Tuesday, March 31, 2009

You want answers?!?!

Hey everybody. It's been awhile since we've one a good Q&A, so here's the deal. I'm going to go through some of the comments over the last couple of weeks and pull some of your questions (there have been some good ones so far) and also let you ask a few on this post. The plan now is to answer them late Thursday or early Friday.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Frozen Four

Your picks? Minnesota Duluth, Boston Univeristy, Notre Dame and North Dakota. ... What happened? Boston University, Vermont, Miami and, yes, Bemidji State. ... Holy Cross' upset of Minnesota a few years ago was big, but it can't compare to the Cinderlla story of the Beavers advancing to the Frozen Four. The question now is: Will the WCHA fast-track BSU as a member in order to claim it by the time the semifinals take place on April 9?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Some stats to to chew on

With Troy Jutting set to get a new contract with Minnesota State, I thought I'd compare a few numbers over his last two-year contract with other teams in the WCHA.

1. North Dakota .671
2. Colorado College .660
3. Denver .634
4. St. Cloud State .542
5. Minnesota State .528
5. Minnesota .528
7. Wisconsin .521
8. Minnesota Duluth .514
9. Alaska-Anchorage .404
10. Michigan Tech .347

1. North Dakota 45
2. Colorado College 42
2. Denver 42
4. St. Cloud State 35
5. Minnesota State 33
6. Wisconsin 32
7. Minnesota 30
8. Minnesota Duluth 29
9. Alaska Anchorage 21
10. Michigan Tech 19
(most teams, including MSU played 72 games over the last two seasons)

1. North Dakota 77
2. Colorado College 74
3. Denver 69
4. Wisconsin 58
5. St. Cloud State 56
6. Minnesota State 54 (23 league wins)
6. Minnesota 54 (21 league wins)
8. Minnesota Duluth 50
9. Alaska-Anchorage 35
10. Michigan Tech 33

The Mavericks just missed out on the Final Five and NCAA tournament in 2008 and fell short of those goals in 2009. Here are the WCHA teams that made it to those tournaments the last two years:

Final Five: North Dakota (2), Denver (2), Minnesota (2), Colorado College, St. Cloud State, Wisconsin, Minnesota Duluth.

NCAA: North Dakota (2), Denver (2), Colorado College, St. Cloud State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Minnesota Duluth.

This is just some food for thought. I'm not making any statements right now. This was just something I was interested in looking into and had a little time Friday morning.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Friesen signs

I'm a little late on this, but MSU senior defenseman Blake Friesen signed with the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads this week. Here is Idaho's release on the transaction. The release said Friesen was scheduled to play in Wednesday's game, but the game sheet didn't mention his name. Perhaps he'll make his debut Friday.

So far, three Mavericks have turned pro, including senior Mick Berge and junior Trevor Bruess. Still waiting to see if seniors Mike Zacharias, Brian Kilburg and Dan Tormey will catch on with a team before this season ends.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Final poll

Here's the final USCHO.com poll for this year:

Team (First Place) Record Pts Last Week
1 Boston University (27) 31- 6-4 977 2
2 Notre Dame (23) 31- 5-3 973 1
3 Michigan 29-11-0 882 3
4 Denver 23-11-5 832 4
5 Yale 24- 7-2 803 7
6 Northeastern 25-11-4 727 5
7 North Dakota 24-14-4 661 6
8 Minnesota-Duluth 21-12-8 621 17
9 Cornell 21- 9-4 578 9
10 Princeton 22-11-1 541 8
11 Vermont 20-11-5 506 10
12 New Hampshire 19-12-5 465 11
13 Miami 20-12-5 399 12
14 Ohio State 23-14-4 243 18
15 St. Lawrence 21-12-5 239 14
16 Mass.-Lowell 20-16-2 228 19
17 Wisconsin 20-16-4 201 16
18 Air Force 27-10-2 192 NR
19 Minnesota 17-13-7 175 13
20 Boston College 18-14-5 150 15

Others Receiving Votes: Colorado College 44,
Bemidji State 26, Northern Michigan 25, Alaska 9, St. Cloud State 2, Dartmouth 1

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What a start

Two games, two goals. That's how Mick Berge has started his professional career with the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays. Berge scored a goal Friday and had the game-winner in overtime on Saturday.

