Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pitlick invited to NHL scouting combine

Minnesota State forward (ex-forward?) Tyler Pitlick is among the 100 players invited to the NHL Scouting Combine, which will be held in Toronto at the end of May.

Grand Forks Herald hockey writer Brad Scholssman's blog has links to mock drafts and Pitlick is listed as a first-round pick in two of five. One had him 19th and the other had him 22nd.

I stopped by the MSU hockey office today, and there was nothing new to report on Pitlick's situation.

Hobey hat trick released

The three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award were unveiled on Wednesday. Will this be the year Wisconsin gets its first Hobey?

The group includes Badgers senior forward Blake Geoffrion, as well as New Hampshire senior forward Bobby Butler and Maine sophomore forward Gustav Nyquist.

I don't have a vote (although I did serve a three-year term as a voter earlier in my career) but really think Geoffrion, Wisconsin's captain, would be a great choice for this award. For the Hobey hat trick, he edged out his teammate Brendan Smith as well as WCHA player of the year Marc Cheverie, the goaltender from Wisconsin. No doubt Cheverie and teammate Rhett Rakhshani saw their Hobey stock drop after a rough Final Five and NCAA regional.

All three Hobey candidates are fine candidates, but Geoffrion, whose grandfather is Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion and great grandfather is Howie Morenz -- both Hockey Hall of Famers with the Montreal Canadiens -- has led the Badgers to the Frozen Four and was simply a force all over the ice in the WCHA all season.

The WCHA hasn't had a Hobey winner since 2007 when Ryan Duncan won the league's sixth Hobey in a row. The award will be announced on April 9, the Friday of the Frozen Four weekend.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pitlick on the move?

Minnesota State men's hockey coach Troy Jutting confirmed on Sunday that Mavericks freshman Tyler Pitlick (pictured) is exploring the possibility of leaving school and forgoing his final three seasons of college eligibility.

"I do know he is looking," Jutting said.

Multiple online reports over the weekend speculated that Pitlick is strongly considering MSU and will be making that decision soon. One report put the likelihood at 90 percent according to an unnamed source.

Jutting didn't put odds on Pitlick's return or departure.

"I really can't clear anything up," Jutting said. "I don't know anything for sure, but it wouldn't shock me (if he leaves)."

Some of the speculation involves Pitlick opting to play major junior hockey in the Western Hockey League, and there's talk that he will visit the Medicine Hat Tigers in the near future in order to weigh his decision. Medicine Hat apparently holds Pitlick's WHL rights.

It's odd timing, considering that Pitlick will be drafted in June, possibly as high as the first round and could wait until he finds out which NHL team drafts him (and hears that team's thoughts for his development -- turn pro, play major junior or play college) before deciding his immediate future. School may be a larger factor in his decision to leave than development.

"It's not like he didn't have success (at MSU)," Jutting said. "It's not like he didn't move up the ladder."

Voice mail and text messages were left with Pitlick on Saturday but neither was returned.

Pitlick finished his first college season with 11 goals and eight assists. He moved up to No. 21 on the NHL Central Scouting Service's midseason list of draft-eligible forwards and defensemen from North America. Clearly, the scouts have been watching him closely, and flocked to watch him play late in the season. Many of the same scouts were seen at all three playoff games between MSU and St. Cloud State. Pitlick (and his line) was pretty good that weekend, too.

Because of his talent and potential, Pitlick probably would not have been long for the college game anyway. Certainly the Mavericks were hoping to get more than one year out of him.

"I'll try to tell him why I think he should stay," Jutting said. "Obviously, I want him to be successful. As much as I think (leaving) would be the wrong decision, I hope everything works out in the future for him."

RIT (yes that RIT), Wisco punch Frozen Four tickets

A year ago, I was talking to someone about Bemidji State's impressive yet unlikely berth to the Frozen Four and he said that all you need is one good weekend to get there (of course, you have to get in the NCAAs first). This year, Rochester Institute of Technology is that team. The Tigers shocked Denver on Friday and then followed that up with a 6-2 victory over New Hampshire on Saturday.

It's still inexplicable that RIT is in after watching them nearly three months ago in Mankato. Not to take anything away from the accomplishment but there's no way the Tigers looked like a Frozen Four team that weekend. If anything, Minnesota State, which won the series 6-1 and 3-1, looked like the team poised to make a second-half run.

RIT will play Wisconsin in two weeks in Detroit. The Badgers avenged their WCHA semifinal loss to St. Cloud State at the Xcel Energy Center by beating the Huskies 5-3 (with an empty-netter) eight days later in the same building. Wisco senior forward Blake Geoffrion may not have been put up for WCHA player of the year by the Badgers but he might have moved up in the Hobey Baker race with a West Regional MVP performance over the weekend.

Meanwhile, North Dakota (PucKato's pick to win the title) was stunned by Yale 3-2 on Saturday, meaning the Elis will play Boston College Sunday for a trip to Detroit. Michigan knocked off Bemidji 5-1 and will play CCHA rival and top-ranked Miami Sunday.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Badgers, Huskies win; Denver falls ... to RIT?

Wisconsin and St. Cloud State eked out wins in the West Regional on Friday night, with the Badgers defeating Vermont 3-2 and the Huskies getting their first NCAA tournament victory with a 4-3 double-overtime win over Northern Michigan. Wisconsin and St. Cloud will play each other for a trip to the Frozen Four at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The shocker came out in Albany, N.Y., where RIT, a team that was blasted out of Mankato's Verizon Wireless Center 6-1 and 3-0 over New Year's weekend, upset Denver 2-1. RIT goalie Jared DeMichael stopped 39 shots and allowed only a late power-play goal. He's the goalie whom Minnesota State hung six even-strength goals on with 32 shots on New Year's Day. The Tigers played a different goalie the next night. Just goes to show what a difference almost three months can make.

RIT will play New Hamsphire, which knocked off Cornell.

The Midwest and Northeast regionals begin today. In Fort Wayne, Ind., it will be the CCHA vs. the CHA with Miami and Michigan playing Alabama-Huntsville and Bemidji State, respectively. In Worcester, Mass., Boston College will play Alaska and North Dakota will face Yale.

For the Sioux, Yale will be no easy test. But North Dakota is red-hot, thanks, in part to the play of junior Evan Trupp.

Friday, March 26, 2010

National tourney time

The NCAA men's hockey tournament begins on today. Got your bracket filled out?

I think the national champion is coming out of the WCHA this year. North Dakota looked like a world beater during the Final Five, and I've liked Wisconsin and Denver all year (although neither had its best performances in St. Paul last weekend). St. Cloud State has the pieces to make a run, if it can put them all together at the same time.

Three WCHA teams will be in action on the first day, with St. Cloud State taking on Northern Michigan and Wisconsin playing Vermont at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul and Denver playing RIT in Albany, N.Y., (the other game in Albany is Cornell vs. New Hampshire). has done a nice tournament preview, which can be found here. Also, there's a feature on Wisconsin defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who is an amazing +21 this season.

For St. Cloud State, defenseman Garrett Raboin, who was a difference maker in the Huskies' first-round WCHA tourney win over Minnesota State, is still playing through pain. The Huskies' Garrett Roe is expected to play after getting carted off the ice on stretcher a week ago. Also, Kevin Allenspach writes a column about Walt Kyle, coach of red-hot NMU.

