Thursday, November 8, 2007

Let's play hockey

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.


The Scarlet Gopher said...

Ok PucKato...

Time for a dose of reality. Don't be disillusioned by a packed house at the Alltel Center - I would bet that at least 20% of the crowd will be wearing maroon and gold. I'll be among them.

My family were MSU season ticket holders when I was in high school and I've also been priviledged to have been a four year Gopher hockey student season ticket holder. The MSU crowd, regardless of numbers, is a corporate crowd and it would be a stretch to call the Alltel Center (or 'The Cell' as MSU marketers tried to refer to it prior to this year ... what a joke) a 'hostile environment.' We'll get to see that on Saturday night when the Mavs head to the Mooch.

MSU fans cheer when they are entertained and not when it helps their team (See: Gopher football & basketball). Division I hockey is a curiosity for Mankato sports fans and certainly not a passion like it is for Gopher supporters. The "hate" for Gopher hockey is flattery - you don't hate teams that you don't repect (e.g. A-Rod & the Yankees).

The Alltel Center may indeed be rocking tonight, but it'll be a more evenly biased crowd that some think. If the Mavs win (which they certainly could), Gopher fans be there until the bitter end. If the Gophers are up by two or more goals, MSU fans will be shuffling out to go sip on their Blue Bricks drinks well before the final buzzer sounds.

This 'rivalry' won't develop until MSU garners some respect. Part of me hopes they will win a game or two against the Gophers ('Rodents' if you're a Mav fan) this weekend to give this series some spice.

24-2-4 ... and counting.

Shane Frederick said...

I've often contended that North Dakota, not Minnesota, is the Mavericks' biggest rival. However, after seven-plus years of covering MSU hockey, I do think the environment you're talking about is changing, albeit slowly. I disagree about your two-goal lead scenario.

I'll be curious to see the fan ratio -- Mavericks to Gophers -- tonight. But I do know that, even if it's not "hostile" there is an amazing difference between a crowd of 3,000 and a crowd of 4,000 (tonight will be 5,000-plus) at the Civic Center.

By the, I believe it was my predecessor, P.J. Slinger, who coined the term, "The Cell," and that was when the arena had Cellular 2000 in its name. I have rarely, if ever, called it The Cell, and I don't think marketers have either because they are beholden to the real name of the building because that's what pays the bills.

You did give me a good idea for a blog post though.

The Scarlet Gopher said...

With the way the Gophers are playing, we may indeed not get to see what happens if the maroon and gold goes up by two in the third...

The main point surrounding my stance on Maverick hockey fans could just as easily be applied to their presumed rivalry with North Dakota as with Minnesota. The Mavs and Gophers haven't gotten a chance to have any epic series (and won't either this year as this weekend is the only series of the year with these two squads) that could spark a rivalry.

Although Mavs fans may show up in greater numbers to see the Sioux and might like to call them their biggest rival, their thoughts on the rival I'm sure is not recipricated in Grand Forks. I'm sure SiouxNation would count Minnesota, Wisconsin or Duluth among their biggest rivals with the Mavs far down the list.

What is the Mavs' all-time series record with North Dakota? I would argue that although my knowledge on the subject is limited, it seems that fans turning out to watch an MSU-NoDak series has more to do with hockey fans wanted to see the Green Goblins and less to do with supporting MSU hockey.

Until the Mavs make some noise in the WCHA (maybe this year?) and make another NCAA appearence, their 'rivalries' and perceptions thereof will remain one-sided.

Anonymous said...

I agree Scarlet Gopher. I am a lifelong Mankato resident, and graduate of MSU. I will never, however be a Maverick hockey fan. It seems that the only thing fueling the crowd game after game, is an unitelligent disrespect for the other team. Hockey knowledge, both the sport and otherwise is very limited here. I love hockey and follow teams all over the country. I have yet to earn an ounce of respect for MSU hockey.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last comment. If you truly care about your team, cheer for them. Don't throw around hatred fro the opposing team. It is uniformed and shows a lack of knowledge about the sport. Rivalries are based on respect for the opponents, not dislike. I am a Gopher fan, but I have been treated better at SCSU and ND games while wearing my jersey than I have been treated here. At least the show some respect.