Read more about him here.

The field of 16 is set

This is not a knock on the Minnesota Gophers at all, but good for the NCAA tournament committee for sticking with the numbers as they have all along. I'm sure there must have been some temptation to put Minnesota, which was tied for 15th in the Pairwise with Ohio State and Wisconsin, in the West Regional at Mariucci Arena. While having the Gophers or the Badgers in the tournament would probably be better for college hockey, Ohio State rightfully got the last spot in the tournament.

Here are the regionals (* denotes No. 1 seed):
  • Manchester: Ohio State vs. Boston University* ... North Dakota vs. New Hampshire
  • Bridgeport: Air Force vs. Michigan* ... Vermont vs. Yale
  • Minneapolis: Miami vs. Denver* ... Princeton vs. Minnesota Duluth
  • Grand Rapids: Bemidji State vs. Notre Dame* ... Cornell vs. Northeastern
So ... who's your favorite to win it all? Be sure to vote on the PucKato poll.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Duluth wins the Final Five (updated)

Minnesota Duluth became the first team ever from the Thursday-night play-in game to win the WCHA Final Five when it defeated Denver 4-0 Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul Goaltender Alex Stalock was the tournament MVP, posting two shutouts and allowing just one goal.

Duluth gets the WCHA's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, the field of which will be announced at 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning on ESPN2.

The most interesting thing about that will be who gets in between Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota, who are tied for 15th in the final Pairwise rankings. Based on head-to-head comparisions and RPI, the tiebreaking order is Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota. However, Minnesota is hosting a regional next weekend, something the committee adamantly said was not a factor a year ago when regional-host Wisconsin got in ahead of Minnesota State. Wisconsin was ahead of MSU in the Pairwise but had a losing record and a head-to-head comparison loss to the Mavericks.

UPDATE: The Pairwise experts out there agree that Ohio State will get in and Wisconsin and Minnesota will be out. You can read their thoughts on the subject here and here. While I tend to agree with them, I think this could be the year when the committee truly gets tested and will be curious to see the brackets come Sunday morning.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bruess signs with Washington

Minnesota State junior forward Trevor Bruess is leaving after agreeing to terms with the Washington Capitals Friday. Bruess will join the Caps' AHL team in Hershey, Pa., on Monday.

Here is today's Free Press story.

Berge turns pro

MSU senior captain Mick Berge signed a pro contract with the East Coast Hockey League's South Carolina Stingrays on Friday. Berge just completed his final season with the Mavericks and had 42 goals and 43 assists in 135 games. He was tied with Kurt Davis atop MSU's scoring list.

Berge will join former MSU teammate Travis Morin, who leads the Stingrays and is third in the ECHL in scoring with 20 goals and 56 assists in 63 games.

South Carolina is an affiliate of the NHL's Washington Capitals.

Sending a mixed message? (updated)

I wasn't at Thursday's WCHA Final Five banquet, but here's an interesting note from Grand Forks Herald hockey writer Brad Schlossman's blog:

Every year, there is a highlight video looking back on the year. There were a few plays included in the video that made everyone look around at each other -- like Brian Schack's punches to the back of the head of Mankato's Channing Boe. There also were a few checking-from-behinds in there.

The WCHA obviously made a big deal about rough play at the end of the season when it suspended Minnesota State's Trevor Bruess twice for a series of "dangerous" hits in games against Minnesota, North Dakota and St. Cloud State. The game against MSU and Minnesota in which the above "highlight" took place sparked an interesting post-game discussion by Gophers coach Don Lucia about protecting players and enforcing rules. (If you'll recall, Schack threw some punches at Bruess after Bruess' hard hit on Tony Lucia, too.)

So what kind of message does it send to the league's players, coaches, media and supporters when you include those types of plays in an official video showing off what's supposed to be the best of the 2008-09 season, especially one of a guy punching someone who, everyone now knows, was helpless lying on the ice with a broken leg?

UPDATE: I just read Wisconsin State Journal hockey writer Andy Baggot's take on the video, which you can read here. According to his account, the footage also showed Boe being taken off the ice on a stretcher. Here's a sampling from Baggot's blog:
Coaches and representatives from multiple schools expressed dismay at the video.

