Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday-morning skate

Two months into the season and it finally feels like hockey season. PucKato better remember to throw the window scraper and jumper cables in the truck before heading up to Mariucci Arena for tonight's game between the Mavericks and the Gophers.

Minnesota State will go with the same lines as it did in last Saturday's win over Michigan Tech. Austin Lee will start in goal for the third game in a row and the sixth time in seven games, so it's fair to say that he's the No. 1 goalie right now. How secure that is depends on how he plays.

So what's the local coverage like this week? In The Free Press, the Mavericks' current crop of seniors have had more success against the Gophers than any other group in program history. It's only a 3-8-2 record, but it includes a tie that broke an 11-game losing streak against Minny, a win that broke a 20-game winless streak and the first-ever weekend sweep of the Gophers. But as Kael Mouillierat pointed out, the only stats that really matter are where the two teams sit in the standings: MSU is in seventh place and Minnesota is in ninth, two points behind with two games in hand. "Both of us are competing for the same spot in the standings," he said. "You can't worry about the hype; you gotta worry about winning."

As for the Gophers, they get some much needed depth on defense back when freshman Nick Leddy -- the Wild's first-round draft pick last summer -- returns from a broken jaw suffered on Halloween weekend against Anchorage.

This is a rare weekend when all 10 WCHA teams are in action against each other. This includes the top four teams in the conference squaring off against each other. Here's what else is happening around the league ...

Denver vs. Colorado College (home and home): What a matchup. And for the Gold Pan, something the Denver seniors have never won. These two teams, ranked No. 2 and No. 6, respectively, are tied atop the WCHA with identical 7-2-1 records.

North Dakota at Minnesota Duluth: Here are the next two teams in the standings (North Dakota is in a three-way tie for fourth but ranked third nationally. The Sioux are making their last trip to the DECC and have some fond memories of Duluth's old arena. As for the Bulldogs, junior wing Kyle Schmidt has been figuring into the scoring, which seems like its been reserved for the likes of Justin Fontaine, Jack Connolly and Mike Connolly.

St. Cloud State at Alaska-Anchorage: The Huskies will try to avoid the WCHA's best Saturday-night team, the Seawolves. St. Cloud freshman David Eddy has been hot since returning from an ankle injury, while the Anchorage coaching staff found a diamond in the rough in junior wing Sean Wiles.

Michigan Tech at Wisconsin: Badgers forward Derek Stepan shared WCHA offensive player of the week honors with MSU's Zach Harrison last week, but what really stood out to the UW coaches was Stepan's hits. As for the Huskies, they're still steaming about the disallowed goal in Saturday's game in Mankato.

Here are weekend previews from INCH (which focuses on the Mavericks) and USCHO.

Don't forget to follow along with PucKato's live blog during this weekend's MSU-UM games.

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