Monday, December 31, 2007


Minnesota State broke into the poll for the first time this season, coming in at No. 19 after going 6-1-2 in their last nine games. More important to the Mavericks, however was their Pairwise ranking, which is 15th (tied with Minnesota). The Pairwise mimics the way the NCAA determines its 16-team tournament field.

Here is this week's poll (WCHA teams in bold):

Team(first place) Record Points Previous
1 Miami (24) 18-2-0 743 1
2 Michigan (12) 18-2-0 727 2
3 Denver ( 2) 16-4-0 692 3
4 Colorado College 12-6-0 591 4
5 Massachusetts 9-3-5 575 9
6 Notre Dame 17-5-0 568 6
7 New Hampshire 10-5-1 487 10
8 North Dakota 9-7-1 480 7
9 Northeastern 9-4-2 472 11
10 Michigan State 12-5-2 433 5
11 Boston College 8-4-5 395 14
12 Clarkson 10-6-1 333 8
13 Wisconsin 8-7-3 271 13
14 Mass.-Lowell 9-4-4 236 20
15 St. Cloud State 9-9-2 202 16
16 Minnesota 9-9-2 123 12
16 Minnesota-Duluth 6-6-4 123 18
18 Quinnipiac 10-5-2 121 NR
19 Minnesota State 9-7-3 76 NR
20 Michigan Tech 7-9-2 68 NR
Others Receiving Votes: Harvard 67, Rensselaer 58, Niagara 48, Bowling Green 33, Air Force 23, Providence 18, Ferris State 8, RIT 7, Colgate 1, Yale 1.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

If it ain't broke ...

It's a half hour before the puck drops, and the Alltel Center is mostly empty, which isn't too surprising considering the 5:07 p.m. start, holiday vacation, a nonconference opponent and the Vikings game. 

The Mavericks will go with the same lineup as they went with in Friday's 6-1 win over Princeton (see post below).

Friday, December 28, 2007

One-sided affair

Officially, it was the last game of the first half of the season, but the Mavericks started their second half right with a 6-1 win over Princeton at the Alltel Center.

Joel Hanson scored two goals and assisted on another. Jason Wiley scored two late goals. And Trevor Bruess and Nick Canzanello each had two assists.

The line of Hanson, Bruess and Kael Mouillierat was dominant as was the defense, which allowed 19 shots to get to goalie Mike Zacharias, who won his seventh game.

The Mavericks are now 8-7-3, which includes a 5-1-2 mark over their last eight games. Hanson has eight points over that stretch after starting the season pointless in MSU's first 10 games.

His game-winning goal Friday was a tip in from Bruess after Bruess won an offensive-zone faceoff through his opponent's legs then slipped by the center to retrieve the puck before sliding it over to Hanson.

There were pretty goals galore as Mouillierat opened the scoring after making a nifty move to beat goalie Zane Kalemba, Mick Berge scored a wrap-around goal and Wiley, well, Wiley got credit for a goal after a length-of-the-ice dump-in that Kalemba played to a teammate, only to have the puck carom back into the net.

Opening warmups

There aren't too many changes since we last left the Mavericks. Forward Jerad Stewart is back in the lineup after missing two games with injury. Mike Zacharias will make his eighth consecutive start in goal.

Here are the Mavericks' lines:




I'm back (and I'm not the only one)

PucKato is back from Christmas vacation just in time for tonight's game between the Mavericks and the Princeton Tigers. I'll have more on that with a pregame post in an hour or so.

Staying on the subject of returning ...

The St. Louis Blues have recalled ex-Mav Steve Wagner after a stint in Peoria. Earlier this month, the Anaheim Ducks called up Ryan Carter and the New York Islanders brought up Tim Jackman. Meanwhile, the Blues' David Backes apparently has become a thorn in the Detroit Red Wings' side.

As for other MSU alumni, Grant Stevenson remains in Quad City. The Calgary Flames prospect has 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points in 33 American Hockey League games.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy holidays

No, I'm not pulling a Kyle Okposo. I'm just taking a few days off for the holidays. I'll be back in Mankato just before the Princeton Tigers roll into town. If you need your MSU hockey fix, you can check out a one-game-shy-of-midseason report on the Mavericks in Sunday's edition of The Free Press.

Until next week, happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Greetings from ...

... Mankato.

Didn't make the trip to Omaha tonight, so PucKato will be tuning in to Mike Sullivan's radio call like everyone else in town.