"Embarrassing,'' said one.

"A total joke,'' said another.

Jutting to get new deal

I had this story in today's Free Press. I heard rumblings that this was likely throughout the year but finally got some confirmation that a contract extension is imminent for MSU coach Troy Jutting. The two-year deal announced at the Final Five two seasons ago expires in June, but that will be extended, likely for four years, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Davis makes third team (updated)

The WCHA awards were announced Thursday afternoon, and Minnesota State defenseman Kurt Davis was named third-team All-WCHA.

Wisconsin defenseman Jamie McBain was player of the year, and North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol is coach of the year. Sioux defenseman Chay Genoway is the defensive player of the year. Denver D-man J.P. Testwuide is the student-athlete of the year, and Minnesota forward Jordan Schroeder is the league's top rookie.

Here are the all-conference teams:

F-Ryan Stoa, Minnesota
F-Ryan Lasch, St. Cloud State
F-Chad Rau, Colorado College
D-Jamie McBain, Wisconsin
D-Chay Genoway, North Dakota
G-Alex Stalock, Minnesota Duluth

F-Ryan Duncan, North Dakota
F-Jordan Schroeder, Minnesota
F-Justin Fontaine, Minnesota Duluth
D-Patrick Wiercioch, Denver
D-Garrett Raboin, St. Cloud State
G-Marc Cheverie, Denver

F-Garrett Roe, St. Cloud State
F-Anthony Maiani, Denver
F-Rhett Rakhshani, Denver
D-Josh Meyers, Minnesota Duluth
D-Kurt Davis, Minnesota State
G-Brad Eidsness, North Dakota

F-Jordan Schroeder, Minnesota
F-Joe Colborne, Denver
F-Mike Connolly, Minnesota Duluth
D-Patrick Wiercioch, Denver
D-Jake Gardiner, Wisconsin
G-Brad Eidsness, North Dakota

Update: The top 10 candidates for the Hobey Baker Award were also announced Thursday, and only one WCHA player, McBain, made the list. Here are the rest: Louie Caporusso, F, Michigan; Matt Gilroy, D, Boston University; Chad Johnson, G, Alaska (Fairbanks); Zane Kalemba, G, Princeton; Jacques Lamoureux, F, Air Force; David McIntyre, F, Colgate; Viktor Stalberg, F, Vermont; Brad Thiessen, G, Northeastern; Colin Wilson, F, Boston University.

The Hobey Hat Trick (three finalists) will be announced on April 2, with the winner being announced on April 10.

You like Davis

Here are the results of this week's PucKato poll, Who is Minnesota State's MVP this season?

Kurt Davis 47%
Kael Mouillierat 25%
Mike Zacharias 21%
Other 4%
Mick Berge 1%

The WCHA awards come out today and I think Davis has a good chance to make second- or third-team all-WCHA. Mouillierat also has an outside shot, although he was not on the official ballot. I know of at least four write-in votes for him.

A new poll will up later.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Will Bruess be back?

That seems to be the big question surrounding the Minnesota State men's hockey team now that the season is over. I asked Trevor Bruess about his future shortly after Saturday's loss to Wisconsin. He was pretty quiet, pretty dejected. "I don't know," he said. "I don't want to talk about it right now."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Game 2 live blog

Friday, March 13, 2009

Badgers 7, Mavericks 1 (updated)

Here is The Free Press story on Friday's game. Also the Wisconsin State Journal and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The question now is, can the Mavericks put this game behind them and win two games?

"That's going to be the tough part," goalie Mike Zacharias said after Friday's 7-1 playoff loss to Wisconsin.

Zacharias stopped a career-high 47 shots before being pulled at 4:46 of the third period. Wisconsin ended up with 66 shots on goal, the most an MSU team has ever given up in the D-I era.

Coach Troy Jutting wouldn't elaborate as to why he pulled Zacharias in a 3-0 game. However, it seemed at the time that he was living to fight another day, resting his goaltender for Saturday and -- the Mavericks hope -- Sunday.

"We were down 3-nothing and I’d already seen 50 shots tonight,” Zacharias said. “(Jutting) basically told me I needed to get rested up and shut them down tomorrow. That’s what I plan on doing.”