Denver's probably glad it's not playing at the X, where it had a rough couple of games in the Final Five. The Pioneers are hoping to shore up their defense against RIT. RIT has won 10 games in a row and is 17-3 since getting blasted 9-1 over two games by Minnesota State.

On Saturday, North Dakota will take on Yale in the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass.  The Sioux have a tough bracket that also features Boston College and Alaska. North Dakota is playing for their captain Chay Genoway, who hasn't played since November with a concussion.

The Midwest Regional in Fort Wayne, Ind., which also begins on Saturday, features Bemidji State, which will join WCHA next season. The Beavers will take on Michigan with the winner playing either Miami or Alabama-Huntsville. This bracket features two teams from the now-defunct College Hockey America conference (BSU and UAH). Read about that conference's player of the year, Bemidji's Matt Read, here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rewind and repent

Well, I just went back on the blog and found my preseason picks for the 2009-10 season. Now that it's over (for MSU, anyway), I should at least own up to my so-called preseason prognostications. Here they are, along with the actual winners in bold:

1. Denver (Denver)
2. North Dakota (Wisconsin)
3. Wisconsin (St. Cloud State)
4. Minnesota (North Dakota T-4)
5. St. Cloud State (Minnesota Duluth T-4)
6. Minnesota-Duluth (Colorado College)
7. Minnesota State (Minnesota)
8. Colorado College (Minnesota State)
9. Alaska-Anchorage (Alaska-Anchorage)
10. Michigan Tech (Michigan Tech)

Player of the year: Jordan Schroeder, F, UM (Marc Cheverie, G, DU)
Rookie of the year: Mike Lee, G, SCSU (Danny Kristo, F, UND)

All-WCHA first team:
F-Jordan Schroeder, UM (Blake Geoffrion, UW)
F-Ryan Lasch, SCSU (Rhett Rakhshani, DU)
F-Kael Mouillierat, MSU (Jack Connolly, UMD)
D-Chay Genoway, UND (Brendan Smith, UW)
D-Patrick Wiercioch, DU (Wiercioch)
G-Marc Cheverie, DU (Cheverie)

And the award goes to is ...

Today's Free Press column was on Minnesota State's postseason awards. Players voted for those awards on the Monday after their season ended, but I'm not sure when they will be announced to the team or released.

Picking these winners was just about as tough as picking the all-WCHA teams. There were plenty of good and deserving choices for each. Anyway, here were my choices:

MVP: Ben Youds. The junior defenseman edges out some of his teammates up front, not only because he ended up leading the team in scoring by season's end but because the Mavericks had a vastly improved defense in a season in which it was critical for that to happen (young goalies, scoring troubles). Youds was a blue-line leader who helped keep most games at least close. He logged a ton of minutes on special teams, too. Others considered: Jerad Stewart, Zach Harrison.

Hustle award: Jerad Stewart. The senior forward worked harder than he had during his first three seasons at MSU, and that's saying something. The hustle even paid of in the scoring department, as Stewart reached career highs with 13 goals and 25 points. By the time the St. Cloud State playoff series had ended, Stewart had three stitches above his brow, adding to a pretty impressive scar collection. He's a fitting choice for an award won by his former teammate Trevor Bruess the last three seasons. Others considered: Geoff Irwin, Zach Harrison.

Most improved: Evan Mosey. There are two ways of looking at this award. One is improvement from one year to the next. In that category, Stewart probably deserves it. He was just two points shy of doubling the point total from his first three seasons. Lately, MSU has been giving the award to someone who improves from the beginning of the year to the end. With that criteria, Mosey, a freshman defenseman, gets the nod. He went from being in and out of the lineup to being a regular and even a power-play guy by the playoffs. Others considered: Stewart, Phil Cook.

Unsung hero: Tyler Elbrecht. I'll admit, I was lobbied a bit on this one, but I think it's a good choice. But the freshman defenseman quietly had a solid first season, logging a ton of minutes as Youds' defensive partner and a true defensive defenseman. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder finished the year as a plus (+/-) player, and chipped in with five assists too. Last year, Kael Mouillierat won this award, perhaps because he was left off the all-WCHA teams. If that's the case, others considered: Youds, Kurt Davis.

Those are the Mavericks' official awards. If they had one for top newcomer, that would be the most difficult of all. Who would that go to? Tyler Pitlick, Phil Cook, Michael Dorr? I'll call that one a three-way tie.

Unsung hero:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Final Five (er, six)

As expected, the WCHA championship weekend will still be called the Final Five next year. But with Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha making it a 12-team conference, the title of the event will refer to the final five games, not teams.

The league officially announced the format change on Saturday between games at the Final Five and also unveiled the new Broadmoor Trophy, which North Dakota got to parade around the Xcel Energy Center after its championship-game victory over St. Cloud State later that night.

Following an opening-weekend first-round series in which the top six teams from the regular season host the bottom six teams, the advancing teams will be re-seeded for the Final Five.

The top two seeds will receive byes into Friday's semifinals. On Thursday, there will now be two play-in games instead of one (No. 3 vs. No. 6 and No. 4 vs. No. 5), with the winners advancing to the semis. Fans will be able to buy a single ticket for the two-game session. Games will be played at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

From there, there will be separate sessions for the each semifinal game (2 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and Saturday's championship game (7 p.m.). There will be no third-place game, meaning Wisconsin will be the answer to the trivia question: Who was the last team to win the WCHA's third-place game?

The WCHA also announced that the Minnesota Wild will play a regular-season game at 1 p.m. on Saturday, making for an interesting doubleheader (I'm not sure it was necessary to incorporate the Wild into the weekend; the Final Five pretty much stands on its own an Xcel event).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

NCAA tournament field set

Wisconsin and Denver earned No. 1 seeds for the NCAA men's hockey tournament, which begins later this week. Wisconsin and WCHA tournament runner-up St. Cloud State will return to the Xcel Energy Center for the West Regional and will play Vermont and Northern Michigan, respectively. WCHA Final Five champion North Dakota is also in the tournament, but Minnesota Duluth ends up on the outside looking in.

Here's how the field shakes out:

WEST REGIONAL - St. Paul (Friday-Saturday)
1-Wisconsin vs. 4-Vermont
2-St. Cloud State vs. 3-Northern Michigan

EAST REGIONAL - Albany, N.Y. (Friday-Saturday)
1-Denver vs. 4-Rochester Institute of Technology
2-Cornell vs. 3-New Hampshire

MIDWEST REGIONAL - Fort Wayne, Ind. (Saturday-Sunday)
1-Miami vs. 4-Alabama-Huntsville
2-Bemidji State vs. 3-Michigan

NORTHEAST REGIONAL - Worcester, Mass. (Saturday-Sunday)
1-Boston College vs. 4-Alaska
2-North Dakota vs. 3-Yale

Many of the games will be broadcast on ESPNU. See this site for more TV information. The Frozen Four will take place April 8-10 in Detroit.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Weekend update

Here are a few notes from the rinks ...

The Gustavus women's hockey team fell to No. 1 Amherst 4-0 in the semifinals of the NCAA D3 championship on Friday night in St. Peter. Read Jim Rueda's account here. The Gusties will play in the third-place game on Saturday afternoon.

