Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mavericks 1, Chargers 1 (OT)

Freddy's three thoughts (from afar) ...

1. Oof: All due respect to Alabama Huntsville, but what a dreadful weekend for the Mavericks. They probably could have swallowed Friday's tie, especially with the flukey goal and all, but Saturday's stung badly. Not only did Minnesota State put 50 shots on goal, only to come up with just one (a power-play goal by C.J. Franklin), but it gave up the game-tying goal on a short-handed breakaway with 63 seconds left in regulation. The Chargers couldn't even get their outstanding goalie, Matt Larose, pulled for an extra attacker, and they took a penalty, prompting the UAH play-by-play man to all but concede the game to MSU. "That's one where you gotta figure out a way to win a hockey game," coach Mike Hastings said.

2. Coffee's for closers: The Mavericks did themselves no favors late in the game as they tried and failed to increase their lead to 2-0 over the Chargers. With just under six minutes remaining in regulation, Bryce Gervais was called for hooking. A minute later, Franklin was called for holding the stick. The Mavericks fended off the minute-long 5x3 and killed the penalties but lost precious offensive-zone time. When they got their own late power play with 87 seconds to go, they not only gave up the short-handed goal to Matt Salhany, who inexplicably got behind the MSU defense, but then Gervais went back to the box for boarding (his fifth penalty of the series), negating the penalty and even giving Huntsville some power-play time in OT.

3. Looking ahead: The Mavericks will get a much-needed break next weekend before going off to Alaska Anchorage. "We have an awful lot of work to do between now and when we get on that flight to Alaska," Hastings said. So where will MSU be in the standings before that trip? They're currently four points ahead of Michigan Tech (idle this weekend) and Bowling Green (out of conference), instead of having the six-point edge they expected, and those teams will play league series at Bemidji State and at Alaska, respectively, while the Mavericks are on bye. Will either team sweep or will Minnesota State maintain a slight edge going into the final two weeks of the regular season? Stay tuned.

Deep thought: As I said earlier, all due respect to Huntsville. Coach Mike Corbett's program is improving, even as it sits in last place in the WCHA. The Chargers play hard, and they've been rewarded for that over the second half of the season. They've gotten points in each of their last four league series. They started 2016 with a 1-0 loss at North Dakota, and they've lost just twice in their last seven games. Ultimately, the WCHA wants strong, improving, competitive programs top to bottom. Is this a sign of that happening? Maybe, maybe not. But in the old days of the league a first-place team going to a last-place team and coming home disappointed wasn't unheard of.

Around the WCHA: Northern Michigan 3, Ferris State 2 ... Lake Superior State 3, Bemidji State 0

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mavericks 3, Chargers 3 (OT)


Freddy's three thoughts (from afar):

1. Bad bounce: Take a look at the video above and you'll see the key play in Friday's surprising tie between the first-place Mavericks and the last-place Chargers. That bizarre goal during a delayed penalty gave UAH a 3-2 lead midway through the game. The Mavericks eventually tied things up midway through the third period to get one point out of the game, but getting just one point stung a bit. “That's one you don't plan on,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said of the weird goal. “I don't know what to say, other than that's kind of the way our night went.” Hastings said he had never seen a play like that in person but stressed that senior Jimmy Mullin didn't err on the play. “I back Jimmy Mullin 100 percent for trying to make a play,” he said. “Jimmy is trying to do things the right way, and it didn't work out.” (As an aside, I recall a similar goal being "scored" by Minnesota in a game against St. Cloud State 18-19 years ago.)

2. What else went wrong? The Mavericks took eight penalties, including three by senior Bryce Gervais. That's certainly an area in which they want to clean things up. Gervais also scored two goals, including the game-tying goal. I was surprised to see him on the ice to get that considering his hat trick of infractions, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call in the third and another penalty in the second that negated an MSU power play. Minnesota State also gave up a short-handed goal 28 seconds into the second period. Casey Nelson also negated a power play in the final minutes of regulation, although it was on a short-handed scoring chance for the Chargers. "We got a point on the road, but there are some things we need to clean up and clean up in a hurry," Hastings said. "Tonight was one where we all need to be held accountable, me included.”

3. What went right? Mavericks senior Teddy Blueger finished the game with two assists, the first of which gave him 100 points for his college career. Blueger has 20 assists this season and 28 points, both of which lead Minnesota State and the WCHA. Meanwhile, Gervais' two goals put him back in a tie for the team lead with C.J. Franklin with 12. Gervais has 93 career points. Mullin also had two assists in the game, and Zach Stepan scored the Mavericks' other goal. Goalie Cole Huggins stopped 15 shots, including a penalty shot early in the second period. The point did extend MSU's lead atop the WCHA standings to three points, although the Mavericks certainly would have like to have that other point in its pocket. They have to find a way to get two on Saturday.