A few pregame notes from Monday morning's practice: Jared Stewart is out with an undisclosed injury and senior Matt Tyree will take his spot on the third line with Zach Harrison and Rylan Galiardi. ... The only other lineup change from Saturday is on defense where Blake Friesen will go in for Channing Boe. ... Coach Troy Jutting said he's going to keep rolling with Mike Zacharias in goal right now. And why not? Zacharias moved up to third in the nation in GAA (1.63) and fourth in SV% (.939).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Another close shave

The Mavericks left Bemidji with a series sweep, winning 1-0 on a Geoff Irwin power-play goal at 7:27 of the third period. Goalie Mike Zacharias got his third shutout of the season and the fourth of his career, stopping 22 shots.

One puck did get past Zacharias, at 12:13 of the second period. But referee Todd Anderson and his crew ultimately ruled that Joey Moggach kicked the puck into the goal. Unlike the WCHA, the CHA does not have video replay, so the ruling stood.

The Mavericks are now unbeaten in their last six games (4-0-2) and over the .500 mark for the first time since Nov. 2.

Wagner sent down

It's scoreless after two periods in Bemidji, but found out this nugget that I missed this week:

The St. Louis Blues sent ex-Maverick Steve Wagner was sent down to Peoria of the AHL. It's the first time the rookie has played in the minors this season.

Another rink

One of the treats of visiting northern Minnesota is that you get to watch the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.). Today, the CBC aired the Continental Cup of Curling, a Ryder Cup-esque event between North America and Europe. The North American team features Mankato natives Todd Birr and Kevin Birr. The end of the Birrs' match was aired, and they won to add to the North American team's overall lead. The event will conclude Sunday.

Mavericks-Beavers, Part II

The puck drops in an hour, and the Mavericks have made a few line changes (in bold):




Gunderson is in for Stewart, and Canzanello is in for Friesen. Zacharias will start in goal.

Friday, December 14, 2007


The Mavericks opened up leads of 2-0 and 4-1 and held off a hard charge by Bemidji State to eke out a 4-3 win.

The victory snapped a four-game losing streak against the Beavers and increased the Mavericks' unbeaten streak to five games (3-0-2), but the players acted as if they were fortunate to escape with a win.

After going up 4-1 on James Gaulrapp's goal at 3:04 of the second period, Minnesota State mustered just seven shots on goal over the final 36-plus minutes.

"We know we're better than how we played," Gaulrapp said. "We were nervous. They came at us and didn't do much about it."

Jason Wiley had two assists, and Mick Berge, Trevor Bruess and Brian Kilburg scored the other goals. Mike Zacharias finished with 31 saves.

The Mavericks' penalty kill was outstanding again, blanking the Beavers on six opportunities. That included a somewhat questionable charging call on Geoff Irwin with 2:25 to play. Irwin and Bemidji goalie Matt Dalton raced for a lose puck in the high slot. Dalton got to it first and Irwin crashed into him.

"I think our penalty kill has been really good," Wiley said. "It's been solid how many games in a row? But we took way too many penalties. We have to stay out of the box or that's going to catch up to us eventually."

Greetings from chilly Bemidji

Gametime temperature is 0 F outside and dropping, but it's cozy in the John Glas Fieldhouse.

Here are the Mavericks' lines for tonight:




Pregame notes: This weekend is a homecoming for freshman defenseman Channing Boe, a Bemidji native. You can read more about him in Friday's Free Press. ... Ryan McKelvie, a three-year assistant captain for the Mavericks is here. He's a graduate assistant coach for the Beavers, and his brother Chris is a sophomore forward at BSU.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

You want answers, 12.12.07

Thanks for all of the questions. There were a lot of goaltending questions, so let's start with those.

What are the chances that if things continue at the current pace that the "Zach-a-ri-as" chants will turn into "Hobey Baker" chants? What will it take for Zacharias to get Hobey consideration and would the MSU athletic department get involved in a marketing campaign?
It's early, of course, but I imagine fans will jump on the bandwagon if Zacharias can keep up his impressive numbers (.934 SV%, 1.65 GAA). In general, however, goalies don't get a lot of Hobey love. Only two goalies have won in the award's 27-year history, Michigan State's Ryan Miller in 2001 and Minnesota's Robb Stauber in 1988. Miller had a 1.32 and a .950 and he won 31 games that season. Although it's not a career award, Miller also posted 18 shutouts at the other MSU. Wisconsin's Brian Elliott didn't win in 2006 despite leading the nation with 1.55, .938 and 27 wins, including the national title (although the voting is done before the Frozen Four). Denver defenseman Matt Carle got the trophy that year. If Zacharias can keep going at the current pace and win along the way, people will start to take notice. Right now, he's still flying below guys like Colorado College's Richard Bachman, Denver's Peter Mannino and Miami's Jeff Zatkoff. As for Minnesota State's marketing efforts, they'll push Zacharias if they think he's a candidate, just as they did Grant Stevenson and Shane Joseph in 2003.

