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.