Friday, December 31, 2010

Ringing in 2011

Happy New Year, everybody! Just a quick post before I watch the ball drop and hit the hay before rising up early and heading to Chicagoland. For the MSU hockey team, it's hoping 2011 is a continuation of what happened at the end of 2010 when it won four of its last six games and, in the losses to red-hot North Dakota, played tough.

Check out The Free Press' previews of the Shillelagh Tournament here and here.

I'll be live blogging once I'm in Chicago (actually Hoffman Estates, Ill.) during the MSU-Notre Dame game. I'll maybe even add some extra coverage of the first game between Boston University and Brown.

See you next year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

On the road again

The Mavericks were scheduled to leave Mankato on Thursday morning for this weekend's Shillelagh Tournament at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The team — it's been confirmed that all 26 players are on the trip — will attend tonight's Chicago Blackhawks-San Jose Sharks game and practice on Friday before playing Notre Dame at 6 p.m. on Saturday, following the Boston University-Brown game. Win or lose, MSU will play either BU or Brown at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Minnesota State players are excited about the tournament. Said senior Ben Youds: "I haven't been in a tournament since I got here — since I was at Shattuck and we went overseas. The tournament atmosphere is definitely fun. If you win you go on and play for a trophy and bragging rights."

While MSU hasn't played since Dec. 12 against North Dakota, their Saturday opponent, the Irish, played Canisius on Wednesday night and won 10-2.

Here is some more information about the tournament, including Internet broadcast instructions.

PucKato will be heading down to the tournament on Saturday and plans on doing the live blog.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Back from vacation

Minnesota State returned to the practice rink on Monday, going through two practices (presumably to skate that extra egg nog out of the boys). The Mavericks will participate in the Shillelagh Tournament, hosted by Notre Dame, in Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Saturday and Sunday. They will play the Irish at 6 p.m. on Saturday and will take on either Boston University or Brown on Sunday.

There are plenty of WCHA teams in action this week, starting Wednesday ...

• Colorado College and Michigan Tech are playing in the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit on Wednesday and Thursday (Michigan and Michigan State are the other teams).

• St. Cloud State is playing in the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla., on Wednesday and Thursday (Cornell, Miami and Maine are the others).

• Wisconsin is hosting a two-game series with Massachusetts on Thursday and Friday.

• Nebraska-Omaha is going to Quinnipiac for a Thursday-Friday series.

• Minnesota Duluth will be unveiling its new Amsoil Arena by hosting a nonconference game against North Dakota on Thursday. The game is also this year's U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. Duluth will then travel to Clarkson for two games on Monday and Tuesday.

• Bemidji State will be playing in Minnesota's Dodge Holiday Classic on Friday and Saturday (Union and Ferris State are the other teams).

• Denver will host Northern Michigan in a series on Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy holidays!

PucKato will be off for the Christmas weekend and back next week to preview the Mavericks' trip to Chicago for the Notre Dame tournament.

Make sure you check The Free Press print/online edition this week some upcoming stories on Mankato West goal-scoring sensation Ville Rantanen (the exchange student from Finland leads the state in scoring with 23 goals in eight games) and on ex-West player Nate Jose, who is keeping his hockey career alive in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League this season.

On the college scene, here are a couple of my columns from the paper: one on the WCHA at the midway point and another on MSU at the midway point.

Meanwhile, here's a good story on Gophers coach Don Lucia by former Star Tribune college hockey writer Rachel Blount. Lucia opens up about his illness and the way steroid treatments made him feel. The telling quote: "That first weekend (January, 2009), we played at Mankato and I was a madman."

The World Junior Championships begin on Sunday in Buffalo, N.Y., and seven WCHA players made the U.S. roster. Check that roster out here. Two others made the Canadian team, Duluth defenseman Dylan Olsen and Colorado College forward Jaden Schwartz.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

You Want Answers!?!?

There wasn't a lot of participation on the YWA!?!? But I'm not going to take it out on those who did ask questions. So let me get to those. If this post sparks more questions, I'll can answer those over the weekend.

From Jeff: Shane, Do you think that MSU has some kind of mental block against UND? The current streak against them is eerily reminiscent to the streak against the U of M. The Mavs always play them tough, but find a way to give up that one last goal to the Sioux or just miss the one crucial goal that would win the game. It's like watching a bad movie over and over again and not being able to turn the TV off.

Jeff, I don't know if I'd go so far to call it a mental block. The streak must be disconcerting, especially when seven of the Mavericks' last 10 losses to UND have been by one goal -- and I'm counting Sunday's game in that stat (the Sioux scored an empty-netter to make it 4-2). The Mavericks had chances to win both of those games. They were not blown out. They had many opportunities, including at least three so-called Grade A chances, to take a 3-1 lead in Friday's game. And Sunday, they barely gave themselves a chance to tie the game despite having 1:49 of 5x3 power-play time. I don't know if I'd compare it to a bad movie. Those were two pretty good hockey games over the weekend. Sometimes you just have to credit the winning team. North Dakota's the best team I've seen play this season.

From Sam: 1) Another poster said he saw Matt Leitner on the bench this past weekend. Any truth to that? Is that normal when you're academically ineligible? ... 2) What is it going to take for the Mavericks to get to the level of consistency (nationally ranked, runs to the Final Five, a national tourney berth or two) that schools like Duluth and St. Cloud have shown over the years? To me, there is no reason they should be consistently better than us. What's your take on that?

Sam, Leitner's situation is unique. Technically, he's not a member of the team. He's a student at MSU who is slated to join the Mavericks next season -- provided his grades are OK. I talked to him on Sunday, and he's not playing for the Mavs this year. He said he might play a men's league or something like that in Mankato just to play get hockey in this winter. I've noticed that he's been attending home games, too. He sits with the scratched players. When people have said they saw him on the bench, they mean that he's stood there to watch warmups with the other players who didn't dress. But he has not skated in any practices or anything like that.

As for your other concern, that's the $64,000 question, isn't it? Duluth was in desperate straits for awhile (hardly consistent) but is certainly back on top now -- and just in time to open a brand-spankin'-new arena, too. UMD has a great tradition in the WCHA that dates back 50 years in a hockey-crazy community. St. Cloud State? They're most similar to MSU, but what sets them apart? Is it the on-campus rink/practice facilities? Is it a bigger hockey budget? Is it simply the age of the D-I program, relative to MSU's. Perhaps it's all of the above. I am still of the belief that early departures may have hurt Minnesota State, at least from a consistency standpoint, as much if not more than any other team. They haven't lost high draft picks; they've lost free agents and lower picks -- guys like Jackman, Stevenson, Carter, Wagner, Peto, Kalinski and Bruess. Kalinski's the only guy in that group who was drafted. Those are huge losses, especially for a program that doesn't get a lot of top-end recruits. You expect to lose guys like Backes and Pitlick. Speaking of Pitlick, how much better would MSU be this season with Pitlick?

From Alex: 1. what happened to tyler thompson, why isn't he on the team this year? and it seems the team really misses a skater like tyler pitlick out on the ice ... 2. it seems like the team really missed grant and cook in saturday's game, are the injuries going to be long term? ... 3. what is going on with the play of evan mosey lately? seems like he is lacking confidence out there and he did not look like a D1 defenseman out on the ice on saturday.