Will we see Dan Tormey back in goal during this five-game nonconference stretch? What about Austin Lee? I wouldn't be surprised to see Tormey back in net in the near future, especially since MSU plays three games between Friday and Tuesday. While Zacharias clearly has played himself into the No. 1 spot, the Mavericks probably don't want to play him every game and wear him down. Zacharias is starting Friday at Bemidji State. We'll see what happens from there. As for Lee, both he and the team want this to be a redshirt season. I don't see him playing this season unless there's an injury or two.

Will Andrew Sackrison return to the lineup this weekend? Yes. So will Channing Boe.

What's up with Matt Tyree? This nonconference stretch might be a chance to see Tyree get back in the lineup as well. I haven't heard one way or another, though. He hasn't played since the second night at Alabama-Huntsville. He scored the game-winning goal in that game. Consider this about Tyree: two career goals as a Maverick, two GWGs.

Is there going to be any action taken against those who committed "dumb" penalties Saturday? It looks like the only lineup changes will be Sackrison for Gunderson and Boe for Canzanello. Gunderson did get called for cross-checking, but I think the Mavericks simply need to get Sackrison back on the ice after sitting him for three games. You may disagree, but I don't think I'd classify any of the penalties that night as dumb. The coaches draw a distinction between hard, aggressive, borderline plays and dumb, selfish ones.

Are there any Mavericks who could be drafted? Are there any Mavericks that might leave early? Ben Youds, I believe, is draft eligible, and Austin Lee, who was under consideration last year, might have another year. I'm not sure if we'll see anyone get taken next summer. Rylan Galiardi is too old, as is Kurt Davis. I think this might be a safe year for the Mavericks for early departures, too. Davis is playing great, but I don't know if the NHL's going to target a 5-foot-9, 175-pound defenseman.

What are the school's options for preseason games? Troy Jutting said he tried to get games for that first weekend of the season but wasn't able to this year. Hindsight is 20-20, of course, and given how the Mavericks started, an exhibition game or an early nonconference game might have done them some good. Those exhibitions are a mixed bag, in my opinion. I've seen the Mavericks lose and take heat and I've seen them win 9-0 and not learn much about themselves. In an ideal world, they would have brought a nonconference team to Mankato for opening weekend, especially with the killer road tour that was to follow.

What was your take on the Alltel Center crowds? Were there many Wisconsin fans? The student sections were great -- full and lively all weekend. And the announced attendance figures of 4,121 and 4,645 were certainly impressive. There were a fair amount of red shirts there but not as many as years past. Perhaps forecasts of poor weather kept them behind state lines.

Do you think the Mankato area will be producing Division I-caliber prep players soon? How good a PR boost would it be for the Mavericks to have a local tie? The Mankato West hockey team is very good, and Scarlets senior Corey Leivermann played well for the high school elite league this fall. Leivermann has D-I ambitions, so I'm curious to see what happens from here. He'll probably have to play junior hockey. Troy Jutting has said he'd love to have a Mankato kid on the team, but I don't think he just wants to have one to have one. He wants someone who can and will play. A local tie will sell a few tickets but not as many as winning games every night does.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Question time

The Mavericks have taken three points from ranked teams two weeks in a row and have one more series -- this weekend at Bemidji State -- before taking a short break for the holidays. I'll be answering some more questions this week, likely Wednesday evening, so send in your questions on the comments section. I'll go through some past posts and drum up any others you've had, too.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Why change a thing?

Eight minutes until the puck drops ...

The Mavericks will go with the same lineup as they did in Friday's 3-1 win over the Badgers. ... Wisconsin mixed up its line chart a bit but replaced only Andy Bohmbach with Tom Gorowsky. ...A win tonight will put Minnesota State at .500 for the first time since Nov. 9. ... More later.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Three's the magic number

The Mavericks got to three and beat the 10th-ranked Badgers 3-1 Friday before a crowd of 4,121 at the Alltel Center.