Said Jutting: “(Backup goalie Dan Tormey) has battled hard all year. It seemed like maybe a chance to change things up.”

Live blog

Live blog, live video

Don't forget to come back to PucKato this evening to follow the game on my live blog.

As for watching tonight's game, it will not be on Fox Sports Wisconsin as some had hoped. However, I'm told there will be live video available online at uwbadgers.com and wpt.org/wisconsinchannel.

Friday-morning reading (playoff edition)

Getting ready to hit the highway toward Madison, Wis., but have to check the papers first.

The Mavericks are hoping to clinch their first trip to the Final Five since 2003. For defenseman Brian Kilburg, playing at "The X" would almost be like playing at home. ... Wisconsin, meanwhile, has found an emerging star in freshman Derek Stepan. Here is the Wisconsin State Journal's series preview.

In Minneapolis, the Gophers got home ice (barely) and will host St. Cloud State. The Star Tribune recalls last year's epic series in Mankato by featuring Minnesota's Tony Lucia, who scored the double-overtime, series clinching goal against the Mavericks and checks in with Tom Pohl, who suffered a horrible head injury after losing his helmet on a hit by Jason Wiley. Another key for the Gophers that weekend was goalie Alex Kangas, and the Pioneer Press focuses on his play. ... As for the Huskies, freshman forward Jared Festler enjoys the Twin Cities, whether it's playing at Mariucci Arena or the Xcel Energy Center.

In Grand Forks, McNaughton Cup-winning North Dakota will host Michigan Tech. These will be the last home games for the Sioux's huge senior class. There were 13 of them as freshmen, although four have since signed NHL contracts. The Grand Forks Herald also gives its playoff predictions. ... For the Huskies, they may have won only two games but they split with the Gopher last week and actually like this weekend's matchup.

In Colorado Springs, Colorado College is ramping things up for the playoffs, while Minnesota Duluth needs to break the five-game winless streak it ended the regular season with if it wants to get to the Final Five.

In Denver, the hope was that Tyler Bozak would be back this weekend against Alaska-Anchorage but he might not return until the NCAA tournament. Bozak, one of the WCHA's best players over the first half of the season, suffered a knee injury in Mankato last December. The Denver Post takes a look at all of Colorado's home playoff teams, including DU, CC and Air Force. ... As for the Seawolves, they've won four games in a row, have had a lot of success on the road this season and are feeling good.

Here are weekend previews from INCH, USCHO and This is the WCHA.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Your player of the year

Looks like PucKato's readers had as difficult a time picking the WCHA's player of the year as the real voters did. Here are your results:

Jamie McBain, D, Wisconsin 17%
Chay Genoway, D, North Dakota 17%
Ryan Stoa, F, Minnesota 15%
Alex Stalock, G, Minn. Duluth 15%
Other 15%
Ryan Lasch, F, St. Cloud State 9%
Marc Cheverie, G, Denver 5%
Richard Bachman, G, Colo. Coll 3%

Of the 91 voters, 14 said other. Who did you like? CC forward Chad Rau came up. Some have made a case for North Dakota forward Ryan Duncan, too. Are there other others?

Bowling Green's future

According to College Hockey News, the Bowling Green athletic department is in deep financial trouble and may be considering cutting hockey as a cost-savings measure. The Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune is also reporting the talk.

Minnesota State is scheduled open next season with a home series against Bowling Green.

More on Bruess

Here is today's Free Press article on Trevor Bruess' suspension with comments from coach Troy Jutting and WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod. McLeod hinted that the league might have to put a suspension system in place for dangerous plays and repeat offenders during the offseason, one similar to fighting rules.

This also appears to be the first league suspension of the season that wasn't handled by the school. You may recall that Bruess' first suspension was kind of a vague, joint benching by MSU and the WCHA. Meanwhile, suspensions to Denver defenseman Patrick Mullen and, earlier, to Denver coach George Gwozdecky came from their university. The WCHA then issued a press release approving of the punishment (the league took a little heat for not showing more teeth, too).

As the Mavericks, who are en route to Madison today, figure out how to play a bit short-handed (Geoff Irwin will move over to center on the top line, with freshman Adam Mueller moving up), the Badgers are getting closer to full strength.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bruess suspended again

The WCHA just announced that Minnesota State junior forward Trevor Bruess has been suspended for Friday's playoff game at Wisconsin "as a result of his actions in last Saturday's conference game against St. Cloud State."