Alex, 1. From the way I understand it, Thompson was basically kicked off the team, or at least not invited back, after last season. ... As for Pitlick, see my comment above. I thought he was due to have a monster year in the WCHA. They could use his skill -- especially his scoring ability. ... 2. It sounds like none of the injuries are long-term problems, so the Mavs should be healthy after the break. They will always miss Grant when he's out. I don't think goaltending was the difference in the second game, although I'd like to get another look at the game-tying goal. I'm not sure how that snuck in behind Lee. It looked like it might have been a centering pass that went in off an MSU defenseman. If Lee was following the pass, that might be why that near side opened up the way it did. ... 3. That's a good question about Mosey. He was the most-improved player last year but has been slow out of the gate this year. It seems like he's behind or even with Josh Nelson right now. I like some things Nelson has done, but Mosey has some ability that should keep him in the lineup every night. He got a chance on Sunday but that did not look like the kid who wowed everybody in those last five games against St. Cloud State last season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

You Want Answers (mid-season edition)

It's the halfway point of the Mavericks season. Seems like a good time to answer your questions about this team. It's been an interesting first half, with the early ties, the long road trip, the rough loss at Denver, the brilliant sweep over Minnesota and the close-but-no-cigar series against North Dakota. So ask away in the comments section of this post, and, I'll answer the questions in a Thursday update.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sioux 4, Mavericks 2 (update)

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. 5 x 3 = no advantage: The Mavericks led 2-1 after the first period on goals by Ben Youds and Rylan Galiardi (who got a great up-the-gut pass from Youds during a power play for a breakaway). The Sioux came back with two goals in the second period to take a 3-2 lead. In the third period, Minnesota State got 1:49 of 5x3 power-play time but it mustered just one shot on goal. Early on, the puck was sitting in the crease, practically on the goal line, but no one could get there to pop it in. From there, it was a lot of missed and blocked slap shots and good clears by the Sioux to kill it off. "You gotta score there," MSU coach Troy Jutting said.

2. Best team so far? North Dakota might have to go up in the rankings when PucKato sends them in this week. The Sioux are loaded with talent (and even had two of their top players, Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall, out with injury this week). Matt Frattin scored his nation-leading 17th goal on Sunday. Brad Malone had a fabulous weekend, and Chay Genoway is simply fun to watch out there. The Sioux simply seem to have the Mavericks' number, going 16-1-1 against MSU in their last 18 meetings. The Mavericks' last 10 losses to the Sioux, including both this weekend, have come by one goal each (UND's fourth goal on Sunday was an empty-netter).

3. Break time: The  Mavericks will get the next two weeks off until they start preparing for Notre Dame's Shillelagh Tournament in the Chicago area. The Mavericks went 4-2-0 since their Thanksgiving break. Despite not being able to get a win against the Sioux, Youds said he likes they way they're playing of late. "We used our speed," he said. "Over the past three weekends, we've used our speed. I think we're finally starting to get it. It's our biggest asset." Later: "With North Dakota ranked fifth and us having a really good weekend, we're close. We're close."

Read The Free Press story here. Check out the Grand Forks Herald story here. See the box score here.

Due to the postponed game, Monday's paper didn't have the Freep Stars of the Series. Here they are:

1. Matt Frattin, F, UND — The nation's leading goal scorer had a pair highlight-reel goals in the series and now has 17 already this season.

2. Ben Youds, D, MSU — Two goals, two assists in the series. Former Gophers great Pat Micheletti (whose son Alex attends MSU and helps out the gameday staff) attended the game and said, "I'd take Youds on my team any day."

3. Brad Malone, F, UND — Scored four points, including three assists on Friday and the game-winning goal on Saturday.

MSU vs. North Dakota - Game 2 live blog

Lines are posted below. ... Austin Lee will start in goal for MSU. Word is that Phil Cook may have gotten nicked up on Friday night. ... Chase Grant, Andrew Sackrison and Josh Nelson also are out, replaced by Zach Lehrke, John McInnis and Evan Mosey.

Dorr - Louwerse - Hayes
Zuck - Galiardi - Leivermann
Burkemper - Lehrke - Jokinen
Mueller - Schiller - McInnis

Elbrecht - Youds
Boe - Davis
Cooper - Mosey


Scratches: Sackrison, Grant, Nelson, Heath, Peterson

Trupp - Malone - Frattin
Marto - Knight - Kristo
Rodwell - Lamoureux - Rowney
Cichy - Nelson - Gleason

Blood - Genoway
MacWilliam - Forbort
LaPoint - Simpson


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mavs-Sioux game postponed

Saturday night's Minnesota State-North Dakota game has been postponed due to the blizzard. The game will be played at 4 p.m. on Sunday. According to an MSU press release, the decision was made after discussions were held between officials from both universities and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

The Mavs-Sioux game was the second WCHA game to be postponed due to the severe weather. Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth's game in Minneapolis will also be played at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Minnesota State's women's hockey 3 p.m. game against Bemidji State is slated to go on as scheduled.

The Anthony Ford Pond Hockey Silent Auction that was to be held in conjunction with Saturday's MSU men's game also will take place on Sunday. The auction will be open from 3 to 4 p.m. as well as between periods of the game and for a half hour after the game.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sioux 4, Mavericks 3 (updated)

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Great start: The Mavericks couldn't have started better, getting a goal by Eriah Hayes just 48 seconds into the first period and a power-play goal from Kurt Davis seven minutes later to go up 2-0 on the fifth-ranked Fighting Sioux. "For the most part we were buzzing all night," said Hayes, who got his fifth goal by deflecting in a Channing Boe shot from the point. The Mavericks put 38 shots on goal, the most North Dakota has allowed all season.

2. Interesting intermission: North Dakota didn't record a shot on net officially until 4:44 remained in the first period. But in those last five minutes of the opening period, the Mavericks were called for three penalties, and the Sioux gained some momentum when Chay Genoway scored a 5x3 power-play goal to be down 2-1 at the first break. The Mavericks bounced back with 20 shots on goal in the second period but they couldn't get the puck past Aaron Dell (career-high 35 saves) and were stuck with their 2-1 lead going into the third. "The second period was crucial," MSU coach Troy Jutting said.

3. Unhappy ending: The Sioux scored three goals in a stretch of 2:47 in the third period to take a 4-2 lead. Matt Frattin scored his nation-leading 16th goal of the season to tie the game at the 7:40 mark. After a long delay to fix an ice problem, North Dakota needed just 11 seconds of game time to grab a 3-2 lead, as Evan Trupp scored from Frattin. Jake Marto added the next Sioux goal. The Mavericks' Ben Youds scored a power-play goal with 3:16 to play to make it a one-goal game again but that's as close as they'd get.

Notes: The Mavericks lost Andrew Sackrison for the game when he was hit by Frattin in the first period. Frattin was called for interference on the play. Sackrison received 10 stitches on his chin. No word on his return for Saturday. ... WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod attended the game.

Read The Free Press game story here. Read the Grand Forks Herald story here. Read the box score here.

MSU vs. North Dakota - Game 1 live blog

Tonight's lines are posted below the live box ...

Dorr - Sackrison - Haes
Grant - Galiardi - Louwerse
Burkemper - Zuck - Jokinen
Mueller - Schiller - Leivermann

Elbrecht- Youds
Boe - Davis
Cooper - Nelson


Scratches: Heath, Lehrke, McInnis, Mosey, Peterson

Trupp - Malone - Frattin
Marto - Knight - Kristo
Davidson - Lamoureux - Rowney
Cichy - Nelson - Rodwell

Blood - Genoway
MacWilliam - Forbort
LaPoint - Simpson


Referees: C.J. Beaurline, Brad Shepherd. Linesmen: Dana Penkivech, Jarod Moen.

Friday-morning skate

Minnesota State will close out the first half of its regular-season schedule this weekend by hosting fifth-ranked North Dakota. The Mavericks have beaten the Sioux only once in their last 16 tries, but that win did take place the last weekend they hosted UND. Remember Zach Harrison's short-handed hat trick?

Back to this weekend ... Minnesota State has won its last four games, so expect little change to the lineup tonight. That includes Phil Cook in goal. It's been a whirlwind year for the sophomore goalie. It was one year ago this weekend that he was virtually unknown -- a third-string rookie getting his first career start. Last week, he was the man, stopping 49 shots to beat Minnesota. Read the more of The Free Press' weekend preview here.

On the North Dakota side, the Grand Forks Herald's Brad Schlossman, as usual, has outstanding coverage. Give him props, too, for making Mankato one of his favorite road trips!

More from Brad: UND is having its best first half in seven seasons under coach Dave Hakstol. They're 11-5-2 (9-5-0 in WCHA). But the Sioux are doing that without being completely healthy. Top-liners Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall have been ruled out for tonight. The Sioux are fortunate to have the versatile Jake Marto to help pick up the slack. Schlossman talked to MSU coach Troy Jutting, who certainly wasn't resting on any laurels from last weekend.

Going around the rest of the league ...

