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.