Around the WCHA: Ferris State 5, Northern Michigan 1 ... Bemidji State 2, Lake Superior State 1 ... Miami 4, Bowling Green 1

Friday Morning Skate

Minnesota State begins a three-week stretch of no games in Mankato (two road series, one idle weekend) tonight when it plays at Alabama Huntsville. The series gives MSU a chance to increase its lead in the WCHA standings to as much as six points with Bowling Green playing out of conference and Michigan Tech on bye.

Mavericks coach Mike Hastings says this is the stretch run for his team, which is playing for another conference championship but, more importantly, trying to get itself to peak come playoffs where the WCHA's NCAA tournament representative will come from, barring something unforeseen happens in the Pairwise Rankings between now and then.

Looking at the the matchup with the Chargers, MSU's getting great production from players such as Teddy Blueger and C.J. Franklin, and its once-struggling power play is suddenly red hot. Don't expect to see too many changes from last week's series against Bowling Green. Huntsville, of course, has its outstanding goaltenders. Matt Larose has been the guy of late, and both he and Carmine Guerriero are more than capable of stealing a game or two.

More information on the series from MSU and UAH.

Going around the WCHA ...

• The big series is in Big Rapids where Ferris State hosts Northern Michigan in a matchup of the fourth- and fifth-place teams in the league. Both teams scored their first series sweeps of the season a week ago. There should be plenty of good goaltending in this series so expect some low-scoring games.

• Bemidji State, which won a nonconference game at Minnesota Duluth on Tuesday, travels to Lake Superior State in a battle of two teams trying to get home ice for the playoffs. The Beavers hope they can continue their upward trend and get points on the road, while the Lakers look to break a five-game losing streak.

• Bowling Green will stop out of WCHA play for a single game tonight against in-state rival Miami. The Falcons, fresh off their split at MSU, hope to avenge an earlier loss to the RedHawks. More Bowling Green coverage from the good folks at BGSUHockey.com right there on the link.

• Alaska, Alaska Anchorage and Michigan Tech are idle this weekend.

Read more about the WCHA in Jack Hittinger's and my USCHO column and read our weekly picks here.

More good college hockey news and notes from College Hockey News' Adam Wodon here.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Falcons 3, Mavericks 1

Trevor Cokley/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. The race is on: Minnesota State was unable to extend its lead in the WCHA standings as the Falcons cooled the Mavericks' jets on Saturday night. Now the top of the league is stacked, with MSU holding a two-point lead over Bowling Green and Michigan Tech, which swept Lake Superior State. Each of those teams has six league series remaining with MSU going to Huntsville and Anchorage before hosting Bemidji; BGSU going to Alaska and Huntsville with Ferris at home in between; and Tech going to Bemidji, hosting Alaska and playing Northern home and home. Anything can happen. "We just had to move on and know we can be a top team in our league, even though the score didn’t show that last night," said Falcons senior Mark Cooper, who scored two goals. "Tonight, we showed we can play with the best in the WCHA."

2. Back to beginning: While the game was fast and physical with both teams pushing the pace, there were times when the Mavericks carried play and, perhaps, reverted back to earlier in the season when they simply couldn't score despite some lopsided in-zone time and shot totals. Credit Bowling Green goalie Chris Nell, who has the best numbers in the WCHA (currently .933 SV%, 1.74 GAA), and stopped 31 of 32 shots, including 14 in the third period on Saturday. But MSU also had 83 shot attempts, 34 in the third period, but missed the net 24 times and had 27 shots blocked. Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said his team did a good job moving Nell around and "taking away his eyes" on Friday. "I didn't think we were as consistent with that tonight," he said.

3. Regression to the mean: We probably shouldn't have expected the Mavericks to keep up the scoring pace of the last five games when they averaged five goals per. So which team are they? The one that can score at least three when it needs to or the one that might get stuck with one against a good team, as it did tonight and at Michigan Tech three weeks ago? Hastings said there was less panic in his team's play compared to when it was having some offensive troubles during the beginning of the season, so that's encouraging. If the top teams end up in Grand Rapids, though, MSU will need to find a way to score to win the Final Five and get back to the NCAA tournament. The loss, couple with some other results, including Minnesota's loss to Penn State, dropped the Mavericks from 15th to 23rd in the Pairwise Rankings.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 3, Lake Superior State 1 ... Northern Michigan 5, Alaska Anchorage 4 ... Ferris State at Alaska (late)

MSU vs. Bowling Green — Game 2 live blog

The Mavericks will go for the series sweep against the Falcons tonight at the Verizon Wireless Center. The live blog can be found below tonight's lines.