Special teams were the key. Not only did Minnesota State score two power-play goals (snapping an 0 for 16 slump) but they impressively killed off five penalties, including two 5-on-3 power plays that totaled 3 minutes, 14 seconds, including a full 2 minutes in the game's final seven minutes.

“That was a long two minutes,” said freshman forward Rylan Galiardi, who had a goal and an assist but was in the penalty box with Brian Kilburg during that final kill. Joel Hanson and Jon Kalinski were the heroes there, not leaving the ice during the kill.

Geoff Irwin scored the game-winning goal on a power play in the second period, and Mick Berge scored his eighth goal of the season just 13 seconds after Wisconsin's Kyle Turris opened the game's scoring.

Irwin also had an assist for a two-point game, and another penalty killer extrordinaire, R.J. Linder, had two assists.

It's gameday

The Mavericks must love this cushy lifestyle of playing at home. Two weeks in a row without travel must feel like a novelty. Anyway, the 10th-ranked Badgers are in town for a set of WCHA games at Alltel Center. Both teams snapped losing streaks and went unbeaten last week.

Minnesota State likely will stick with its winners and go with the same lines as last Saturday against Minnesota Duluth. That means:




Coach Troy Jutting said after Thursday's practice that he like the way those combos worked together and matched up. We'll see if they work again against the Badgers.

Here are a few keys to the series:

1. Keep believing in the defense: As I wrote about in today's Free Press, the Mavericks are establishing a defensive personality, thanks to the play of goalie Mike Zacharias and solid play by defensemen like Brian Kilburg. MSU is not scoring a ton of goals, so they best keep the Badgers to two goals or less, a feat Zacharias has been more than capable of lately, with a 1.82 GAA that ranks 11th in the country.

2. Find that elusive third goal: Last week Jutting and his players talked about the lack of goal scoring in the WCHA this season and said you have to get to two goals. The Mavericks need to find a third this weekend. The best place to find it? On the power play where MSU has been shut out the last four games. Only three Mavericks have more than one goal.

3. Get the crowd into it: The Alltel Center may not be Mariucci Arena or the Kohl Center, but when there's an enthusiastic, almost-full house it can be a great atmosphere, as some of the Badgers recalled in today's Capital Times. "We don't take this team lightly at all," junior forward Ben Street said. "It's a tough building to play in. They've got a pretty hostile crowd and they work really hard." Said goalie Shane Connelly: "Any little momentum, that place starts getting loud."

That's all for now. See you at the rink tonight.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

You want answers? 12.04.07

Here's the latest installment:

What sort of potential did Garry Nunn have? Did he have NHL potential? I'm not sure about his NHL potential. We'll find that out when the Central Scouting Lists come out later this year. He's small (5-9, 175) and young, having just turned 18 in November. All I know is, time and time again, Mavericks coach Troy Jutting told me that Nunn would remind people of Shane Joseph and probably be better. He scored 16 goals and 40 points in 28 games in the BCHL this season before moving to major junior. No matter what his future is, it's a big blow for Minnesota State.

Why was Andrew Sackrison out of the lineup Saturday? Simply, he needs to play better. What the Mavericks have right now is some depth and that allows the coaches to make some changes when they need to send a message, especially to young players. We'll see if the message got through this weekend.

Should Joel Hanson be benched? Jumping off the last question, I'm not sure if the coaches will sit their senior captain, though. For one thing, Hanson has played all right, he just hasn't scored (until his first goal/point of the season Friday). He's fourth on the team in shots on goal. Having him in the lineup still gives the Mavericks their best chance to win. But there's no question, that the Mavericks need to get more offensive production from him. As for the suggestion that Hanson be stripped of his "C," that's not going to happen. However, as I wrote about last Friday, R.J. Linder is being called upon to be more of a vocal, emotional leader. Perhaps that will take some pressure off Hanson as he tries to work out of this slump.

What are the chances we're going to see Brett Peterson soon? There were two Brett Peterson questions. Another related to benching of Hanson in favor of giving Peterson and Mike Louwerse more experience. I suspect Peterson, a freshman forward, might get a chance to play during some of the nonconference games that are coming up later this month (Bemidji State, Nebraska-Omaha, Yale and Princeton). Same with forward Louwerse, although he's suffered through some early season injuries. The best thing they can do is bust butt in practice and get the coaches to notice them and trust them. Then, when they do decide to sit down an Andy Sackrison or another player for a night, they'll get their shot. It worked for Ryan Gunderson last weekend.