Now ex-Maverick Kael Mouillierat scored his first professional goal on Friday, playing for the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. He scored it against his old teammate Mike Zacharias, who got the win for the Ontario Reign. Geoff Irwin, who also signed with the Steelheads, did not play in the game.

Of course in the Final Five, St. Cloud State and North Dakota won in the semifinals to set up Saturday night's title game. The conference's top two regular-season teams, Denver and Wisconsin, are playing in the third-place game.

I attended Friday's WCHA games, and North Dakota is playing great hockey right now. The Sioux's Evan Trupp is the early favorite for Final Five most outstanding player. He had two goals and a phenomenal assist in the 4-3 win over DU.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Idaho bound (updated)

UPDATED: Minnesota State seniors Geoff Irwin and Kael Mouillierat turned pro but remained teammates, signing with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. Read the Steelheads' press release here.

They're expected to be in the lineup tonight against the Ontario Reign in Ontario, Calif., where they could be facing ex-teammate Mike Zacharias (although Zacharias is not the No. 1 goalie there). Another former Maverick, defenseman Brian Kilburg, was also on that team but was released earlier this week. Apparently he was picked up by the Utah Grizzlies.

Gusties' Martinson named player of the year (updated)

Gustavus Adolphus men's hockey player David Martinson became the first player in school history to win the Sid Watson Award, as Division III national player of the year. Read more from Gustavus' press release here.

UPDATE: Read The Free Press' story here.

Martinson, a 6-0, 190-pound native of St. Louis Park, helped the Gusties to a 20-7-2 record and a second-straight berth into the NCAA quarterfinals. The MIAC player of the year led the conference in scoring with 23 goals and 13 assists for 13 points in conference play. He also led the nation with 29 goals in 29 games and finished the year with 49 points (1.69 per game, fifth in the country). For his career, Martinson had 76 goals and 55 assists in 85 games.

"David is an outstanding person and an outstanding hockey player," coach Brett Petersen said in the press release. He is our leader on and off the ice. He gets more out of his teammates than any other player I have coached at Gustavus."

The award's runner up was Eric Selleck, a sophomore forward at SUNY-Oswego.

D3 women's Frozen Four begins today

The Gustavus women's hockey team will take on top-ranked and defending national champion Amherst at 7 p.m. Friday at the Don Roberts Ice Rink in St. Peter in the second game of the NCAA Division III women's hockey semifinals. In the first game at 3:30 p.m., Norwich will play Elmira.

The Free Press has a preview of the tournament, including a feature on the Gusties' Lindsey Hjelm, a freshman who is the daughter of a Gustavus men's All-American who also made it to the national semifinals. Of course, she wears the same number as he did nearly 30 years ago.

Meanwhile, two Gustavus players were named All-Americans on Thursday: Senior forward Melissa Mackley and junior defender Kristin Peterson received the honor for the second year in a row. Mackley, is the Gusties' captain and the team' second leading scorer with 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points this season, while Peterson anchored a stellar defense (1.18 goals allowed per game) and ranked sixth in the country among defensemen with 24 points.

In a season preview on the Gusties in November, Mackely talked about getting to the Frozen Four. Gustavus is making its fourth trip there but its first since the season before she arrived.

"It's our ultimate goal every year," she said. "Every year since I was a freshman, it feels like we've been knocking on the door. I want to get to the Frozen Four and make a run to the national championship. The sky's the limit for this team."

(Free Press photo by Pat Christman)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Four from WCHA are Hobey finalists

Four WCHA players were name among the top 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker award, which goes to college hockey's national player of the year.

The WCHA group includes two Wisconsin players, forward Blake Geoffrion and defenseman Kevin Smith, and two Denver players, forward Rhett Rakhshani and goalie Marc Cheverie.

Other finalists include: New Hampshire forward Bobby Butler, Maine forward Gustav Nyquist, Northern Michigan forward Mark Olver, RPI forward Chase Polacek, Miami goalie Cody Reichard and Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens.

The award will be announced on Friday, April 9, during the off-day of the Frozen Four in Detroit.

I don't know a lot about the non-WCHA guys. Butler is the nation's top goal scorer with 27. Nyquist leads the country in points with 59. ... I was glad to see Geoffrion on the list and think he would be a great pick for Wisconsin's first Hobey. Geoffrion was not put up by the Badgers for WCHA player of the year (Smith was). ... Cheverie, who was the WCHA's player of the year, would be a good choice, too.

MSU shut out of WCHA awards (update)

Minnesota State was shut out of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association postseason awards for the first time since 2002. The awards were announced on Thursday during a ceremony before the beginning of the WCHA Final Five. (UPDATE: PucKato's picks are posted next to the award for a comparison. A * means it was the same)

Denver junior goaltender Marc Cheverie was named player of the year and DU coach George Gwozdecky was named coach of the year after leading the Pioneers to the conference’s regular-season title.

Other individual awards went to: Michigan Tech’s Eli Vlaisavljevich, who was named student-athlete of the year; Wisconsin’s Brendan Smith, who was named defensive player of the year; and Danny Kristo, who was named rookie of the year. Here are the all-conference teams:

F-Rhett Rakhshani, DU * 
F-Blake Geoffrion, UW * 
F-Jack Connolly, UMD * 
D-Brendan Smith, UW *
D-Patrick Wiercioch, DU *
G-Marc Cheverie, UW *

F-Justin Fontaine, UMD * 
F-Ryan Lasch, SCSU *
F-Tyler Ruegsegger, DU * 
D-Ryan McDonagh, UW *
D-Nate Prosser, CC *
G-Brad Eidsness, UND *

F-Michael Davies, UW (PucKato: Chris VandeVelde, UND)
F-Joe Colborne, DU * 
F-Garrett Roe, SCSU (PucKato: Kevin Clark, UAA)
D-Garrett Raboin, SCSU *
D-Chay Genoway, UND (PucKato: Ben Youds, MSU)
G-Dan Dunn, SCSU (PucKato: Scott Gudmandson, UW)

F-Danny Kristo, UND *
F-Craig Smith, UW (PucKato: Tyler Pitlick, MSU)
F-Rylan Schwartz, CC *
D-Matt Donovan, DU *
D-Justin Schultz, UW * 
G-Joe Howe, CC *

Certainly, Minnesota State defensemen Ben Youds and Kurt Davis deserved voters' consideration, as did freshman forward Tyler Pitlick for the rookie team. But these were tough lineups to crack. The biggest surprise had to be Genoway, who was having a great season before being knocked out for the year with a concussion. But he only played in nine games, seven in the WCHA.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Leiverman leads Force

Mankato native and future Minnesota State forward Corey Leivermann is leading the Fargo Force in scoring and is tied for 11th in the USHL in scoring with his future MSU teammate, Zach Lehrke of the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. Leivermann has 19 goals and 35 assists for 54 points and is +6 through 51 games.

