Without further ado, lets get to your questions ...
Who is the odd-man out of the defensive corps come playoff time? Jutting has insisted all season that he has seven trustworthy defensemen and has shown that all year. Who sits that first playoff game may depend on the matchup, where the game is played and how those seven players were the previous weekend and in practice. Judging by the last eight games, the safest defensemen appear to be Linder, Youds, Davis and Kilburg, while Friesen, Boe and Canzanello have done more rotating.
What are the chances the Mavs pull the goalie with a two-goal lead Tuesday to try to keep the Spirit of the Maverick trophy? That trophy doesn't mean nearly as much as the Pairwise ramifications of Tuesday's game against Nebraska-Omaha, so winning, whether by one goal or four goals, is most important. But Omaha did beat Mankato 6-3 in December, so I expect MSU to try to score goals early and often in order to try and keep what some like to call the Maverick Cup. If MSU gives up the trophy but makes the NCAA tournament, I doubt the players will even notice the empty spot in their lounge.
How does the Mavericks' power-play rank? The reader said he cringes every time the Mavericks get a power play because they haven't scored many one-timers and have only one real sniper in Mick Berge. MSU ranks eighth in the WCHA in power-play success at 12. 9 percent right now (St. Cloud State leads at 21.2 percent). I know they want that number to go up, and I'd like to see them get more traffic in front of the goaltender. However, consider this: I was talking to former Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer Saturday and he watched the Mavericks on consecutive Fridays (home vs. Anchorage and at Wisconsin); he said their PP is the best he's seen this year. While it hasn't scored a ton of goals, he said, the Mavericks move the pucks as well as anyone.
Can you provide some of the specifics as to what those upgrades to the Alltel Center will be and where the proposed additional sheet of ice will be? The proposal to the bonding committee is for a new building tentatively called the Southern Minnesota Women's Hockey Exposition Center to be constructed across Riverfront Drive from the Alltel Center. The hope is that it will be a building that could permanently house both MSU hockey programs, including women's home games. The men's games would remain in the main arena, which certainly needs some upgrades. Although I don't know what specifically is in the works, I think the Alltel Center needs the following: improved locker-room space, a training room, a modern scoreboard with video for replays, a press box and purple seats.
What are the chances of early departures after this season? I'm not sure if anyone from this team will leave early, but it would surprise me if NHL teams aren't keeping a close eye on the Mavericks' program. They'd be crazy not to, since the last two years have produced free-agent players who made quick leaps to the show, including defenseman Steve Wagner last year and center Ryan Carter the year before. The Mavericks have only two draft picks on their roster in Jon Kalinski and Andrew Sackrison. The team's top scorers, Trevor Bruess, Mick Berge and Joel Hanson (a senior) are all free agents.
Why hasn't Matt Tyree played lately? I would guess Matt will play at least one of the final three home games, whichever one is deemed senior night. The Mavericks haven't made many changes to their forward rotation, especially when they've had such success of late, going 7-1-0 in their last eight games.
If the Mavericks end up making the national tournament, where would you expect them to play in the regional? It's so early, they could wind up in any of the four regions. The NCAA prefers to keep teams close to home, but other factors, like avoiding intraconference matchups in the first round, will force some flip-flopping. I think everyone in Mankato would like to see the Mavericks go to Madison, as it makes for a pretty easy road trip.
After finishing tops in the state in scoring, what do you expect Mankato West's Ricky Litchfield's next hockey move to be? His next move, of course, is to try to get the Scarlets to the state tournament. After that, I think it's to try to hook up with a junior team and get/keep his name out there. Having teammate Corey Leivermann already committed to Minnesota State, I think, has inspired him to become a better two-way player this season. He has speed and scoring skill, no doubt. Will he be able to do that at the junior level? The college level? I think that's all up to him and how hard he wants to pursue that dream.
That's all for now. There was another question about the Mavericks' WCHA playoff scenarios. I'm going to let their bye week play itself out and see where things stand going into next week's series at Colorado College before I speculate on that. There are way too many variables right now.
But let's hear from you. Who do you want to see the Mavericks draw for the WCHA playoffs? If they're at home? If they're on the road? What are your predictions?