Minnesota Duluth at Minnesota: Much has been made of the Bulldogs' top-line players but defenseman and captain Mike Montgomery's decision to return for his senior season can't be overlooked. Follow more coverage on Kevin Pates' blog. ... The Gophers, meanwhile, left Mankato and now host the No. 2-ranked team in the country. By the way, they are worried about Duluth's top line. You can read more on Roman Augustoviz's blog, including Roman's and Patesy's picks for this week (by the way, he's picking a UND sweep over the Mavs). In the Pioneer Press, the Gophers sound none too happy about not being the best college hockey team in the state right now.

Bemidji State at Wisconsin: Coming off their best weekend of the season, the Beavers head to Madison, a place leading scorer Jordan George knows well. Eric Stromgren's blog is full of other good info on BSU. ... Meanwhile, the Badgers have shuffled up their lines after winning just twice in their last nine games. Wisconsin's power play has been stellar, but the team is searching for more balance.

Colorado College at St. Cloud State: The Tigers have won three in a row and are 5-2-0 in their last seven games. One reason why is the improved play of senior winger Tyler Johnson. ... As for the Huskies, assistant captain Chris Hepp and company are having a hard time dealing with their first half. St. Cloud State has just one win in its last seven games.

Denver at Alaska-Anchorage: The Pioneers are celebrating the life of legendary coach Murray Armstrong, who died Wednesday night at his home in Florida. He was 94. Armstrong led DU to five national titles between 1958 and 1969. More stuff on Mike Chambers' blog, including the decision to put Adam Murray in goal tonight. ... As for the Seawolves, they've been involved in a lot of tight games this season.

Michigan Tech at Nebraska-Omaha: This series actually started on Thursday night, with Omaha bouncing back from getting swept at Bemidji State to win 5-2. The second game of the series is tonight.

On the national sites, Inside College Hockey checks in with MSU coach Troy Jutting, U.S. College Hockey Online hands out its midseason awards and College Hockey News has a cool story on the Guentzel family, which is scattered around rinks throughout the country.

Finally, there's always good stuff by the kids over at Charter College Hockey Weekend. Check out links to their coverage here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Highlights from MSU's sweep of Minny

Here is a highlight package from MSU's sweep over Minnesota last weekend. It was nice to see some replays from the weekend since they are not available during games at the Verizon Wireless Center.

A few observations:

• Ben Youds' rocket shot on Friday night was a wrister. I may have written that it was a slap shot after seeing it in real time, but now I'm even more impressed. Very patient play, too, as Youds faked the shot first and got everybody moving.

• Great pass by Corey Leivermann on Adam Mueller's goal. Leivermann got the puck along the wall and made a backhanded pass to the goal line to his linemate, who was coming out of the corner.

• Nice highlight of some good backchecking by Cameron Cooper and Josh Nelson late in  Friday's game to prevent what would have been a 1-on-0 chance against Phil Cook with about 6 minutes left.

• Good to see MSU players crashing the net, like on Rylan Galiardi's power-play goal on Saturday. Chase Grant made the pass and went to the net. Galiardi stayed with the puck all the way. The Mavericks needed to get grittier and they did on that play.

• Kurt Davis' goal, now that was a slap shot!

• Cook had a lot of praise for the way his teammates played defense, and the highlight reel indeed shows several blocked shots. Again, a little grit was something the Mavericks needed to find.

Finally, here's a link to my column today, putting a little perspective on last weekend's sweep.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WCHA honors Cook (and Bakala)

As expected, Mavericks goaltender Phil Cook was named WCHA defensive player of the week for his efforts in last weekend's sweep of Minnesota. Also, as expected, he's sharing the award with Bemidji State goalie Dan Bakala, who helped the Beavers sweep Nebraska-Omaha.

A couple more nuggets on Cook's performance, courtesy of MSU's sports info staff: Cook's 49 saves are the most by an MSU goalie in WCHA regular-season action and the most since Des Christoper had 54 saves on 57 shots in a 3-1 loss to Colorado College on Dec. 12, 1997, before the Mavericks joined the WCHA. ... Cook has started 11 of the last 12 games for MSU.

Other WCHA awards went to CC forward Jaden Schwartz, who had seven points against Michigan Tech, and Denver forward Jason Zucker, who helped the Pioneers in a split at Minnesota Duluth.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Bakala did one better on Cook today, getting named national player of the week by  Inside College Hockey Online.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mavericks getting votes

The Mavericks' sweep over Minnesota caught the eyes of some voters. Minnesota State received nine points this week, which wasn't good enough for the top 20 but is enough to get some consideration.

Some disclosure here. I vote on that poll and did not have MSU in my top 20. The Mavs were on my list of teams to consider but they didn't quite make the cut (neither did Minnesota or Colorado College or Bemidji State, by the way). Let's see what happens against the Sioux.

Here is this week's poll:

1. Yale (34 first-place votes) 10-1-0
2. Minnesota Duluth (13) 12-2-2
3. New Hampshire 9-2-4
4. Boston College (3) 11-5-0
5. North Dakota 11-5-2
6. Miami 10-5-3
7. Boston University 7-3-5
8. Maine 7-3-4
9. Denver 11-5-2
10. Nebraska-Omaha 9-4-1
11. Notre Dame 10-5-2
12. Michigan 9-5-4
13. Union 8-3-3
14. Alaska 8-5-3
15. Rensselaer 8-4-3
16. Wisconsin 8-7-3
17. Merrimack 7-4-4
18. Ferris State 8-6-3
19. Dartmouth 6-3-1
20. Western Michigan 7-5-4

Others receiving votes: Clarkson, Minnesota, Robert Morris, Colorado College, Minnesota State, Northern Michigan, Michigan State, Bemidji State, Princeton, Providence, Niagara

By the way, I was one of the votes who kept UMD No. 1 this week.

Cook's got some competition

After getting swept by Minnesota State, Minnesota coach Don Lucia on Saturday night declared, "I think we know who the player of the week is."

He was referring to Phil Cook, Mavericks goaltender, who stopped 49 of 50 shots in Saturday's win. But Bemidji State pulled off home sweep of a ranked team, too, beating Nebraska-Omaha twice thanks to goaltender Dan Bakala. Bakala shut out the Red Mavericks 3-0 on Friday.

So who will win WCHA defensive player of the week honors this week? The league often gives co-winners, and I'm betting that's what happens this week. But if only one could get it, who would it be? Let's compare goalies:

Phil Cook: defeated 17th-ranked Minnesota 3-2 and 3-1. He stopped 33 of 35 shots in the opener and 49 of 50 shots (including 22 of 23 in the third period) on Saturday for a weekend save percentage of .965. The Gophers were scoreless on 10 power plays.

Dan Bakala: defeated fourth-ranked Nebraska-Omaha 3-0 and 3-1. He stopped 25 shots in the shutout and 39 of 40 shots the next day for a weekend save percentage of .985. Omaha was scoreless on nine power plays.

Tough call.

Meanwhile, here are a few more notes from this weekend's series.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mavericks 2, Gophers 1 - MSU sweep

Pat Christman photo
Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Cookie Monster: Mavericks goaltender Phil Cook (pictured from Friday's game) was the star of the show, stopping 49 of 50 shots in Saturday's victory. He stopped 82 of 85 shots in the series sweep (.965 save percentage). Cook stopped 22 of 23 shots in the third period alone and also stoned Gophers leading scorer Jay Barriball on a pair of breakaways. "I think we know who the player of the week is," Gophers coach Don Lucia said.

2. Who's your daddy? The Mavericks are 7-28-6 all-time against Minnesota, but they have now won five of the last six meetings. All of those games came after the epic three-game playoff series in Mankato in 2008. The current senior class has a record of 6-6-1 against Minnesota. Senior defenseman Kurt Davis scored Saturday's game-winning goal on a rocket shot from the high slot midway through the third period. Another senior, Rylan Galiardi also scored. "(Galiardi) was a senior captain all weekend long," MSU coach Troy Jutting said.