Here's a look at the stats of MSU's committed players:

Josh Berge, F, Lincoln (USHL) -- 4 G, 16 A, 20 pts, -4, 30 PIM, 35 games
J.P. Burkemper, F, Fargo (USHL) -- 5 G, 9 A, 14 pts, -13, 8 PIM, 36 games
Max Gaede, F, Woodbury H.S. -- 19 G, 17 A, 36 pts, +10, 36 PIM, 25 games
Chase Grant, F, Fargo (USHL) -- 28 G, 19 A, 47 pts, +9, 124 PIM, 51 games
Danny Heath, D, Des Moines (USHL) -- 5 G, 8 A, 13 pts -4, 16 PIM, 26 games (inj.)
J.P. LaFontaine, F, Shattuck -- 22 G, 37 A, 59 pts, 20 PIM, 53 games
Zach Lehrke, F, Cedar Rapids (USHL) -- 23 G, 31 A, 54 pts, +19, 26 PIM, 51 games
Matt Leitner, F, Fargo (USHL) -- 20 G, 33 A, 53 pts, -2, 92 PIM, 46 games
Corey Leivermann, F, Fargo (USHL) -- 19 G, 35 A, 54 pts, +6, 58 PIM, 51 games
Josh Nelson, D, Fairbanks (NAHL) -- 7 G, 24 A, 31 pts, +11, 85 PIM, 52 games
Zach Palmquist, D, Waterloo (USHL) -- 8 G, 25 A, 33 pts, +10, 52 PIM, 46 games
Brett Stern, D, Centennial HS -- 9 G, 16 A, 25 pts, +29, 40 PIM, 25 games

Gaede, LaFontaine, Palmquist and Stern are expected to play in the USHL next season and join the Mavericks in 2011.

Monday, March 15, 2010

For MSU, it's the offseason

Good morning from Mankato. Quite a weekend in St. Cloud. Three one-goal games. Two overtime games. Huge weekend for the MSU seniors (five goals, 10 assists). A great series by goalie Phil Cook. But, alas, the Mavericks will be home again for the Final Five.

So close ... that was the theme of the 09-10 season. The Mavericks played in 22 games decided by one goal or less this season and went 7-12-3 in those games, including five overtime losses. But there was one overtime win -- on Friday at St. Cloud. Check out the video of Geoff Irwin's game-tying goal with .3 seconds left above that put MSU in position to win.

The Final Five is set. North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth will play in Thursday's play-in game, with the winner playing top-seeded Denver on Friday night. St. Cloud State and Wisconsin will play on Friday afternoon. All of those teams, with the exception of UMD, appear to be locks for the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs could be on the bubble, especially with Alabama-Huntsville winning the College Hockey America tournament.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

St. Cloud State 3, Minnesota State 2 - OT

The Huskies' Drew LeBlanc scored a power-play goal at 3:21 into overtime on Sunday to get his team into the Final Five and end the Mavericks season.

Tough night for the seniors. From my perch in the NHC press area, I can see a lot of hugs going around between MSU players and parents. Junior defenseman and assistant captain Channing Boe spoke after the game and said there were "a lot of tears" in the locker room.

"I feel for the seniors," Boe said. "They brought us a long way with their leadership. Those guys got us to where we were tonight. We had a great weekend of hockey. To have it end like that, it's just devastating."

Only six penalties were called in the game, but the crucial one was Joe Schiller's boarding penalty in overtime. I saw him after filing my story for The Free Press and he said that he tried to stop himself and not put himself in a position to take a penalty after seeing Brian Volpei turn with the puck.

Less than a minute later, the game was over.

Freshman Tyler Pitlick and senior Jason Wiley had the Mavericks goals, giving them leads of 1-0 and 2-1, and Phil Cook stopped 23 shots. Geoff Irwin assisted on the second goal for a six-point weekend -- a great series for the senior captain.

A couple of other notes on the seniors: Kael Mouillerat finished his MSU career with 92 points, putting him 10th on the Mavs' Division I scoring list. Zach Harrison played in his 152nd game on Sunday. Only B.J. Abel (155 games) played in more at MSU.

MSU at St. Cloud State, WCHA playoffs, Game 3

Notes: Minnesota State is going for its first Game 3 victory since joining the WCHA; they have lost four of them. ... Phil Cook will start in goal for the Mavericks; Mike Lee appears to be the guy for the Huskies. ... MSU made one lineup change, putting Eli Zuck on the fourth line in place of Andy Sackrison. ... St. Cloud also made a fourth-line change, putting Jordy Christian in for Mitch Ryan. ... Referees will be the same tonight (coaches can request a change for Game 3s). ... Full lines can be found below.

Tonight's lines (starters in bold):







This is one of three Game 3s tonight in the WCHA. Minnesota-North Dakota in Grand Forks and Colorado College-Minnesota Duluth in Duluth are the others. ... Other Game 3s around the country: Quinnipiac at Union, Brown at Yale, UMass-Lowell at Maine, Merrimack at Boston University, Vermont at New Hampshire, Ohio State at Miami.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another night in St. Cloud

The Mavericks were 20 minutes away from their first WCHA Final Five since 2003 with a two-goal advantage, but their trend of protecting two-period leads (14-0-0 during the regular season) was dashed, much like their trend of not coming back from a two-period deficit was on Friday.

Garrett Roe scored two goals 20 seconds apart to give the Huskies a 3-2 lead at 6:51 of the third period. He also assisted on St. Cloud's first goal, by David Eddy, which came just 52 seconds into the final frame. On the game-winner, it was ruled that Eddy was checked into goalie Phil Cook (23 saves) as Roe's centering pass from the corner went into the net. The play was reviewed.

The Mavericks put 35 shots on goalie Mike Lee, including 17 in the third period.

Geoff Irwin and Ben Youds scored the Mavericks goals, both in the second period. Kael Mouillierat finished with two assists, and Irwin also added an assist.

On Sunday, the Mavericks will try to take down another trend, that of winning a Sunday playoff game. They are 0-4 in Game 3s, going back to 1999 when they were an affiliate member of the WCHA. In all of those series (at North Dakota in '99, at Duluth in '04, at North Dakota in '06 and home against Minnesota in '08), MSU won the Friday night game in overtime before dropping the next two games.

"We have to play like we've got no tomorrow," Irwin said, "because we don't."

There will be three Game 3s on Sunday, as Minnesota knotted up North Dakota in Grand Forks and Colorado College did the same at Duluth. Wisconsin and Denver are in, having swept Anchorage and Michigan Tech.

Read The Free Press gamer here.

MSU at St. Cloud State, WCHA playoffs, Game 2

Notes: Minnesota State is going for its first trip to the WCHA Final Five since 2003. ... The Mavericks will go with the same lineup as they did on Friday. ... St. Cloud has made some changes, notably, Aaron Marvin returns from suspension and Mike Lee is in the nets. ... Lines are posted below.

Tonight's lines (starters in bold):




ST. CLOUD STATE (20-12-5)



Gusties win, will host D3 Frozen Four

The Gustavus Adolphus women's hockey team defeated Wisconsin-River Falls 2-0 on Saturday afternoon at the Don Roberts Ice Rink in St. Peter in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. Gustavus will now host the national semifinals and finals on Friday and Saturday.

Allie Schwab and Nara Higano scored third-period goals for the Gusties, and goalie Danielle Justice made 16 saves for the shutout win. Gustavus outshot River Falls 41-16. Its advantage was 31-5 after two periods, but the game was scoreless until Schwab's goal at 2:28 of the third.

Gustavus will be making its first trip to the Frozen Four since 2006.

