The Mavericks will play five of their final six games at the Verizon Wireless Center, starting tonight against Alaska-Anchorage. Of course, they're hoping the home games spark a nice run toward the playoffs -- whether it's simply to gain momentum or to actually move up and out of ninth place in the WCHA standings. Minnesota State is currently five points behind Anchorage and Minnesota, although the Seawolves have played two more games than both the Mavs and the Gophers.
The stretch run is the end of the line for MSU's seniors. Three of them -- Jerad Stewart, Kael Mouillierat (pictured) and Geoff Irwin -- make up the team's No. 1 line.
“They’re going to have to be a factor every night,” coach Troy Jutting said. They have to play with energy. They have to score. They have to do everything. They have to be a No. 1 line in the WCHA.”
You can read the rest of The Free Press weekend preview here. The Mavericks' lineup will be similar to last Saturday's at Wisconsin, although with Tyler Thompson in for Adam Mueller. Phil Cook will start in goal. Other seniors in the lineup will be Zach Harrison and Nick Canzanello.
As for Anchorage, it gets back three players from injury tonight, including second-leading scorer Tommy Grant.
Looking around the rest of the WCHA, where every team is playing against each other ...
St. Cloud State at Wisconsin: The series with the most MacNaughton Cup impact will take place in Madison. Fourth-ranked St. Cloud is coming off an 8-1 drubbing against North Dakota and hasn't won in Madison since 2001. As for third-ranked Wisconsin, fifth-year senior Ben Street, is drawing on some great experiences to lead the Badgers.
Colorado College at Minnesota: CC has been the surprise team of the WCHA this season and a big reason is freshman goalie Joe Howe, who, apparently didn't want to wait for the Gophers, so he's now a Tiger. Gophers freshman defenseman Nick Leddy this week has been dealing with the news that the Minnesota Wild traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Gazette of Colorado Springs is focusing on a senior, though, in the underrated Matt Overman.
Minnesota Duluth at North Dakota: Kevin Pates of the Duluth News-Tribune has tracked recent trends of goal scoring going down in the WCHA. This year, however, it's going up. The Grand Forks Herald has a Q&A with Mario Lamoureux, who is watching his sisters play for Team USA in the Olympics and will be watching his Sioux tonight, as he has been suspended for one game by the WCHA. Here is a column decrying the suspension. Read more on the suspensions here and here.
Michigan Tech at Denver: It's first place against last place, but second-ranked Denver is in cliche mode for the stretch run.
Here are previews from USCHO (which focuses on Anchorage this week), INCH and This is the WCHA.
A couple of other notes from around the country: Western Michigan fired coach Jim Culhane this week, while Dean Blais appears to have Nebraska-Omaha on a roll.
Don't forget to check back later for PucKato's live blog during the MSU-UAA game.