This is the second time Bruess has been suspended since Feb. 24 when MSU and the league sat him down for that night's game against Nebraska-Omaha for a series of dangerous plays, including knee-to-knee hits and hits from behind.

On Saturday, Bruess received a five-minute major for kneeing and another, separate two-minute penalty for kneeing in the first period. Bruess leads the Mavericks with 115 penalty minutes.

Monday, March 9, 2009

All conference

As promised, I'm putting out my picks for the All-WCHA teams and awards. I didn't feel like there were many obvious choices this year. All in all, it was a pretty even conference.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jamie McBain, D, Wisconsin
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Jordan Schroeder, F, Minnesota
COACH OF THE YEAR: Dave Hakstol, North Dakota

Ryan Stoa, F, Minnesota
Ryan Lasch, F, St. Cloud State
Ryan Duncan, F, North Dakota
Jamie McBain, D, Wisconsin
Chay Genoway, D, North Dakota
Marc Cheverie, G, Denver

Garrett Roe, F, St. Cloud State
Justin Fontaine, F, UMD
Anthony Maiani, F, Denver
Kurt Davis, D, Minnesota State
Garrett Raboin, D, St. Cloud State
Alex Stalock, G, Minnesota Duluth

Chad Rau, F, Colorado College
Jordan Schroeder, F, Minnesota
Kael Mouillierat, F, Minnesota State*
Brian Connelly, D, Colorado College
Patrick Wiercioch, D, Denver
Brad Eidsness, G, North Dakota

Jordan Schroeder, F, Minnesota
Jason Gregoire, F, North Dakota
Mike Louwerse, F, Minnesota State
Patrick Wiercioch, D, Denver
Jake Gardiner, D, Wisconsin
Brad Eidsness, G, North Dakota

* = write-in

How tough was this? Here are a few players I considered who didn't get on my final ballot. Some were on my first few lists, erased, crossed off, etc., on pieces of scrap paper on my desk at The Free Press. Call them PucKato's honorable mentions:

All-conference: Tommy Grant, F, Alaska-Anchorage; Eric Walsky, F, Colorado College; Rhett Rakhshani, F, Denver; Tyler Ruegsegger, F, Denver; J.P. Testwuide, D, Denver; Cade Fairchild, D, Minnesota; MacGregor Sharp, F, Minnesota Duluth; Josh Meyers, D, Minnesota Duluth; Mick Berge, F, Minnesota State; Tom Gorowsky, F, Wisconsin

All rookie: Gabe Guentzel, D, Colorado College; Joe Colborne, F, Denver; Mike Connolly, F, Minnesota Duluth; Jack Connolly, F, Minnesota Duluth; Derek Stepan, F, Wisconsin

Saturday, March 7, 2009

On (to) Wisconsin

If my math is correct, Minnesota State, which tied St. Cloud State 4-4 Saturday at the Alltel Center, will play Wisconsin next weekend in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. MSU ended up as the No. 8 seed, while Wisconsin clinched the third spot with a win over league champion North Dakota and Colorado College's tie at Denver.

Next week's matchups look like this (record is home team's record against that opponent during the regular season):

Michigan Tech at North Dakota (1-1-1*)
Alaska-Anchorage at Denver (1-1-0)
Minnesota State at Wisconsin (0-1-1)
Minnesota Duluth at Colorado College (0-1-1)
St. Cloud State at Minnesota (4-0-0)

* includes a nonconference loss at the Great Lakes Invitational)

Mavericks-Huskies, Game 2

Gophers 7, Mavericks 2 (women's hockey final)

Minnesota exploded for four goals in the third period, including three in a span of 3:03 to win the game and end the Mavericks' season.