The Gustavus men's team will attempt to make its second consecutive trip to the national semifinals when it plays tonight at St. Norbert in DePere, Wis.

Harrison, Young have skills

Minnesota State senior forward Zach Harrison and MSU women's senior forward Ashley Young were selected to participate in the NCAA Frozen Four Skills Competition, which will take place on Friday, April 9 -- the off day between the national semifinals and finals -- at Ford Field in Detroit.

Harrison is one of two WCHA men's players selected for the West team. The other is Minnesota's Tony Lucia. Chris McKelvie of Bemidji State, brother of ex-Mav Ryan McKelvie, was also picked.

Read more about the event here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mavericks 5, Huskies 4, OT

It's been awhile since the Mavericks have had the kind of good, come-from-behind win they've been known for.. Not once this season had Minnesota State won a game when trailing after two periods, nor had they won an overtime game.

Twenty seconds into OT, Kael Mouillierat scored to give MSU a 5-4 win as well as a leg up in the WCHA tournament's first-round series. It was Mouillierat's second goal of the game, as he also had a short-handed goal in third period that helped the Mavericks erase a 3-1 deficit in the final 20 minutes of regulation (the Huskies led 3-0 late in the second).

Geoff Irwin's amazing desperation goal with three-tenths of a second left in the third period sent it to overtime.

Irwin finished with a three-point game, and Jerad Stewart had two assists, giving the top line of seniors seven points.

"The seniors, obviously, stepped up big," coach Troy Jutting said. "I've said it a million times: I'm a firm believer that the old guys have to step up at this time of the year."

Evan Mosey scored a power-play goal with 28 seconds left in the second and Andrew Sackrison also had a goal for the Mavericks. Ben Youds had two assists, including a pretty, patient pass on Mouillierat's shorty. Goalie Phil Cook finished with 27 saves, including 12 in the first period when the Huskies were really buzzing.

Notes: The Mavericks are now 8-1-1 in their last 10 games at the National Hockey Center. ... Minnesota State has now won the first game of its first-round playoff series four times since its last trip to the Final Five in 2003. All of them have been in overtime. ... The Mavericks were the only road team in the WCHA to win tonight.

Read The Free Press' game story here.

MSU at St. Cloud State, WCHA playoffs, Game 1

Tonight's lines can be found below the live blog.

Tonight's lines (starters in bold)




Extras on the trip: Cooper, Zuck.




Friday morning skate - playoff edition

In just a few hours, I'll be headed back to St. Cloud for the WCHA playoff series between Minnesota State and St. Cloud State. The Mavericks will put the same lineup on the ice that they put out in their two games against the Huskies last weekend.

The eighth-seeded Mavericks are hoping to advance to the Final Five for the first time since 2003. Every other WCHA team has played in the event since MSU's last appearance. But given last week's win and tie over third-seeded St. Cloud and a 7-1-1 record in their last nine games at the National Hockey Center, the Mavericks are going into the weekend with a lot of confidence. Read more about the series here.

Also, the Winona Daily News took some time with Mavericks freshman Eriah Hayes.

The St. Cloud Times' coverage includes a story on the Mavs' Jerad Stewart, who knows the Huskies arena well. Also, the Huskies have a few players who will be considered for WCHA postseason awards, including Ryan Lasch, who is closing in on the school's all-time scoring record.

Here's a look at the other first-round matchups:

10-Michigan Tech at 1-Denver: The No. 1-ranked Pioneers are not expecting an easy time against the Huskies, who played DU tough just three weeks ago. Tech hung with North Dakota last weekend, too, before getting swept.

9-Alaska-Anchorage at 2-Wisconsin: Going into the playoffs, the Badgers are led in scoring by senior winger Michael Davies, who is particular about his routine. Meanwhile, the Seawolves hope their goaltending heats up this weekend.

7-Minnesota at 4-North Dakota: The Gophers realize that they must win on the road this weekend in order to have a shot at the NCAA tournament. The Sioux know that won't be easy, as Minnesota has been knocked out of the first round of the WCHA tournament just once in the last 32 years. However, the Gophers haven't won in Grand Forks since 2007 and they've never won a playoff game there.

6-Colorado College at 5-Minnesota Duluth: The Bulldogs are playing their first home playoff games since 2004 (when they beat MSU in three games). Making them more special is the fact that they will be the final playoff games at the DECC. This is a rematch of last year's first-round series when Duluth went to Colorado and upset the Tigers. The Colorado Springs Gazette takes a look at speedy senior Bill Sweatt.

Here are some St. Cloud Times' capsules on the playoffs. Here are previews by INCH (plus its all-conference picks), USCHO and College Hockey News (which is done by the This is the WCHA blog).

Don't forget to come back to PucKato tonight (and all weekend) for the live blog from the MSU-SCSU game.

Finally, don't forget that the Gustavus Adolphus men's and women's hockey teams are playing in the NCAA quarterfinals on Saturday. The women's team will host Wisconsin-River Falls at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Don Roberts Ice Rink. The winner will host the D-III Frozen Four next week. The men's team, which defeated St. Thomas on Wednesday, will go to St. Norbert (Wis.) with hopes of making its second straight trip to the national semifinals in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You want answers: Where's the excitement?

Not much participation this time. So if you have any more questions, ask away. One note: The Mavericks are heading to St. Cloud today and will practice at the National Hockey Center this evening. I'll be going up on Friday.

From Ian: Goaltender for this series, Cook? I say ride the hot hand and Cook hasn't been too bad this year. ... Do you sense the seniors are going to step it up a notch knowing this is their last shot at getting to the Final Five? ... Only nine penalties this past weekend, what gives? We usually have that many by the midway point of the third period on a Friday night.

Ian, yes, Cook will go and for the very reason you cited. He's the hot goalie right now. He's playing well. I'll be curious to see what happens if the series goes three games. Would they put Cook out there three games in a row? I think a lot of coaches in the league ponder that question. That's one reason why Austin Lee started one of the games against Denver. But I like the way Cook's playing. Except for the first goal on Saturday night, he was brilliant against St. Cloud. He preserved the tie with a highlight save in OT.

Of course, the seniors know the stakes. They want to get to the X. They know that the Mavericks haven't been to the Final Five since '03. So it's not just about them, it's about the program. With the exception of both assists on Evan Mosey's power play goal on Saturday, seniors did not factor into MSU's scoring last week. But they played sound defensive hockey and killed penalties and logged plenty of ice time over the last 25 minutes. They'll have to be a factor in some form or another again.

When it comes to penalties, that's the way the Mavericks have to play. St. Cloud had four power plays each night last week, and MSU was able to kill all of them, including one in OT on Saturday. It's interesting when you look at the the stats. The Mavs rank fourth in the WCHA in PIMs this season with 18.1 per game (Anchorage is first at 21.2, followed by UND at 19.3 and Wisco at 18.3) and they're fifth in the league with 18.2 per game in conference play. They were first last year at 20.2, fifth at 15.6 before that and were as high as 23.1 (!) in 06-07. However, no WCHA team has had to kill more penalties this season than the Mavs, who have faced 206 power plays (they're fourth in the league with an 82 percent kill rate). By the way, the Mavericks have had 192 power plays.

