The Alltel Center is sold out, and the puck drops between the Mavericks and Gophers in less than 24 hours.
Maybe the six-game road swing to start the season was a perfect marketing tool for MSU, as there seems to be great anticipation for this game. Maybe it's because the Mavericks are 3-2-1. Maybe it's because the Gophers are in town. Maybe it's because the Gophers are winless in WCHA play. Whatever the reason, the rink should be rocking Friday night.
Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said he's not fooled by Minnesota's alleged struggles. "They're a good hockey team. I think people like to root for their demise ... but they've played pretty well from the tapes I've seen."
Three keys to the series
If the Mavericks are going to get their first win over the Gophers since 2002, look for the following to happen:
1. Great goaltending: Mavericks starter Mike Zacharias is riding a two-game shutout streak, but even he admits that the quality of competition is changing significantly. Still, a hot goalie is a hot goalie.
2. Stay out of the box: The Mavericks must continue to keep their penalties down. Their penalty kill has been strong and has not allowed a goal in four games, but they should look at Minnesota's 7.5 percent power play as a mirage. When MSU does go to the box, a Jon Kalinski short-handed goal would help matters.
3. Home-ice advantage: Minnesota State needs to take advantage of Friday's 5,000-plus crowd. Sure, the Gophers are used to playing in front of 10,000, but the Alltel Center (I'm still not used to writing that but it beats writing Midwest Wireless Civic Center over and over) can be a great atmosphere when it's full and everybody's into the game. An early goal or two by the home team and a few big hits could do wonders for the Mavericks.
Notes: The only forward line that will be the same as last week will be the Kalinski-Bruess-Berge combo. Other lines include Mouillierat-Galiardi-Hanson, Gaulrapp-Harrison-Stewart and Irwin-Sackrison-Wiley. ... Freshman D Ben Youds did not practice Thursday. Jutting said Youds is dinged up and his playing status will be made during Friday's morning skate. Youds, however, said it's nothing serious and is looking forward to playing. ... If he can't go, Channing Boe will play with R.J. Linder. ... Other defensive combinations: Davis-Kilburg, Friesen-Canzanello. ... For more on this weekend's series, including a feature about small-town boy Jon Kalinski, check out Friday's Free Press.