What are the chances a player who verbally commits to MSU decides to renege and take a better offer? I guess it could happen. But what generally seems to take place is, once a kid tells a team he's coming and has, in essence, orally said he's accepting the team's scholarship offer (and told other teams he's doing the same), everyone else who's recruiting him backs off and respects the decision. Today, there are Web sites devoted to recruiting. High school and junior teams announce when players commit almost immediately after the decision's been made. No player will able to renege quietly, that's for sure.

Who would the coaches say are the most pleasant surprises this season? I'll get a firm answer on this later this week. But I'd have to say: 1. The play of the freshmen defensemen. Kurt Davis, Ben Youds and Channing Boe have stepped right in and played like veterans. Davis and Youds seldom get beat and, more importantly, they get the puck out of their own end and up the rink. I thought Davis had an outstanding weekend against Duluth. He didn't look like a freshman. He looked 21 (which he is), but he didn't look like a freshman. 2. The play of freshman forward Rylan Galiardi. He surprised the staff with his preseason play and earned a regular spot. He's one of eight players -- and the only freshman -- to have played in every game this season.

There were a few more questions/comments/debates about marketing and the Alltel Center atmosphere: Through three games, the Mavericks have drawn an average of 4,481. The all-time high is 3,860. Now, I know that number will go down over the holidays, but it's pretty good. I imagine it might even go up this weekend with Wisconsin in town. I was most impressed with Saturday night's crowd (3,919), which came out despite the lousy weather. They were rewarded with a 2-1 MSU win.

The blog is called PucKato. Will there be any coverage of the local high school teams? This blog is mainly devoted by MSU men's hockey, but it's certainly not limited to it.
We'll see what happens as the season goes on, but I suspect I throw up some posts about the prep teams. I'm covering West vs. Waseca tonight and looking forward to seeing the Scarlets in action. They had a nice season-opening win last week over section-foe New Prague, winning 7-1.

Get 'em while their hot ... last call for questions

Minnesota State announced Monday that student tickets for this weekend's games against 10th-ranked Wisconsin will be distributed starting at noon Thursday at Taylor Center. There are 1,100 student tickets for each game, and they are free to all students with valid Mavcards.

Also, the first 500 fans to attend Friday's game will receive a free MSU hockey toque (winter hat) courtesy of McDonald's. Saturday night's game features the annual Teddy Bear Toss. Bring a stuffed animal to the game to donate to local children's charities and you'll get a voucher for a discount for a future game ticket.

Finally, this is the last call for questions for the weekly "You Want Answers?" post. They're trickling in so far. I'll be answering them later today.

Monday, December 3, 2007

More on Nunn

Minnesota State recruit Garry' Nunn's decision to skip hockey to play major junior has created a buzz, namely about the recruiting practices of major junior teams and the NCAA's opinon that almost any affiliation with such a team is considered professional play.

A few hockey blogs have also tackled the subject, too.

Meanwhile, MSU coach Troy Jutting had this to say about the situation: "I knew when they ruled he'd have to sit a year that it might happen. It's unfortunate. He's a big-timer."

Saturday, December 1, 2007

First call for questions

PucKato will feature another "You Want Answers" post, most likely on Tuesday evening, so send in your questions on the comments section, and I'll try to get to as many as I can. As for you anonymous contributors, don't be shy, sign in and ask or email me at

Make it three

Goalie Mike Zacharias stopped 26 of 27 shots, and Mick Berge scored the game-winning goal 5 1/2 minutes into the third period as the Minnesota defeated No. 12 Minnesota Duluth 2-1 Saturday at Alltel Center.

In their finest Saturday performance of the season, the Mavericks snapped a five-game winless streak and, more importantly, secured three points for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings to inch out of the cellar.

Junior defenseman Blake Friesen scored the Mavericks' first goal in the final minute of the second period, ending a scoreless game.

But Zacharias was stellar, as he has been most of the year, allowing only a lone short-handed goal that came on a 2-on-1 rush. He upped his save percentage to .930 and his goals-against average to 1.82. But in the suddenly defensive-minded WCHA, those numbers rank fifth and sixth in the conference.

You can read more about Saturday's game as well as a feature on defenseman Kurt Davis and his father and former MSU captain Carl Davis in Sunday's Free Press.