmquist ... 3-Thompson
11-Flanagan ... 6-C. Nelson

35-Williams
34-Huggins

Scratches: Buchanan, Knowles, Knutson, A. Nelson, Schmeisser

ALABAMA HUNTSVILLE
12-Soquila ... 13-Carpetner ... 9-Brears
11-Prince ... 24-Saulnier ... 26-Kestner
22-Salhany ... 19-Pierce ... 10-Fletcher
7-McHugh ... 16-Reid ... 23-Marooney

3-White ... 20-Parker
6-Carlson ... 5-Champagn
33-Buri ... 4-Misuraca

30-Larose
35-Guerriero

Referees: Kevin Langseth, Bobby Lukkason. Linesmen: Rick Nelson, Matt Anderson.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Mavericks 3, Chargers 1

Free Press photo by Pat Christman
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Finding a way: We've seen games like this before at the Verizon Wireless Center, right? A goalie keeps the underdog hanging around. The Mavericks get frustrated, impatient, sloppy. They lose, they tie, they win but feel lousy about it. On Friday, Carmine Guerriero kept winless Alabama Huntsville in the game, stopping 54 shots. A perfectly timed counter attack, a bad change, and odd-man rush ... all could have led to a score and got MSU reeling. That didn't happen, though. The Mavericks controlled the play for the vast majority of the game, and, finally got the goals they needed. Jean-Paul LaFontaine broke the scoreless tie 51 seconds, and Bryce Gervais' power-play goal ended up as the game-winner.

2. Leit show: Matt Leitner finished the game with two assists and had seven shots on goal. His pass to LaFontaine was another example of his superior rink vision and ability to put the puck where he wants it. Fortunately, LaFontaine was ready for it, and he finished off the play. Mavericks coach Mike Hastings put the two seniors together on the same line for the first time this season, along with freshman Brad McClure (team-high eight shots on goal). Of Leitner, Hastings said, "He played a real complete game. He played 200 feet by 85 feet tonight, both ends — our end, their end, neutral zone. He took some abuse; he put on some miles."

3. Line changes: Besides the Leitner-LaFontaine line change, the Mavericks had a few other switcheroos. Teddy Blueger centered C.J. Franklin and Gervais, and Michael Huntebrinker returned to the lineup after being a scratch the last three games and centered Zach Stepan and Dylan Margonari. Hastings continued to tinker during the game as well, it appeared, which he's been known to do depending on how guys are playing. As it's been discussed since the beginning of the year, the Mavericks have lots of options up front, and there always will be two unhappy forwards watching from the stands. Zeb Knutson was a scratch on Friday, and Brett Knowles appears to be getting closer 100 percent and to returning to the lineup.

Deep thought: What was up with the ice tonight? From my vantage point, it looked slow and wet. The second period began with players falling all over the place. That surface certainly doesn't help a team like MSU take advantage of its speed against a team like Huntsville, which would like nothing more than to slow down the Mavericks. Perhaps it's the unseasonably warm weather, but I figured those problems would have gone away with this now 1-year-old ice system.

Read my Free Press game story here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 1, Ferris State 0 ... Northern Michigan 4, Lake Superior State 2 ... Bowling Green 2, Clarkson 2 (OT) ... Maine 3, Alaska Anchorage 1 ... Alaska 1, Western Michigan 0 ... Minnesota 5, Bemidji State 2

Minnesota State vs. Alabama Huntsville

Click on the post title to participate in the live chat or go here.

Minnesota State lines
15-Frankin ... 23-Blueger ... 9-Gervais
12-LaFontaine ... 18-Leitner ... 19-McClure
25-Stepan ... 17-Huntebrinker ... 26-Margonari
21-Grant ... 16-J. Nelson ... 8-Gaede

27-Stern ... 5-Foguth
7-Palmquist ... 3-Thompson
11-Flanagan ... 6-C. Nelson

35-Williams
34-Huggins
29-A. Nelson

Scratches: Buchanan, Knowles, Knutson, Schmeisser

Alabama Huntsville lines
12-Soquila ... 13-Carpenter ... 21-Vanderlugt
11-Prince ... 24-Saulnier ... 26-Kestner
22-Salhany ... 19-Pierce ... 10-Fletcher
7-McHugh ... 16-Reid ... 23-Marooney

28-Reinhardt ... 20-Parker
6-Carlson ... 5-Champagne
33-Buri ... 4-Misuraca

30-Larose
35-Guerriero

Referees: Kevin Langseth, Bobby Lukkason. Linesmen: Rick Nelson, Matt Anderson