MINNESOTA STATE
26-Margonari, 23-Blueger, 10-Knutson
25-Stepan, 15-Franklin, 19-McClure
9-Gervais, 17-Huntebrinker, 12-Coatta
7-Cooper, 16-J. Nelson, 14-Mullin

28-Jutzi, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 6-C. Nelson
11-Flanagan, 27-Schwalbe

34-Huggins
29-A. Nelson

Scratches: Knowles, Lewis, Madry, Pawloski, Schmeisser, Vanko

BOWLING GREEN
6-McLain, 7-Spezia, 26-Cooper
13-Baylis, 2-Mercier, 20-M. Pohlkamp
27-McKeown, 18-D'Andrea, 16-Hawkins
23-Tate, 11-Bednard, 29-Schilling

5-Smith, 28-Walker
3-Ernst, 4-McDonald
14-Friedman, 12-C. Pohlkamp

33-Nell
31-Burke

Friday, February 5, 2016

Mavericks 5, Falcons 1

Trevor Cokley, The Free Press

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Call him Shorty: Bryce Gervais scored two goals short-handed goals in the same penalty on Friday night, a feat that put away the game for the Mavericks just as the Falcons started to make a push. Gervais now has nine short-handed goals for his MSU career, and that now stands as the school record. More importantly, perhaps, it may be a sign that he's getting out of the goal-scoring funk he's been in for much of the season, at least in the last 12 games when he's scored just one. Gervais now has 10 goals for this season, but had 27 last year. His career total is now 61, which puts him fourth on the Mavericks' Division I-era list behind Shane Joseph (68), Jesse Rooney (67) and Tim Wolfe (65). "Once he gets going, he's hard to stop," said Teddy Blueger, who assisted on both shorties. "He showed that last year."

2. Scoring sensation: Minnesota State has been scoring goals at a breakneck pace over the last five games, potting 25 pucks over that span, including 18 in three home games. Michael Huntebrinker, Max Coatta and C.J. Franklin scored MSU's first three goals, with Coatta (who also assisted on Huntebrinker's goal) and Franklin (power play) keeping some hot streaks going. Franklin has nine points over a five-game point streak. "We’ve had more guys making plays lately and they’re not easy ones," coach Mike Hastings said. "In our league right now, in college hockey, you have to work so hard to score goals. We did them in different ways tonight, and if we can continue that we’ll be OK. If we don’t, you make the game harder on yourself."


3. Tight at the top: Minnesota State increased its lead over Bowling Green atop the WCHA standings to four points with the win. The 5-1 score doesn't much look like most of the games played against these two teams, who tied twice in Ohio in December and who have played five overtime games in their 10 meetings over the last three years. However, both Hastings and Falcons coach Chris Bergeron said the game was more closely played than the score indicated. Hastings said Cole Huggins (18 saves) was "outstanding," and the goalie allowed only a short-handed breakaway goal in the third period. Bergeron said MSU's veteran players got the job done when his team's didn't. "In a game like that, you’re on the edge of making a mistake and they’re going to capitalize, and that’s what happened," Bergeron said. "The shots were 21-19. It was a fairly even game at times. But they were way more opportunistic than we were."

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Northern Michigan 3, Alaska Anchorage 2 ... Michigan Tech 3, Lake Superior State 0 ... Ferris State at Alaska (late)

MSU vs. Bowling Green, Game 1 live chat

The Mavericks and the Falcons face off in a key conference matchup starting at 7:07 p.m. on Friday at the Verizon Wireless Center. Join the conversation or follow along with the action below tonight's lines.

MINNESOTA STATE
26-Margonari, 23-Blueger, 10-Knutson
25-Stepan, 15-Franklin, 19-McClure
24-Knowles, 17-Huntebrinker, 9-Gervais
14-Mullin, 16-J. Nelson, 12-Coatta

28-Jutzi, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 6-C. Nelson
11-Flanagan, 27-Schwalbe

34-Huggins
29-A. Nelson

Scratches: Cooper, Lewis, Madry, Pawloski, Schmeisser, Vanko

BOWLING GREEN
10-Dufour, 2-Mercier, 20-M. Pohlkamp
27-McKeown, 18-D'Andrea, 16-Hawkins
23-Tate, 11-Bednard, 29-Schilling
13-Baylis, 6-McLain, 26-Cooper

5-Smith, 28-Walker
14-Friedman, 12-C. Pohlkamp
3-Ernst, 4-McDonald

33-Nell
31-Burke