3. Get your hard hat: Minnesota State has a hard-hat award that it gives players who exhibit blue-collar, lunch-bucket play -- the kind of play the Mavericks are known for. While Galiardi said the team keeps its list of winners under wraps (although some players have slipped out of the locker room with the hat on), everybody could have worn a hard hat after Saturday's game. "It's the kind of hockey we normally play and hadn't been playing this year," Jutting said. "I'm pleased with the effort, especially in the third period."

See the box score here. Read the MSU recap here. Read The Free Press story here.

MSU vs. Minny, Game 2 live blog

Lines are posted below with starters in bold. Cook will start again in goal for the Mavericks. The only lineup change is Mike Louwerse in for J.P. Burkemper.

Dorr - Sackrison - Hayes
Grant - Galiardi - Lehrke
Zuck - Louwerse - Jokinen
Mueller - Schiller - Leivermann

Elbrecht - Youds
Boe - Davis
Cooper - Nelson


Scratches: Burkemper, Heath, McInnis, Mosey, Peterson

Hoeffel - Haula - Barriball
Cepis - Condon - Bjugstad
White - Matson - Hanson
Serratore - Larson - Sacchetti

Fairchild - Helgeson
Ness - Alt
Wehrs - Holl


Friday, December 3, 2010

Mavericks 3, Gophers 2 (updated)

Free Press photo by Pat Chritman
Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Home sweet home: 4,106 braved the snowstorm and got a good show from the Mavericks. Ben Youds' opening goal (pictured at left) -- a blast from the high slot -- shattered goalie Alex Kangas' water bottle and got the packed student section going. The crowd stayed into it through the very end when the Mavericks were killing off a penalty over the final 1:25. "Our crowd was involved tonight, especially late in the game when we were ahead," Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said. "It gives us an era boost, especially when we're killing." The Mavericks, of course, have not played a home game since Oct. 23.

2. Mueller comes through: The No. 1 star of the game rightly went to Adam Mueller, who had the game-winning goal, assisted on Youds' goal and played a key role on the penalty kill. He had five shots on goal and also clanked a shot off the crossbar. Gophers goalie Alex Kangas also robbed him of an open shot from close range. Mueller has embraced his penalty-killing job, too. "Coach said, 'Take some pride penalty killing,'" Mueller said. Indeed, the Mavericks killed off all five Gopher power plays, including 43 seconds of 5x3 time. MSU had to kill off two penalties in the final 5 1/2 minutes.

3. The little things: A few other notes about the game. Michael Dorr scored MSU's other goal, a power-play goal. It was his first game against the team he began his college career with. ... The Gophers outshot the Mavericks 35-24. MSU goalie Phil Cook stopped 33 shots, including 13 on the Minnesota power plays. ... Kangas made 21 saves for the Gophers. ... Mankato native Corey Leivermann assisted on Mueller's goal. ... Freshman defenseman Josh Nelson assisted on Dorr's goal for his first college point. ... MSU is now 5-6-4 (3-6-2 in WCHA).

Read the box score here. Read The Free Press game story (and see other photos) here and the Star Tribune gamer here.

Around the rest of the WCHA, Denver edged top-ranked Minnesota Duluth 5-4 in overtime, Colorado College pounded Michigan Tech 7-3, Alaska-Anchorage edged Wisconsin 2-1, North Dakota defeated St. Cloud State 3-1 and Bemidji State surprised and shut out Nebraska-Omaha 3-0.

Minnesota State vs. Minnesota, Game 1 live blog

Tonight's lines are posted below. Cook will start in goal. Louwerse and Mosey are among the scratches.

Dorr - Sackrison - Hayes
Grant - Galiardi - Lehrke
Burkemper - Zuck - Jokinen
Mueller - Schiller - Leivermann

Elbrecht - Youds
Boe - Davis
Cooper - Nelson


Scratches: Louwerse, McInnis, Mosey, Heath, Peterson

White - Haula - Barriball
Cepis - Condon - Bjugstad
Gardiner - Matson - Hansen
Serratore - Larson - Sacchetti

Fairchild - Helgeson
Ness - Alt
Wehrs - Holl


Referees: Pete Friesma, Tim Walsh. Linesmen: Tony Czech, Matt Anderson

Crystal ball time

Normally, I'm not one to do predictions going into a college-hockey weekend. I have no real reason for this, other than I'm lazy and that the WCHA tends to be rather unpredictable. But this week, the Star Tribune's Gopher writer, Roman Augustoviz, asked me to go head to head with him on his blog in his weekly prediction post. Every week, Roman picks a different college-hockey follower to square off with and, since the Mavericks are hosting the Gophers this weekend, he challenged me. 

Already, I've been ripped for picking a tie in one series and basically called a homer in a reader comment for picking MSU to win one game. Sheesh! Maybe that's why I've avoided the prognostication business. Anyway, you can read my comments on each series on Roman's blog (might as well give him a plug), but I'll give you my picks here:

Minnesota at Minnesota State: series split (Roman's pick: Minny sweep)
Denver at Minnesota Duluth: split (Roman: Duluth sweep)
Wisconsin at Alaska Anchorage: Sconnie with three points (Roman: split)
Colorado College at Michigan Tech: split (Roman: split)
St. Cloud State at North Dakota: Sioux sweep (Roman: split)
Nebraska-Omaha at Bemidji State: UNO sweep (Roman: UNO sweep)

Friday-morning skate

Can you believe there will be hockey in downtown Mankato tonight? It's been 40 days and 40 nights of wandering the country for the Mavericks, who will take on 17th-ranked Minnesota tonight and Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center. Here's what college hockey scribes are saying about the series and other matchups around the WCHA this weekend ...

After getting a hat trick last Friday, Minnesota State junior forward Justin Jokinen is leading the team in goal scoring. He's come a long way since the end of last season when he was a healthy scratch for the last 11 games of the year. A strong summer workout regimen has transformed the Buffalo Sabres draft pick into a consistent, comfortable player this year.

You can read more of The Free Press' preview here. Besides the usual Gopher-week excitement, this will be the first chance for MSU junior Michael Dorr to play against his old team.

As for Minnesota, goaltender Alex Kangas struggled to start the season, but, according to the Star Tribune. he might be heating up just in time to come to Mankato. Read the Strib's series preview here.

It's a full slate of WCHA action this weekend, with all 12 teams playing each other.

The biggest series is in Duluth where No. 1 UMD hosts No. 10 Denver in a battle of the two hottest teams in the country. It will also be the Bulldogs' last series at the famed DECC. They will move into the Amsoil Arena after Saturday's game. You can read more on the DECC coverage here and on Kevin Pates' blog. The Denver Post also recognized the end of an era.

In other action ...

St. Cloud State at North Dakota: For the Huskies, Drew LeBlanc's improved skating has turned him into one of the team's top scorers. The Times also takes a look at the return of North Dakota captain Chay Genoway. There's lots of UND coverage on Brad Schollsman's blog, including a story on Mike Cichy's long road to college hockey.

Nebraska-Omaha is at Bemidji State: It's a battle of the newbies as the Red Mavs face the Beavers. One person who's not surprised that Omaha has had a smoother transition into the WCHA than Bemidji is BSU coach Tom Serratore. That was the story of the series in both papers.

Wisconsin at Alaska-Anchorage: Like last year, the Badgers have one of the best power plays going. But there is only one similarity between last season and this season, and that's defenseman Justin Schultz. Wisconsin will test their power play against goalie Rob Gunderson, who was red hot a week ago in a split at Colorado College.

Colorado College at Michigan Tech: The Tigers head to Houghton, and grinder Nick Dineen is featured in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Also, read weekend previews (and more on the DECC closing) by Inside College HockeyUSCHO and College Hockey News.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

You want answers (Gopher week edition)

From Sam: 1) Will Austin Lee get another shot in goal this weekend? 2) Was the Mavericks' sweep of UMass-Lowell a results of improved play on their part or simply because they played a terrible Redhawks team?

Sam, 1) I'm not sure on Lee. Jutting was non-committal on his goalies on Wednesday. If Cook is considered the No. 1 guy, which he was pretty much throughout the road trip, I'm guessing he'll start on Friday night, with Saturday's starter dependent on Friday's performance. However, they did score their first series sweep a week ago by going with Lee Friday and Cook Saturday. We'll likely have to wait until Friday to find out. ... 2) It was probably a combination of both, but you have to be encouraged by the 11 goals the Mavericks scored and the one even-strength goal allowed. Also, getting two wins on the road at the end of a long road swing is huge, as is beating up on a team that was struggling. I'm sure each teams looked at the other's record and recent performance and said, "We need to take care of business against these guys." MSU did that.