From BIGhkyfan: What are your three keys to the game Friday? ... Watching practice thee other day, it appears that the freshmen/sophomores are stepping it up in the drills. ... Do you think Mosey will stay on the PP or even move up? Get more ice after his goal Saturday; he did not see ice the third or OT? Dog house for? This kid takes the body well and can skate. ... Are Cooper and Canz battling for the sixth D spot? ... Any Mavs fan busses making the trip up north?

BIG, my keys to Friday's game are pretty simple: 1. They basically have to do what they did last weekend -- play fast and physical but smart (read: stay out of the box). 2. They need Phil Cook to play like played last weekend and continue to get good team defense in front of him. 3. They need finishers.

I think most of the freshmen and sophomores have been good all season. Pitlick, Hayes and Elbrecht have become regular players, as has Dorr (not a frosh but a new guy). Mosey has worked his way up. For the sophs, Louwerse has had a good last month or so and Schiller has found a spot back up front. Cooper has mixed in with the D. They're still waiting for Mueller, Jokinen and Thompson to make an impact.

I thought Mosey had a good weekend against the Huskies. Scoring the goal was big and he can do some things on the PP. There has been a lot of discussion about him on the blog this year. I think he's going to be a good player but it's taken some time. That's not an indictment on his play or his skills. He's a puck-moving D with some physical tools and he can skate. But he wasn't going to take time away from Davis and Youds. You can't compare him to Boe or Elbrecht, either, because they're the team's main defensive defensemen. I'm not aware of Mosey being in the dog house late in Saturday's game (In fact, I didn't notice the lack of ice time; I wish college hockey kept track of minutes played like the NHL does.). Jutting puts a lot of stock in his veterans, and they're the guys who are going to get more ice time in those close-game situations.

Someone mentioned a fan bus to me in passing, but I don't know of any details. I posted some ticket information for the games in a post belo Nw.

From alex: Do you think the PhD line will be the key line in the series against the Huskies? I think Pitlick has been coming on strong of late with all the pressure on him. ... Who will be the starting goalies and will Raboin be playing for the Huskies? ... Do you know who isn't making the lineup for the series?

Alex, the Mavericks need to have guys finish this weekend, whether it's the Pitlick-Hayes-Dorr line or the Stewart-Mouillierat-Irwin line or the Harrison-Galiardi-Louwerse line or the fourth liners or the D. It doesn't really matter. The PhD line (I love that the nickname has stuck, by the way, at least on this blog) has the talent to create and score goals. We'll see how their youth affects them in a playoff situation. If there's pressure on Pitlick, he sure doesn't show it. I'm sure he knows arenas are crawling with NHL scouts who are working on their draft boards but he just plays the game. He's a fun player to watch and the sky's the limit for him.

Cook will start for MSU. St. Cloud appears to be going with Dan Dunn, who was back in goal last Saturday after getting the hook on Friday. The Huskies might be sticking with a rotation with Mike Lee, too. The word last week was that Raboin would be back for the playoffs. I haven't heard differently so far this week. St. Cloud will also get Aaron Marvin back from suspension on Saturday.

The Mavericks will put the same lineup out on Friday night. The extras on the trip appear to be Eli Zuck at forward and Cameron Cooper at defense.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

News and notes (updated)

Here are a few notes that should be passed along to the PucKato faithful ...
Tickets are available for this weekend's games between Minnesota State and St. Cloud State at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. Call the St. Cloud ticket office at 877-SCSUTIX or 320-308-2137. Tickets are a bargain at $12 each.

Minnesota State recently got a commitment from defenseman Josh Nelson of the North American Hockey League's Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Nelson, a native of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., is tied for seventh in the NAHL in scoring among defensemen with 29 points. The 6-foot-0, 185-pounder is also +7 in 50 games. Fairbanks is the same team MSU goalie Phil Cook played for.

Missed this one during the NHL trade whirlwind: Ex-Mav Steve Wagner was traded from the St. Louis Blues to the Pittsburgh Penguins last month. Wagner has not played in the NHL this season but appeared to be having a solid year with the Blues' AHL affiliate in Peoria. He played in six games with the Pens' AHL team, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, before getting his jaw broken by a deflected shot. Ouch!

UPDATE: This weekend's games between MSU and St. Cloud will be shown on Charter cable channel 21 and digitial channel 980. The usual channel 14 will be showing the state hockey tournament.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Two Mavs honored

Minnesota State defenseman Kurt Davis and goaltender Phil Cook earned WCHA weekly award honors for their play in last weekend's win and tie against St. Cloud State. Read the league release here.

Davis was named the league's defensive player of the week. He scored the game-winning goal and had two assists in Friday's 4-2 win at Mankato and assisted on Rylan Galiardi's game-tying goal in Saturday's 2-2 game at St. Cloud. Davis also helped hold the Huskies scoreless on power play during the weekend. Davis is fourth in the WCHA in scoring among defensemen with 23 points.

Cook was named the conference's rookie of the week. The goaltender stopped 51 of 55 shots in the series, including all six shots he faced in overtime on Saturday.

Offensive player of the week honors went to Alaska-Anchorage's Kevin Clark, whose four goals during a split with Minnesota Duluth trumped Galiardi's three-goal, one-assist weekend for the Mavericks.

You want answers?!?! (playoff edition)

While the Mavericks are preparing for another trip to St. Cloud State, it's time for PucKato to answer your pressing questions about the team, the series, the playoffs and anything else on your mind this week. I'll get to the answers on Thursday afternoon. Use the comments section on this post to ask your questions.

Monday, March 8, 2010

PucKato's all-conference picks

Filling out this year's All-WCHA ballot may have been the toughest it's been in several seasons. Many good forwards are getting left off a lot of ballots, including my own. I probably changed my mind several times before turning in my final picks and likely would tweak them some more if there was an extended deadline. For what it's worth, here were my selections:

First team
F -- Blake Geoffrion, Wisconsin
F -- Rhett Rakhshani, Denver
F -- Jack Connolly, Duluth
D -- Brendan Smith, Wisconsin
D -- Patrick Wiercioch, Denver
G -- Marc Chevrie, Denver 

Second team
F -- Justin Fontaine, Duluth
F -- Tyler Ruegsegger, Denver
F -- Ryan Lasch, St. Cloud
D -- Ryan McDonagh, Wisconsin
D -- Nate Prosser, Colorado College
G -- Brad Eidsness, North Dakota 

Third team
F -- Joe Colborne, Denver
F -- Chris VandeVelde, North Dakota
F -- Kevin Clark, Alaska Anchorage
D -- Garrett Raboin, St. Cloud
D -- Ben Youds, Minnesota State
G -- Scott Gudmandson, Wisconsin 

Rookie team
F -- Danny Kristo, North Dakota
F -- Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College
F -- Tyler Pitlick, Minnesota State
D -- Matt Donovan, Denver
D -- Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
G -- Joe Howe, Colorado College

Player of the year -- Marc Cheverie, Denver
Rookie of the year -- Danny Kristo, North Dakota
Coach of the year -- George Gwozdecky, Denver

Notable omissions: Like I said earlier, this was tough. I look at the players not on my lists and wonder if they should have gone: Garrett Roe, St. Cloud; Mike Connolly, Duluth; Michael Davies and Derek Stepan, Wisconsin; Jason Gregoire, North Dakota; Bill Sweatt, Colorado College -- and that's just the forwards. On defense, North Dakota's Jake Marto, CC's Gabe Guentzel, Duluth's Brady Lamb and MSU's Kurt Davis all deserve at least a pondering.