Minnesota State finished the year 12-19-5 and will soon begin a search for a new head coach. Jeff Vizenor resigned and was reassigned in the athletic department on Jan. 6, and assistants Paul Willett and Mandy-Krause-Rideout have served as interim co-head coaches since then.
After two periods, MSU is more than just hanging around. Minnesota went up 3-1 on a power-play goal at 7:19, but the Mavericks came back with Emmi Leinonen's 5x3 power-play goal with 3:16 to play. Minnesota State has a 22-20 shot advantage.
After one period, it's 2-1 Minnesota. The Gophers got a short-handed goal from Gigi Marvin and a power-play goal from Brittany Francis. But Mavericks freshman Abby Williams scored a late breakaway goal (1:12 remaining) to keep it close. The Gophers hit a post with three seconds left.
Greetings from Ridder Arena where the Minnesota State women's hockey team is playing Minnesota in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Face-Off. PucKato is pulling double duty, covering this today and then flying back to Mankato for tonight's MSU-St. Cloud State game at the Alltel Center. I'll post some updates on the women's game here from time to time today.

Sixth is still possible

Tonight's the last game of the regular season but there are myriad playoff possibilities, according to a WCHA press release put out this morning.

For Minnesota State, it can get the sixth or eighth seed for next week's first round of the conference tournament.

The Mavericks will finish sixth with a win, a Minnesota loss at Michigan Tech and a Minnesota Duluth win or tie against Alaska-Anchorage.

All other scenarios will put MSU in eighth. St. Cloud State, meanwhile, can finish as high as fourth or as low as eighth.

After last night's games, North Dakota (league champion), Denver, Colorado College and Wisconsin have all clinched upper division finishes. Minnesota can get fifth with a win tonight, but the spot is still open to Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State.

The WCHA will hold a conference call with its officials after tonight's games to finalize the tournament seedings and expects everything to be decided by midnight (CST). Hopefully, we'll know MSU's spot and opponent before that, although we might have to wait until the Denver-CC game ends.

Friday's game story ...

... can be found here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mavs-Huskies live blog

The results are in

After an exhaustive nine days and maybe (?) a little ballot stuffing, here are your picks for Minnesota State's all-decade (all-WCHA-era) team.

Forwards: David Backes, Shane Joseph, Grant Stevenson (runner up: Ryan Carter)
Defensemen: Brian Kilburg, Steve Wagner (runner up: Kurt Davis)
Goalies: (tie) Mike Zacharias, Dan Tormey

For the record, here are PucKato's picks:

Forwards: Backes, Stevenson, Joseph (runner up: B.J. Abel)
Defensemen: Davis, Wagner (runner up: Andy Hedlund)
Goalies: Eric Pateman (runner up: Zacharias)

There were some tough choices all around. Here are a few thoughts:

It was hard not to go with the three All-Americans for forwards. Like many others, I would have loved to have seen Carter play college hockey for two more seasons. When he signed, that was a big blow to the program. Abel was a great captain and a relentless defensive forward who could also score. Travis Morin and Mick Berge had 20-goal seasons, while Aaron Fox had 50 points in '99-00.

As for the defensemen, Davis and Wagner are/were multi-tool players who move the puck, score and very good on the power play. Hedlund, an '02 graduate, was big, strong and physical with a big shot. He could have been leader on any team this decade. Kilburg's up there, too. He's been a plus player his whole career. Ben Christopherson and Steven Johns could score. It's too bad injuries caught up to Johns late in his college career.

Goalies? I went with Pateman by pretty much a coin flip. He won 21 games in '99-00 and 15 a year later but suffered a back injury as a senior. Zacharias, is a close, close second who could certainly change my mind over the next couple of weeks. Here's a career comparison:

Pateman: 93 games, 49-32-8 (.596 win%), .904 sv%, 3.05 GAA
Zacharias: 98 games, 44-37-15 (.536 win%), .908 sv%, 2.79 GAA

Friday-morning reading

It's the last week of the regular season, and little has been decided in the WCHA, other than Alaska-Anchorage will be the ninth seed and Michigan Tech will be 10th. The Mavericks? They'll be on the road, at one of five locations. For now, let's go to this week's coverage ...

Minnesota State has a home-and-home series against St. Cloud State. Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said he's disappointed that his team didn't get home ice for the playoffs but not disappointed in its play of late. Jutting told both The Free Press an the St. Cloud Times that midseason injuries are the chief reason why the Mavericks are four points behind the fifth-place teams and not four points ahead of them. As for the Huskies, they're playing for home ice, and Michael Olson is one of four seniors hoping tonight is not his last game at the National Hockey Center.