From Alex: Will Mike Louwerse be back in the lineup? Will Jutting play both goalies this weekend? Any injuries heading into the weekend?

Alex, I don't know on Louwerse. He's been practicing on the "teal" line all week, which usually means he won't be in the lineup on Friday night. Perhaps there will be a late lineup change, but after getting scratched in both games at Lowell (when he originally was supposed to be in the lineup), it's obvious that more is expected out of the junior forward. Louwerse has two goals (none on the power play), three assists and eight penalty minutes in 11 games. He's certainly got the talent to do more, that's for sure. ... On the goalies, see my answer above. ... Right now, it looks like the Mavericks are completely healthy -- at least no one's out due to injury this week.

From hockey25: What is with the white "Maverick" hardhat some of the players wear after games for interviews? Cook did it after the win against UAA and Lehrke did the same after the win Saturday at Lowell.

hockey25, I'll have to look into this. I haven't seen the hardhat. Then again, I've only witnessed on MSU win in person this year.

From LetsGoMavs: What's the status of Ben Youds? Any feedback on why Leiverman isn't playing lately?

LetsGoMavs, Youds will be in the lineup on Friday night. That is huge for the Mavericks; they need him. In my opinion, he was the Mavericks' MVP last season and he's starting to come on this year. Friday night at Denver, I thought he was really good. He also said all the right things after the Saturday-night loss at DU. He's really becoming a strong leader for this team. ... As for Leivermann, he practiced on the "gold" line this week, so I expect to see him in the lineup on Friday. I think there are a few freshmen who are interchangeable right now, so their ice time will depend on how they're playing in practice/when they get their opportunities in games. John McInnis was in the lineup at Lowell, and going home to the Boston area was one reason for that. Leivermann took McInnis' spot this week.

From MSUMaverickFan: Any idea what the ticket availability is for the weekend? Can we expect sellouts? Troy mentioned that there would be some changes made to the power play systems. Any specifics that you can elaborate on? Different systems, different personnel or both? 

MSUMaverickFan, Last I checked there are still seats available. Not sure how many. I'd guess both games will be official sellouts with standing-room-only tickets available. ... I don't have a lot of details on any system changes. I hope to understand more seeing them in action this weekend. I know there was some different personnel on the power play last weekend, although the one goal they scored came from regulars: Dorr from Youds and Hayes. Cooper and Nelson got some power-play time last week, as did Jokinen. Also, Youds and Davis were together on Friday night (Youds was hurt Saturday); in the past those two each ran a power play.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Grant named WCHA rookie of the week

Minnesota State freshman forward Chase Grant was named WCHA rookie of the week for his performance in last weekend's series sweep at UMass-Lowell. Grant had a four-point weekend and scored his first game-winning goal as a Maverick.

You can read more about Grant's award here and here.

You want answers?!?!?

It's Gopher week. There's home hockey in Mankato. Must be time for another edition of YWA?!?! Post your question in the comments section of this blog post, and I'll try to answer them in a Thursday afternoon/evening post.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sweet Lou coming to Mankatoo

I had a chance to talk to Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne today for a story that will appear in Thursday's edition of The Free Press. Nanne -- known as "Sweet Lou from the Soo" will be in Mankato on Friday, promoting his autobiography, "A Passion to Win."

The former Gophers, Olympic and North Stars player and North Stars coach, general manager and president  will sign books at Barnes & Noble from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.and again at the Verizon Wireless Center for an hour before Minnesota State's hockey game against Minnesota. Nanne said he will also be making a donation to the MSU hockey program that night.

"They've done a great job down there in Mankato," Nanne said of the Mavericks. "It's exciting to see that kind of hockey. ... Those guys battle. It's fun."

Nanne said he has some connections to Mankato, as it was part of his territory when he first went into sales. He also attended Vikings training camp from time to time since he was friends with Vikings players back in his North Stars playing days. A few years ago, Nanne was in town to promote his book on the Stars: "Minnesota North Stars History and Memories with Lou Nanne."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mavericks 3, River Hawks 2 (updated)

It was a little tighter this time, but the Mavericks won again, scoring their first series sweep of the season. Chase Grant's goal at 5:48 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie and stood as the game-winner. Grant, who missed the Denver series with an injury also had an assist on Saturday for a four-point weekend.

UPDATE: Apparently, Grant's goal came on a Lowell clearing attempt that hit the freshman in the shin and rolled into the net between goalie Doug Carr's legs. "Good bounce, fortunate bounce for us," Mavericks coach Troy Jutting told

Kurt Davis and Zach Lehrke scored the other goals for Minnesota State, which ended its long road swing on a positive note. When the Mavericks return to Mankato, they will have put on 11,600 miles. But they went 3-4-1 (1-4-1 in WCHA) and are now 4-6-4 for the year.

"Anytime you can win a game on the road is a good thing," Jutting told The Free Press in a phone interview afterwards. "To sweep on the road, obviously, it's a good weekend. It's something to build on."

The Mavericks outshot the River Hawks 36-28, including a 20-11 advantage in the second period. Carr held MSU to just one goal in the second, however and the game was tied 1-1 going into the third.

The two teams traded three goals in the first six minutes with Davis putting MSU up 2-1 at 55 seconds, Riley Wetmore tying the game with a short-handed goal at 2:48 and Grant getting his fourth goal of the season after that.

Goalie Phil Cook stopped 26 shots for the Mavericks. Eriah Hayes also had an assist. Lehrke's goal was the first of his career. He had two assists on Friday for a three-point weekend.

The Mavericks went into the weekend hoping to improve its power play but didn't have a lot of chances. They went 1 for 3 on Friday and 0 for 2 on Saturday. Jutting said he liked what he saw, though.

"We moved it around well and got opportunities," he said. "It was better. It looked better."

Read the box score here. The USCHO recap can be found here. Read the Lowell Sun account of the game here, and The Free Press story here.

MSU at UMass-Lowell - Game 2

PucKato is not in Lowell but is working today. I'll be keeping tabs on the series finale between the Mavericks and River Hawks. You can check my Twitter page (I'm always looking for more followers!) or the Twitter feed at right for regular updates once the game begins at 3 p.m. (CST), and I'll put up a blog post after the game.

Here's what I know about today's game so far: Senior defenseman Ben Youds is out with an upper-body injury, and Evan Mosey will take his spot in the lineup. ... As expected, Phil Cook will start in goal (coach Troy Jutting said he likely was going to play both Lee and Cook this weekend). ... Otherwise, it sounds like the rest of the lineup is the same as it was during Friday's eight-goal outburst.

Meanwhile, here are some highlights of Friday's game, courtesy of the Lowell website:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mavericks 8, River Hawks 3 (update)

The Mavericks exploded for a season-high eight goals to break their five-game winless streak and four-game losing streak on Friday night at UMass-Lowell.

Junior forward Justin Jokinen had a hat trick in the second period, and senior captain Rylan Galiardi scored his first two goals of the season in the victory. Ben Youds, Michael Dorr and Andrew Sackrison also had goals for Minnesota State.

Jokinen now has a team-high six goals. Galiardi (one assist) and Dorr (two assists) each finished with three-point games. Eleven players had points for the Mavericks (3-6-4) with Youds (one assist), Eli Zuck (two assists), J.P. Burkemper (two assists) and Zach Lehrke (two assists) each getting two points.

Austin Lee, who was making his first start in goal since Oct. 16 got the win, stopping 23 shots and a penalty shot in the process. The Mavericks outshot the River Hawks 35-26.

The Mavericks were 1 for 3 on the power play. Lowell was 2 for 5.

The series will continue at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Read the box score here.

UPDATE: Read the Lowell Sun account of the game here.

(Black) Friday-morning skate

The Mavericks are out east for a nonconference series against UMass-Lowell. Both teams have two wins and are trying to get out of a losing funk. Minnesota State has lost four in a row, while Lowell has lost seven of its last eight games.

