Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday morning skate — welcome to the season

Mavericks captain Rylan Galiardi (Pat Christman photo)
Good morning! It's game day — for real this time, and the Mavericks are set to take on St. Lawrence at the Verizon Wireless Center tonight. Minnesota State will have its veterans who watched Monday's exhibition game out of the stands and onto the ice.

That veteran group includes senior captain Rylan Galiardi, who has embraced his leadership role. One of two Canadians on the team, Galiardi talked about bringing together a group of players from a variety of locales, including Minnesota (of course), Canada, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Massachusetts, Oklahoma Arizona and Alaska (am I missing anyone?)

Meanwhile, you can check out The Free Press' series preview here. Phil Cook will get the start in goal tonight, and all six defensemen have had college experience, but there's a freshman on each of the forward lines.

As for the Saints, according to the Watertown Daily Times, they are happy to get senior Sean Flanagan back from a serious hip injury suffered two seasons ago.

Eleven of the 12 WCHA teams are in action tonight. Here's a look around the leauge:

St. Cloud State is playing in Nebraska-Omaha's Maverick Stampede. The Huskies will play RIT and Clarkson, while the Red Mavericks get those teams in reverse order. The St. Cloud Time has several preseason stories on its Husky Hockey page, including a look at arguably the best 1-2 punch of any WCHA team in goal. ... While the tournament is a nonconference affair, this weekend officially marks the first time UNO is representing the WCHA. Read more about the Mavericks' start to the season and a Stampede preview here.

With coverage of the Twins, the Randy Moss saga and the Wild opener, the Start Tribune did find a way to squeeze in some news about the Gopher hockey team, which will host Massachusetts tonight. Minnesota captain Jay Barriball, who is a fifth-year senior after missing most of last season with a knee injury, feels like it's a slap in the face that the WCHA coaches picked the Gophers to finish fifth.

Denver is starting off the year with a home game against Vermont. For the Pioneers, expectations from the outside are high, but they have to replace a lot of departed talent, especially in goal where sophomore Adam Murray and a freshman will split time to try to fill the pads of Marc Cheverie.

Minnesota Duluth and Michigan Tech will be playing in the Superior Showcase, which matches up  the Lake Superior teams from the WCHA against those from the CCHA, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan. Duluth will play at Lake State tonight and at Northern on Saturday, while Tech plays the opposite schedule. For The Bulldogs, goalie Kenny Reiter has emerged as the No. 1 goalie on a team that returns some great talent and is poised to be a top-three team in the conference. ... As for the Huskies, they will be trying to dig their way out of the conference basement this season. One player eager to help is Houghton native Blake Hietala, a walk-on forward.

Alaska-Anchorage is hosting the Kendall Hockey Classic and will kick things off with a nonconference game against WCHA-favorite North Dakota. Alaska and Air Force are the other two teams in the tournament. For the young Seawolves, playing the Sioux means the chance to start the season "with a bang" according to senior Tommy Grant. ... Meanwhile, North Dakota is giving a goalie not named Brad Eidsness the start tonight — meet Aaron Dell. Perhaps this as good a time as any to do that since Anchorage has its own worries in net.

Wisconsin gets to play in this year's Icebreaker in St. Louis, taking on Boston University tonight and either Holy Cross or Notre Dame on Sunday. The Badgers have been hit as hard as any team with offseason losses. Senior center Sean Dolan has become the team's leader almost by default, as last spring's chosen captains turned pro. Expect Wisconsin to have plenty of newcomers in the lineup this season.

Colorado College will open the season against Rensselaer (RPI), and the Tigers also have to fill some voids left not by early departure as much as by graduation. Their freshman class does include WCHA preseason rookie of the year Jaden Schwartz.

Off the beats, you can also read conference previews by INCHUSCHO and This is the WCHA.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the Minnesota State women's hockey team will begin its season tonight at Mankato's All Seasons Arena against Niagara. The Mavericks are young and are led by a junior defenseman whose surname is quite familiar to followers of women's hockey in southern Minnesota.

If you made it this far on the post, be sure to check back later today for PucKato's live blog coverage of tonight's MSU-St. Lawrence game.

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