Also on the Times' site is writer Kevin Allenspach's all-WCHA picks. I'll unveil mine on the blog next week. So far, our picks look quite different (there are few obvious choices), but one thing he and PucKato have in common: We're both writing in MSU's Kael Mouilleirat as a third-team forward.

In Madison, Wis., tonight, North Dakota can win the McNaughton Cup as WCHA champions, something that might have seemed impossible last November. For those of us still trying to figure out the WCHA player of the year, Brad Schlossman makes a case for UND's Ryan Duncan, even though he's not a nominee. ... As for the Badgers, they can clinch home ice -- and a possible playoff date with Minnesota State -- with a win. However, junior Blake Geoffrion is out after suffering a knee injury last week in Mankato.

In Houghton, Mich., Minnesota is also fighting for its upper-division life -- the Gophers can finish as high as third and as low as eighth -- as it plays Michigan Tech, a team with just one WCHA victory this season. The Huskies do have something to be happy about, however, as senior Malcolm Gwilliam might be able to play again next year after suffering a stroke last November before a game in Minneapolis.

In Duluth, Minnesota Duluth is also in the hunt for home ice, and three players are drawing inspiration from older brothers who play hockey in other leagues. The Bulldogs host the spoiler-minded Seawolves of Alaska-Anchorage, who are having one of their best seasons as a road team.

In Denver, Denver is hosting rival Colorado College in a single game on Saturday. The Pioneers need to win that game and have North Dakota lose twice at Wisconsin to win the championship. The Tigers, meanwhile, brought in CC's club-team goalie to serve as a third-string practice goalie after backup Drew O'Connell went down with a season-ending injury.

CC's goalie story should be familiar to MSU fans. In 2002, the Mavericks did the same thing, bringing in club goalie Erik Gilbertson. Minnesota State even started Gilbertson on senior night and let him play the game's first 3 1/2 minutes.

Other WCHA previews can be found at INCH, USCHO and This is the WCHA.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gusties are golden

The Gustavus men's and women's hockey teams both won MIAC tournament championships Wednesday night at the Don Roberts Ice Rink in St. Peter.

The men won their first tournament title since 1993, defeating Hamline 5-2. They trailed 2-0 just 3:22 into the game but scored five unanswered goals, including two each by Ross Ring-Jarvi and Rory Dynan.

The women, who are ranked No. 1 in the nation, won their sixth championship in a row, topping St. Thomas 3-0, thanks to a 23-save performance by goaltender Daniell Justice. Gustavus has not allowed a goal in seven-plus games, a streak of 442 minutes, 40 seconds. Melissa Mackley scored two goals, including an empty-netter.

Both Gustavus teams earned the MIAC's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. The brackets for those tournaments are expected to be unveiled on Sunday.

Player of the year???

I got my ballot for WCHA awards, including all-conference teams, the all-rookie team, rookie of the year and player of the year. I'll disclose my votes next week, but there are going to be some tough choices, especially player of the year. Seven players have been nominated by their teams: CC goalie Richard Bachman, Denver goalie Marc Cheverie, Minnesota forward Ryan Stoa, Duluth goalie Alex Stalock, UND defenseman Chay Chenoway, St. Cloud forward Ryan Lasch and Wisconsin defenseman Jamie McBain.

Is there an obvious winner? Can you go wrong? I'll be doing my research. What do you think?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Where will they go?

Looks like we're going to have to wait until the last night of the regular season to determine where Minnesota State ends up going in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. Saturday night's tie eliminated the Mavericks from home-ice contention and put them no lower than the eighth seed for the tournament. They'll probably finish eighth, but could move up to the seventh seed if they sweep St. Cloud State this weekend and Michigan Tech sweeps Minnesota. Tech has just one WCHA win this season.

While MSU could tie Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State in the standings, Duluth and St. Cloud will have the tiebreakers.

So where will the Mavericks go? As it stands currently, Colorado College. Wisconsin remains a strong possiblity, and Minnesota, Duluth or St. Cloud could happen, too.

Who do you think is the best matchup for the Mavericks? They just got done taking 3 of 4 points from the Badgers. They swept Minnesota recently. They got swept at Duluth in January and by St. Cloud in December (they play the Huskies against this weekend, of course).