Minnesota State is coming off its first idle week of the season, and it's hoping that the break can give it a boost. "We needed it bad," junior defenseman Cameron Cooper said.

After going 0 for 14 on the power play at Denver, the Mavericks are changing things up, just as coach Troy Jutting promised. Jutting wouldn't go into too many details but said defensemen Ben Youds and Kurt Davis will be placed together on the power play (each usually ran his own), while Cooper and Justin Jokinen will get their chance.

"And we're changing the kind of power play we're running," Jutting said. "It hasn't been working the way it was, so we're going to try a couple different things."

Also, freshman defenseman Josh Nelson is in the lineup, replacing Evan Mosey. Mosey is on the trip and available but the coaches clearly want to see more from him. Zach Lehrke is the extra forward on the trip. Players not on the trip include: Leivermann, Peterson, Heath and Karambelas. After practice Wednesday, Jutting said he hadn't decided on his starter in goal. He did suspect that both would play in the series, though.

Read more on the series here and here.

A few other interesting items from around the WCHA:

• This will be the last year of the College Hockey Showcase, which features Minnesota and Wisconsin vs. Michigan and Michigan State ever year. It appears this is setting the stage for the Big Ten hockey conference. The real news of this story is that the WCHA is already planning for the loss of its Big Ten members and will be helping those schools out with their schedules. Meanwhile, Madison's Andy Baggot opines that the Big Ten won't kill college hockey.

• North Dakota will host Notre Dame this weekend but it's the WCHA's UND that features one of the country's top goal scorers.

• There is only one WCHA series this weekend, as Alaska Anchorage goes to Colorado College. For the Tigers, seniors Stephen Schultz has been on a roll.

• In nonconference play, Denver will host Lake Superior and Bemidji State will host Northern Michigan.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

The Mavericks left Mankato this morning for their series at UMass-Lowell. Unfortunately, PucKato is not on the trip but should be well-rested in time for the team's long-awaited return home. Here are a few notes going into the nonconference series:

• MSU is fully healthy for the first time since the first night of the season, as freshman forward Chase Grant is back in the lineup.

Grant missed the last two games with a lower-body injury. Team captain Rylan Galiardi missed five games before that, and defenseman Evan Mosey was injured on opening night and missed the next five games.

"This might be the first time we've had everybody," coach Troy Jutting said. "It's tough, especially when we went with a 26-man roster this year, versus 27 or 28. Twenty-six is the perfect number -- if everybody's healthy."

Said Grant: "I feel incredible. I've been itching to get back out there. I feel good."

• MSU freshman forward John McInnis is a Boston native and will be in the lineup Friday at Lowell, which is located a little more than 30 miles north of Massachusetts' capital. McInnis said he hasn't played near home in about three years. He spent the last two seasons in Canada, playing for the Okotoks Oilers of the Albert Junior Hockey League. McInnis was the Oilers' team MVP last year, scoring 42 goals and 73 points. He has two assists in five game this year. "I'm pretty pumped," said McInnis, who expects to have several family members at the two games.

• Minnesota State is 1-2 all-time against Lowell, but all three of those games took place in the late 70s/early 80s when the two schools were Division II powers. All of those meetings took place in the national tournament, with the Mavericks' lone win coming during the 1980 NCAA semifinals. They would go on to win the national championship.

Carter traded to 'Canes

Former Minnesota State standout Ryan Carter was traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. The Ducks put Carter on waivers earlier in the week, and after he cleared the wire was shipped to Raleigh for a pair of minor-league prospects.

Carter had been with the Ducks since leaving MSU in 2006. He became the first and only Maverick to get his name on the Stanley Cup, helping Anaheim in the playoffs in 2007.

Carter had one goal and two assists and 22 penalty minutes in 18 games for the Ducks while averaging 10:44 in ice time. Carolina officials said Carter will help his new teams on faceoffs and by killing penalties. This season, he has won 50 percent of his faceoffs.

"He has the experience of being on a winning team," 'Canes general manager Jim Rutherford said. "He's played in the league a few years. He's not necessarily a fourth-line guy player. He can play in the top nine if injuries come up."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Off today

PucKato has the day off today (much needed, like the Mavericks!), so there's no Friday-morning skate on the blog. May I suggest you check out Brad Scholssman's blog for links to news around the WCHA this weekend. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thinking back three years

In my column today for The Free Press, I went back three years ago today, when the Mavericks were blown out 7-0 at Denver. It was hard not to think about that game when I was facing deadline after Saturday's 6-1 loss to the Pioneers.

That game three years ago was a low spot but one the Mavericks climbed out of. They went on a six-game unbeaten streak after that and lost just one of their next eight games. Later in the year they had a seven-game winning streak, and they went from last place in the WCHA that night in Denver to a fourth-place finish and home ice in the conference playoffs. They probably should have made the NCAA tournament, if not for a fluke in the formula of the Pairwise rankings.

Interestingly, there were many players from this year's team involved in that game. Seniors Rylan Galiardi, Ben Youds, Channing Boe and Andrew Sackrison were all freshmen. Mike Louwerse even played in that game, one of four he played in that year before being shut down with an injury and getting a medical hardship year. Goalie Austin Lee was not in Denver but he was on the roster being redshirtted.

Can this year's team bounce back the way that one did? Who knows? It's hard to see it right now, but there couldn't have been many signs of it three years ago. In fact, MSU was competitive for stretches of this year's game, including the first 12 minutes of the game when it controlled play and in the second period when it cut the lead to 3-1. I don't recall that back then. I only recall plays like this.

What I do wonder is: Do the Mavericks have the pieces to mount that comeback? Three years ago, Mick Berge ended up scoring 20 goals, Trevor Bruess had 30 points, four other players (including Sackrison) had 20 points, Mike Zacharias (who didn't play in the 7-0 loss) ended up with a .924 save percentage, R.J. Linder (who watched that game from the press box) emerged as an inspirational leader and players like Bruess and Jon Kalinski led a hard-nosed gritty group.

"I know we have it," Youds said on Saturday. "It's there. With each individual it's there. It's just a matter of building on that and competing. You know hockey -- it's one-on-ones all over the ice and taking care of business. ... We have it in the locker room; it's just a matter of putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

Minnesota State is off this weekend but is practicing three days this week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) before preparing for its Thanksgiving weekend trip to UMass-Lowell.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Denver 6, MSU 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Magness-itis: Minnesota State hasn't won in Denver since Jan. 18, 2003. The Mavericks are 0-10-2 at Magness Arena since then, suffering some heartbreaking losses (like Friday's 3-2 defeat) and some real stinkers (like Saturday's game). After a strong 10-12 minutes to start the game, everything fell apart for the Mavericks, as Denver scored three times in the final five minutes of the period. For the game, MSU allowed two 5x3 power-play goals, a short-hander, a goal in the final minute of the first period and a goal in the first minute of the third. The loss might not have been as bad as the 7-0 loss in Denver in 2007, but the mood was similar. "Yeah, this is about as frustrated as I've ever been in four years," Ben Youds said. "I can't remember the last time it stung this bad. ... It's definitely not a feeling you want to feel too often."

2. Break time: The Mavericks are idle next weekend and it probably couldn't come at a better time. They are now 1-4-1 on this crazy road trip, but winless in the last five games. They have two more road games coming -- at UMass-Lowell over Thanksgiving weekend -- but at least they get a break this week. "We need it," coach Troy Jutting said. "We need it bad. With this travel, it's time for us to get a break." Jutting said he hadn't decided on this week's practice schedule yet. Said Youds: "We need to have a good week of practice and regroup. ... We need to get back to basics."

3. Look out for DU: This wasn't all on Minnesota State, of course. There was another team out on the ice -- one that actually did take advantage of its power plays (MSU was 0 for 7 and 0 for 14 for the weekend) and scoring chances. Denver was motivated after suffering its worst loss since 1997 a week ago (9-2 to Colorado College). Luke Salazar and Anthony Maiani each scored two goals on Saturday, and freshman defenseman David Makowski had a four-point game (one goal, three assists), likely securing WCHA rookie of the week honors by adding that performance to Friday's game-winning goal.