Another note: Just a few weeks ago I had written that I had Blake Geoffrion already penciled in as my player of the year. Interestingly, Wisconsin did not put its captain up for the award. Brendan Smith was on the list. There was a spot for a write-in candidate, but it's hard to argue with Cheverie's performance this year. After some thought, I went with easily the most important player on the conference's best team this season.

Gustavus men get in (updated - again)

When the Gustavus Adolphus men's hockey team lost to St. Thomas in the MIAC tournament championship last week, there was some question as to whether the Gusties would get an at-large bid into the Division III national tournament.

Well, the Gusties are in, and they'll host the Tommies again on Wednesday in the first round of the NCAAs.

The game will take place at 7 p.m. at the Don Roberts Ice Rink. The winner will play the winner of St. Norbert and Adrian on Saturday at a site to be determined. See the rest of the bracket here.

Gustavus was the national runner-up a year ago.

The Gustavus women won their seventh straight MIAC tournament title on Saturday and will be in the national tourney. That field will be determined later this morning.

UPDATE(S): The Gustavus women will host Wisconsin-River Falls at 2 p.m. on Saturday for a shot at the D-III Frozen Four. The Gusties and the Falcons are the only teams from the west in the tournament. The winner will host the Frozen Four and play No. 1 Amherst, which got a bye into the semifinals.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Back to St. Cloud

With the Mavericks' 2-2 tie at St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth's win at Alaska-Anchorage on Saturday night, Minnesota State will return to St. Cloud next weekend for the first round of the WCHA playoffs. MSU is the eighth seed, and St. Cloud is the third seed.

The other matchups will be:
Michigan Tech at Denver
Alaska-Anchorage at Wisconsin
Minnesota at North Dakota
Colorado College at Minnesota Duluth

Saturday, March 6, 2010

MSU 2, St. Cloud State 2, OT (updated)

Minnesota State ties St. Cloud State and gets three points against the No. 4-ranked team in the country. Check back later for playoff news. MSU must wait for the Duluth-Anchorage result to find out where it will go for the first round of the WCHA tournament. A UMD win means the Mavericks come back to St. Cloud. An Anchorage win or tie and it's off to Wisconsin.

Evan Mosey and Rylan Galiardi (pictured, from Friday night) scored the Mavericks' goals. It was a three-goal, one-assist weekend for Galiardi, who moved into a tie atop the team scoring charts. It was Mosey's first collegiate goal. Goalie Phil Cook helped ensure the tie with a stellar glove save in overtime that topped his diving stop on Friday night.

I'm driving back to Mankato now and will update the blog with the UMD-UAA result upon my return.

Back in town now. Here is The Free Press game story.

(Free Press photo by Pat Christman)

MSU vs. St. Cloud State, Game 2 live blog

Game notes: Check out the poll at the right and the possible playoff scenarios in the post below. ... Tonight's lines are listed below the live blog. MSU will go with the same lineup as last night's 4-2 win, including Phil Cook in goal. ... The Huskies have made a few changes and will start Dan Dunn in goal. Dunn was pulled after allowing three first-period goals on Friday.

Tonight's lines (starters in bold):







Where are they going? (updated)

Going into tonight's regular-season finale, one thing is certain. If MSU stays in ninth place, either with a loss or an Anchorage win (the Mavericks do have the tiebreaker over the Seawolves), it will go to Wisconsin for the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

If the Mavericks finish eighth -- they must win or tie tonight at St. Cloud State and have Minnesota Duluth defeat Anchorage -- then they will be the eighth seed and go back to St. Cloud or to North Dakota next week. With the loss last night, I'm pretty sure Duluth can no longer be the third seed, losing tiebreakers to both the Huskies and the Sioux (unless there is some three-way tiebreaker scenario that somehow favors the Bulldogs).

Here are MSU-as-eighth-seed scenarios:

• An MSU win and a North Dakota win over Michigan Tech will mean a trip to Grand Forks. The Sioux have the tiebreaker over the Huskies.

• An MSU tie with St. Cloud or a North Dakota loss or tie to Michigan Tech will ensure a trip back to St. Cloud next week.

Again, I'm pretty sure this is right. We'll know the answer tonight though (possibly late, late tonight after the UMD-UAA game), and won't have to wait for Sunday's Minnesota-Wisconsin result.

Five teams are locked into their spots going into tonight: 1. Denver, 2. Wisconsin, 6. Colorado College, 7. Minnesota and 10. Michigan Tech. The only first-round matchup that's set is Denver hosting Tech.

MSU playoff scenarios from today's WCHA press release:

Minnesota State – 19 points (at St. Cloud State):
• Seeded 8th with a win and an Alaska Anchorage loss or tie (at #3 St. Cloud State if North Dakota loses or ties).
• Seeded 8th with a win and an Alaska Anchorage loss or tie (at #3 North Dakota if North Dakota wins).
• Seeded 8th with a tie and an Alaska Anchorage loss (at #3 St. Cloud State).
• Seeded 9th with a win and an Alaska Anchorage win (at #2 Wisconsin).
• Seeded 9th with a tie and an Alaska Anchorage win or tie (at #2 Wisconsin).
• Seeded 9th with a loss (at #2 Wisconsin).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mavericks 4, Huskies 2 (updated)

Minnesota State scored three first-period power-play goals and led 4-0 after the first period to knock off No. 4 St. Cloud State in the final game of the season at the Verizon Wireless Center.

Rylan Galiardi scored two goals and assisted on another. Kurt Davis had a goal and two assists, and Mike Louwerse also scored a goal for the Mavericks. Mike Dorr had two assists, and goalie Phil Cook (27 saves) was outstanding over the game's final 30 minutes.

The Huskies cut their deficit in half in the second period by top-scorers Ryan Lasch and Garrett Roe. Meanwhile, their freshman goalie Mike Lee (26 saves) was also top-notch after replacing Dan Dunn when it was 3-0.

Minnesota State moved up to eighth place in the WCHA standings briefly but went back to ninth after Alaska-Anchorage pulled off a 3-2 home victory over Minnesota Duluth.

More later ...

MSU vs. St. Cloud State, Game 1 live blog

Game notes: Lines can be found below the live blog. ...

Tonight's lines (starters in bold):




Scratches: Cooper, Gaulrapp, Jokinen, Mueller, Peterson, Thompson, Zuck




Referees: C.J. Beaurline, Jon Campion. Linesmen: Chris Olson, Jarod Moen.

Friday morning skate

Good story from Mavericks captain Geoff Irwin: He said that he likes to be the last player off the ice after every game -- win, lose or tie. He just looks up at the scoreboard and "absorb the feeling of the moment." Last Saturday's game was senior night for the Mavericks, and Irwin and fellow-senior James Gaulrapp were the last one's on the rink. Irwin let Gaulrapp, who has played in just 11 games this season, have that moment.

Tonight, I'm guessing Irwin will take a little longer pause, as it will be his and the other seniors' final game at the Verizon Wireless Center. The group has played a lot of minutes since they arrived as freshmen. Combined, they have played in 868 college games. Zach Harrison leads the way with 147 games (the school record is 155). Other seniors include Jerad Stewart, Kael Mouillierat, Nick Canzanello and Jason Wiley.