Read the box score here.

MSU at Denver, Game 2 live blog

Tonight's lines are posted below the Cover It Live box when available.

Dorr - Galiardi - Hayes
Sackrison - Lehrke - Louwerse
McInnis - Schiller - Jokinen
Mueller - Zuck - Leivermann

Elbrecht - Youds
Boe - Davis
Cooper - Mosey


Scratches: Burkemper, Nelson

Zucker - D.Shore - Salazar
Maiani - Ostrow - Bennett
Kowlton - N.Shore - Ostrow
Mermis - Dewhurst - Cook

Donovan - Nutini
Ryder - Makowski
Phillips - Wrenn


Denver 3, MSU 2

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Old demons: The Mavericks played straight up with No. 15 Denver most of the game but a few things came back to haunt them as they lost their third game in a row. 1) They continued to struggle on the power play, going 0 for 7, including failing to score with 72 seconds of 5x3. 2) MSU was pretty disciplined on the penalty front for the first two periods, but Cameron Cooper was called for interference and hooking seven minutes apart in the third period when the Mavericks need to stay out of the box. Denver scored on the second one for the game-winning goal. 3) That goal was a low slap shot from the left point. Unless it hit traffic or the otherwise brilliant Phil Cook (35 saves, some awesome) was screened, that can't go in. "It was a typical WCHA game where a couple of plays decide the hockey game," MSU coach Troy Jutting said. "Tonight, they made them and we didn't."

2. Purple Hayes: Eriah Hayes had as pretty a goal as you'll see to tie the game 2-2 with 38.8 seconds remaining in the second period. Hayes intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and made a beeline toward the Denver net. A right-handed shot, Hayes had to keep the puck on his backhand to protect it from a Pioneers defender who was backchecking hard. But he gave himself enough room to fire a backhander over goalie Sam Brittain's shoulder, just under the crossbar. Last season in Magness Arena, Hayes had another pretty goal. The building's been kind to him. He now leads the Mavericks with four goals. "Eriah, the last four, five games has played well for us," Jutting said. Justin Jokinen scored the Mavericks' first goal, his third of the year.

3. Great plays: One play you don't see too often in college hockey anymore is a fake shot. But Denver stud defenseman Matt Donovan pulled one off for the Pioneers' second goal of the game. Donovan set up a slap shot and started to fire. But when Cook went down to stop the shot, Donovan dished it across the slot to streaking right winger Luke Salazar who had an easy tap-in goal behind Cook. Another great play by the Pioneers came in the final minute when Cook was off the ice for an extra attacker. Denver iced the puck, but with the new hybrid icing rule in effect, DU captain Kyle Ostrow beat the last MSU defensemen to the faceoff dots and the game continued on.

See the game's box score here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

MSU at Denver, Game 1 live blog

Tonight's lines can be found below the Cover It Live box.




Scratches: Leivermann, Nelson. Back in Kato: Grant (inj.), Heath, Peterson, Karambelas


Phillips (extra D)


Referees: Bill Mason, Matt Ulwelling. Linesmen: Tim Swiader, Scott Staudte

Backes signs contract extension

Former Minnesota State great David Backes signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract extension with the St. Louis Blues. The MSU athletics blog has several links regarding the signing, which the Blues got done rather than letting the 26-year-old Backes became an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong: "He's a Blue for the next five years and I'm hoping much past that to end his career here."

Backes, an alternate captain for the Blues this season, has been called St. Louis' future captain. This extension certainly backs up that idea. Last week in Omaha, WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod was raving about the Blues, since three of their best players are alumni of the conference. North Dakota's T.J. Oshie (now injured) leads the team in scoring, Backes is considered the "heart and soul" of the team, McLeod said, and Minnesota's Erik Johnson plays the most minutes and is the Blues' top defenseman.

Backes, an All-American for the Mavericks, has two goals and four assists this season as the Blues have started 9-2-3. Now in his fifth NHL season, Backes has 73 goals, 89 assists and 439 PIMs in 296 games.

Friday morning skate

This will be an abbreviated edition of FMS since I'll be leaving for Denver shortly. ...

Minnesota State will have its captain, Rylan Galiardi, back in the lineup tonight. He has missed the last five games with a lower-body injury and has missed being on the road: "It's not just that I wanted to play, but it was the first time I haven't made a road trip. I really missed being around the boys and being part of the team."

The Mavericks went 1-3-1 without Galiardi, whom coach Troy Jutting considers to be the team's best defensive forward.

Galiardi will skate between Michael Dorr and Eriah Hayes. Other forward line combos include Andrew Sackrison with Mike Louwerse and J.P. Burkemper, Joe Schiller with Justin Jokinen and John McInnis and Eli Zuck with Adam Mueller and Corey Leivermann. The defensive pairings remain the same, and Phil Cook is expected to get the start in goal. Zach Lehrke and Josh Nelson are the extras on the trip.

As for the Pioneers, they are ranked 15th in the country but are having some of the same issues as the Mavericks, namely that they're scoring just 2.6 goals a game and struggling on the power play. Sophomore Drew Shore is leading the way, and they're getting healthier, too. Meanwhile, Jesse Martin's surgery went well earlier this week. You can read more about Martin here.

In other WCHA action this weekend: Michigan Tech is at Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota is at Wisconsin, Nebraska-Omaha is at St. Cloud State and Alaska-Anchorage is at Bemidji State. Colorado College is out of conference, playing Air Force and Yale.

Be sure to check back on the blog tonight for PucKato's live blog from the Mavs-Pios game.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

You Want Answers, Rocky Mountain edition

Sorry this is a little late, folks. Just getting ready to head to Denver in the morning. But there's always time for your questions.

From Nation: Injuries?
Short and sweet, Nation. I like those kinds of questions. Galiardi is back in the lineup, and Joe Schiller bounced back from his injury Saturday to return. Zach Lehrke is on the trip but is one of the extras (Josh Nelson is the other). However, Chase Grant is out with a lower-body injury and did not make the trip. Jutting said that he hopes this week and next week's bye week will be sufficient time for him to heal. I'm wondering if they'll hold him out of the UMass.-Lowell series, too.

From BIGhkyfan: With the injuries the way they are and coach moving up Heath and Davis last week to fill in, what about Mosey? His bio had him as a F and converted to D in JR's. He has speed, shots well and strong in the corners? Of all our D men, he would seem more likely to be a good option. Just thinking of Schiller.
BIG, Heath was practicing as a forward for the previous two weeks, and Davis only moved up for a couple of shifts in the third period on Saturday. You're right that Mosey was a forward and probably would have been capable of playing up front like Davis did for a shift or two. Obviously, they didn't plan on those kinds of injuries and had to adjust on the fly. Davis is a senior and a leader, and they're going to give him more responsibilities, especially late in games like that. I don't recall this off-hand, but I'll bet Davis was playing up front when Mosey was on the ice.

From Teamworker: OK... Has the season even begun? Besides the team seeming flat, the MOJO around town and Verizon Center is FLAT. Could it be the terrible music they play which certainly would keep the students away. Or cause it is played way to loud and not even the players can think. Change is GOOD and the mood around the arena is FLAT. So please pass this on to the arena tech committee who simply needs a student with an iPod and they will rock that place. They have 3 weeks until we return, surely enough time to make some changes.
Teamworker, I didn't think the atmosphere was that bad at the VWC during the Colorado College series. But I'm with you on the music (I know, I know ... I usually don't like to get into too much of a discussion on the music selections). I think it tends to drown out good crowd participation rather than boost it. I'd love to hear a different variety of songs, but the VWC plays the same stuff every hockey arena plays. Mankato is no different in that department.

More from Teamworker: Continuing with my musical questions. Are there any plans, talks about getting a Jumbo Vision on the Verizon wall for replays and live action? Is there an alum out there that could donate or spearhead a group to fund such an item. You look at venues around the college ranks and all of a sudden, MSU is looking a little tired and it shows with the crowds (lack of). I said it last year. A live pep band would be HUGE...
I think the city's always looking to upgrade things at the arena, but costs are a big factor. A big video screen would be ideal for many reasons (not the least of which is my ability to see some replays for MSU home games), however, I don't see it at the top of the arena improvement list right now (hopefully I'm wrong). ... As for a pep band, MSU used to have one there but there wasn't a lot of pep. They also put the band in some of the best student-section seats, which irked many folks (see below). If I was in charge, I'd set up portable bleachers for a pep band and put them in the open area behind the south end of the rink. Then I'd send the musicians to Michigan Tech to see how good a small-school pep band can be. 