"I honestly think there's an opportunity for them," MSU coach Troy Jutting said. "I still think the best is yet to come for them."

Jutting said he plans to use last Friday's lineup against St. Cloud State tonight. That includes Phil Cook in goal, a fourth line of Wiley, Joe Schiller and Andrew Sackrison and a third D pair of Canzanello and Evan Mosey. Read more in The Free Press' gameday preview here.

As for the Huskies, they're a bit short-handed, not only with the suspension of Aaron Marvin but with an injury to defenseman Garrett Raboin, who has had an outstanding season. The St. Cloud Times profield Raboin here. Because of those missing players, senior Craig Gaudet will get a letter on his jersey tonight.

Going around the rest of the WCHA, there could be a lot of movement in the standings, determining the first-round tournament matchups, before the weekend is through. Only one matchup is set: Michigan Tech at Denver. Minnesota State (and others)might even have to wait until Sunday when Minnesota and Wisconsin wrap up their series to find out where its off to next weekend.

Wisconsin at Minnesota: The final home games (tonight's is at Target Center, the first hockey game at that arena since 2000) for the Gophers also mean the final home games for coach Don Lucia's son, Tony. ... As for the Badgers, they're a top-three team in the country with one question mark heading into the playoffs: goaltending.

Minnesota Duluth at Alaska Anchorage: The Bulldogs' Justin Fonatine has more points than any other WCHA player over the last two seasons. He fell into a slump this season but appears to be back on track as the postseason approaches. Duluth will be home for the first round for the first time since 2004. ... As for the Seawolves, they are trying to stay one point ahead of MSU but have a chance to go to all of the same places as the Mavericks next week.

Colorado College vs. Denver: The Pioneers will get the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA champs tonight. But the Gold Pan is also on the line as DU faces its in-state rival. The Denver Post profiles Tyler Ruegsegger, who has excelled on and off the ice, while The Gazette looks at CC senior Kris Fredheim.

Michigan Tech at North Dakota: It's March and that can only mean one thing: The Sioux are on a roll as the playoffs approach. They've won their last five games and still have an outside shot at third place. The Grand Forks Herald profiles UND's close-knit line. Here are some notes on the Huskies.

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

Don't forget to come back to PucKato during the game tonight for the live blog.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bronze age

It's not everyday that you get a chance to hold an Olympic medal in your hand. But, thanks to MSU's Nina Tikkinen, who won a bronze with Finland's women's hockey team last week, I got that chance. Tikkinen talked about her Olympic experience during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at ALl Seasons Arena.

"I felt like I was representing MSU during the whole tournament," she said.

The medal is heavy. After a little research I discovered that it weighs just over a pound. However, it feels like more. Tikkinen said that wearing around her neck all night after the win over Sweden (and Mavs teammate Emilia Andersson) was a little tiring. I don't think she was complaining too much about it, though.

Tikkinen scored both of her Olympic goals in Finland's opening game, a victory over Russia. However, she got plenty of playing time, averaging more than 19 minutes a game, including time on the power play and penalty kill.

Read more about it here.

(Free Press photos by Pat Christman)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gusties get gold for OT

Check out my column today on Gustavus Adolphus quadruple-overtime victory over Augsburg on Saturday night.

A couple of fun nuggets from the story:

• The rink was packed for the game at the start but filled to capacity as the crowd from the Gustavus basketball game filed in. "I was surprised when we came out for the fourth overtime," coach Brett Petersen said. "It was 12:15 (a.m.) and nobody had left. ... It was insane."

• Augsburg had won a double-overtime game on Friday night against St. Olaf to advance to Saturday's game. "We have to tip our hats to Augsburg," Petersen said. "At the conclusion of our game, they had played a total of four games in 30 hours."

• One story that did not make it into the column: The Gusties had their pregame meal at 2 p.m. that day. After a couple of overtimes, the players were pretty hungry. Petersen said one of the advantages of playing at home was that they had access to food. They purchased fruit, crackers and breakfast bars for the players.

• Gustavus will host St. Thomas in the MIAC championship game at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the Don Roberts Ice Rink.

(Gustavus Adolphus photo)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Huskies' Marvin gets three-game suspension

St. Cloud State forward Aaron Marvin was given a three-game suspension by the WCHA on Monday for his hit on Wisconsin's Blake Geoffrion on Feb. 20. It was the second time that Marvin knocked an opposing team's captain out of game and subsequent games (the first was North Dakota's Chay Genoway, who has yet to return from a Nov. 13 check from behind).

Marvin will miss both of this weekend's games against Minnesota State as well as the first game of the WCHA playoffs (which just might end up being against the Mavericks, too).

Many observers have been wondering if the WCHA was going to take action against Marvin after his shoulder-to-head hit on Geoffrion, but the league has no clear suspension policy. Last season, the league sat MSU's Trevor Bruess twice -- one game each, including the Mavericks' first playoff game -- for what it deemed to be dangerous play.

Marvin's three-game benching sends a big-time message to players about hits to the head.

More from The St. Cloud Times here.
Read the WCHA press release here.

Spring break plans, anyone?

Over the weekend, the top five teams in the WCHA became set, as Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota claimed home-ice spots. The only thing not set is the order of finish, with the exception of Denver winning the MacNaughton Cup.

Minnesota State is in ninth place and would play at Wisconsin in the first round of the WCHA tournament if things remain the same (statistically, the most likely scenario). However, the Mavericks could finish eighth, and if my math is right, could play at one of four locations in the first round: Wisconsin, St. Cloud State (whom MSU also plays this weekend), Minnesota Duluth or North Dakota, depending on what happens on the final weekend of the regular season. Here are the WCHA standings with points and this weekend's opponent:

1. Denver (40), home and home vs. CC
2. Wisconsin (35), at Minnesota
3. St. Cloud State (33), home and home vs. MSU
4. Minnesota Duluth (31), at Anchorage
5. North Dakota (29), home vs. Tech
6. Colorado College (25), home and home vs. DU
7. Minnesota (24), home vs. Wisconsin (Friday at Target Center)
8. Alaska-Anchorage (18), home vs. Duluth
9. Minnesota State (17), home and home vs. St. Cloud
10. Michigan Tech (8), at North Dakota

According to the website, the Mavericks have a 24 percent chance of moving up to eighth place, and you can see the odds of where the other teams wind up.

Another Mankato medal

Minnesota State men's hockey alum David Backes got a silver medal after Canada defeated the U.S. 3-2 in overtime on Sunday afternoon in a fabulous gold-medal game. Backes and current MSU women's player Nina Tikkinen were the first Maverick athletes to get Olympic medals (Tikkinen and Team Finland got a bronze). Hopefully banners for both players are in the works and will be hung in the Verizon Wireless Center and All Seasons Arena, respectively

Backes finished the tournament with one goal (a spectacular end-to-end rush on the first day of competition) and two assists. He also had one penalty in more than 64 minutes of play and ranked tied for fourth on Team USA with a +4 rating. The line of Backes, Chris Drury and Bobby Ryan was definitely the Americans' grind line.

(Associated Press photo)