From Mavfan4life: Just a comment, not a question. No pep band. They drive me nuts, and they take away student seats, so the student would not be as loud. Maybe I can just bring my Ipod for them to play.
There's nothing like a great band. See Badgers, Wisconsin; and Gophers, Minnesota. Those are Big Ten bands in Big Ten buildings. But Michigan Tech and even Minnesota Duluth also prove what a band can provide to a hockey game. As for taking away student seats, see my suggestion above. I think you can find a place for a good band.

From Alex: 1. What have the coaches had to say about 2012 commitment Dylan Margonari? 2. Why is the schedule so imbalanced this year? 3. Do teams like mass lowell and alaska help pay for travel costs?
Alex, the coaches can't talk about recruits until they have signed national letters of intent. I'm guessing Margonari won't sign until a year from now. Actually, the early signing period for '11 started on Wednesday, so once that class has signed, I'm looking forward to talking to the coaches about them. That group includes J.P. Lafontaine, Brett Stern, Max Gaede and Zach Palmquist. ... As for the schedule, who knows? It is brutal. The WCHA schedules conference games, and the teams schedule nonconference opponents. I'm guessing this is just a fluke this year. The good news for the Mavs is that they have lots of home games in the second half of the season. ... Finally, Anchorage used to pay for opponents' travel cost -- but not MSU's. As part of their entry to the WCHA way back when, MSU offered to pay its own way to Alaska. One thing's for sure: this is a costly travel month for the Mavs, with flights to Anchorage, Denver and Massachusetts.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Denver week ... any questions?

Denver Post hockey guy Mike Chambers is reporting on his blog that DU center Jesse Martin's surgery to repair the fractures in his C2 vertebra went well on Monday in Minneapolis. However, it does appear that Martin's hockey career is over after the hit by North Dakota's Brad Malone.

Minnesota State will travel to Denver this week as part of its crazy October-November road swing. While MSU got swept at Nebraska-Omaha, Denver split a series with rival Colorado College, winning 4-1 and losing 9-2.

This seems to be as good a time as any to do a You Want Answers?!?!!? blog post. So go to the comments section below this post and ask away. I'll get the answers up on Thursday. (Note: Please no questions about the lineup/travel party. As always, that stuff will get reported on the blog Thursday or Friday. Just best to keep it out of the YWA?!?! Thanks.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

UNO 5, MSU 2

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1.  Short bench: Minnesota State was already missing Rylan Galiardi, who was back in Mankato with an injury. Then, before the game, coach Troy Jutting scratched Mike Louwerse for poor play and gave freshman J.P. Burkemper his first night off. Freshman John McInnis was playing for just the third time this season, and Danny Heath, a freshman D, got moved up to center (he had been playing up front in practice since Galiardi went down) for his second collegiate game. Once Joe Schiller, Chase Grant and Zach Lehrke went out with injuries, that left a pretty small group of forwards to choose from during a one-goal game. "That's as short a bench as I've ever had as a coach," Jutting said. There was a lot of mixing and matching late in the game. Even senior D Kurt Davis played a couple of shifts as a forward.

2. Signs of life: The Mavericks scored two power-play goals in the game, just the second time in 10 games that they have gotten more than one goal with the man advantage. Davis and Eriah Hayes had the goals. Davis fired a slap shot from the center point, and Hayes deflected in a Sackrison shot from the wall. McInnis collected his first collegaite point on Hayes goal. However, UNO coach Dean Blais insisted that Hayes' goal was played with a high stick. It was reviewed -- twice! -- but the overhead camera angle could not confirm a high stick. "We have to get better technology all over the league," Blais said. Jutting said his power play still needs work. "I thought we did a better job with our puck movement at times," he said. "But there are still times when it makes you want to pull your hair out."

3. A little love: Blais had kind words for Minnesota State's play throughout the weekend, echoing words he often said when he was the coach at North Dakota. "Troy Jutting's teams play their hockey just like we do," the UNO coach said. "That's aggressive and honest. There's not one player on their team that cheats or looks for shortcuts." Blais also praised MSU freshmen Chase Grant and Corey Leivermann, both of whom played for Blais when they were with the Fargo Force of the USHL two seasons ago. Blais said Grant from a mucking, grinding player under him to a 30-goal scorer in his second year at Fargo. Leivermann "scored some outstanding goals for me and more last year." Later, "I was surprised with the year they had last year; I'm not surprised by the way they're playing in Mankato.

Read The Free Press story here. Read the Omaha World-Herald story here. See the box score here.

MSU at Nebraska-Omaha, Game 2 live blog

Tonight's lines are posted below the Cover It Live box. There are some changes on the MSU side. Louwerse and Burkemper are out McInnis and Heath are in. It appears that Cook will start in goal or MSU.

Grant -Sackrison - Jokinen
Dorr - Lehrke - Hayes
Zuck - Schiller - Leivermann
Mueller - Heath - McInnis

Elbrecht - Youds
Boe - Davis
Cooper - Mosey


Scratches: Louwerse, Burkemper

Purslow - Martin - White
Broadhurst - Hudson - Ambroz
Walters - Montpetit - Raubenheimer
Searfoss - Willert - Gwidt

Skarica - Sustr
Young - Olimb
Smith - Aneloski


Friday, November 5, 2010

UNO 5, MSU 1 (updated)

UPDATE: Read The Free Press' game story here and the Omaha World-Herald story here.

Freddy's 3 thoughts of the game ...

1. Welcome to the WCHA: Minnesota State didn't give Nebraska-Omaha or its fans much of a taste of WCHA hockey on Friday. The game was the first WCHA game at the Qwest Center since Omaha joined he league, and the eighth-ranked home team cruised. The red Mavs, who are 3-0-0 in their new league, are now 19-3-2 at their home rink under coach Dean Blais after the milestone victory. MSU was credited with 27 shots on goal but just didn't seem to test goalie John Faulkner a heck of a lot. The visitors were 0 for 7 on the power play, averaging just one shot on goal per chance. "It felt like UNO wanted it more than we did tonight," MSU coach Troy Jutting said. You can see the box score here.

2. Interesting move: MSU goalie Phil Cook was yanked after two periods and Austin Lee played the third period. It seemed like a move designed to spark a much-needed fire under the rest of the team, but Jutting said Cook gave up a "horrible" rebound on UNO's third goal and would have pulled more players from the game if he could have. Kurt Davis, who was minus-2 for the game was beaten badly to the loose puck, which was sitting around the crease practically begging to be scored. "Everybody has to do their part," the coach said. The goal was indeed a backbreaker, coming with 69 seconds remaining in the second period. Cook finished with 18 saves on 21 shots, and Lee stopped 9 of 11 shots with the goals coming 29 seconds apart. Both goals came on the power play, with the first being a 5x3 (corrected). I'll be curious not only to see who starts in goal on Saturday but if any other changes are made to the lineup. Freshmen John McInnis and Danny Heath are the others on the trip.

3. Emptying the notebook: A few things of interest that didn't get in the game story: MSU forward Eriah Hayes was elbowed by Pasko Skarica early in the game at center ice. The shot appeared to be at Hayes' head (is elbowing ever called otherwise?) and Hayes missed the rest of the first period before returning. Skarica received a 2-minute minor for the hit. (Comment: Considering the events of last weekend at North Dakota, I'm surprised it wasn't a major.). ... Mavs defensean Tyler Elbrecht did something to rile up the fans. After a skirmish around the MSU net in the third period and some jawing with UNO players on a later faceoff, Elbrecht was booed by the crowd of 7,232 every time he touched the puck the rest of the game. ... Word around Omaha is that the Spirit of the Maverick, the traveling trophy between the two teams, is still on the line. In order to get it back, though, MSU must win Saturday's game by at least five goals.