Friday, December 31, 2010

Ringing in 2011

Happy New Year, everybody! Just a quick post before I watch the ball drop and hit the hay before rising up early and heading to Chicagoland. For the MSU hockey team, it's hoping 2011 is a continuation of what happened at the end of 2010 when it won four of its last six games and, in the losses to red-hot North Dakota, played tough.

Check out The Free Press' previews of the Shillelagh Tournament here and here.

I'll be live blogging once I'm in Chicago (actually Hoffman Estates, Ill.) during the MSU-Notre Dame game. I'll maybe even add some extra coverage of the first game between Boston University and Brown.

See you next year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

On the road again

The Mavericks were scheduled to leave Mankato on Thursday morning for this weekend's Shillelagh Tournament at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The team — it's been confirmed that all 26 players are on the trip — will attend tonight's Chicago Blackhawks-San Jose Sharks game and practice on Friday before playing Notre Dame at 6 p.m. on Saturday, following the Boston University-Brown game. Win or lose, MSU will play either BU or Brown at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Minnesota State players are excited about the tournament. Said senior Ben Youds: "I haven't been in a tournament since I got here — since I was at Shattuck and we went overseas. The tournament atmosphere is definitely fun. If you win you go on and play for a trophy and bragging rights."

While MSU hasn't played since Dec. 12 against North Dakota, their Saturday opponent, the Irish, played Canisius on Wednesday night and won 10-2.

Here is some more information about the tournament, including Internet broadcast instructions.

PucKato will be heading down to the tournament on Saturday and plans on doing the live blog.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Back from vacation

Minnesota State returned to the practice rink on Monday, going through two practices (presumably to skate that extra egg nog out of the boys). The Mavericks will participate in the Shillelagh Tournament, hosted by Notre Dame, in Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Saturday and Sunday. They will play the Irish at 6 p.m. on Saturday and will take on either Boston University or Brown on Sunday.

There are plenty of WCHA teams in action this week, starting Wednesday ...

• Colorado College and Michigan Tech are playing in the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit on Wednesday and Thursday (Michigan and Michigan State are the other teams).

• St. Cloud State is playing in the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla., on Wednesday and Thursday (Cornell, Miami and Maine are the others).

• Wisconsin is hosting a two-game series with Massachusetts on Thursday and Friday.

• Nebraska-Omaha is going to Quinnipiac for a Thursday-Friday series.

• Minnesota Duluth will be unveiling its new Amsoil Arena by hosting a nonconference game against North Dakota on Thursday. The game is also this year's U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. Duluth will then travel to Clarkson for two games on Monday and Tuesday.

• Bemidji State will be playing in Minnesota's Dodge Holiday Classic on Friday and Saturday (Union and Ferris State are the other teams).

• Denver will host Northern Michigan in a series on Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy holidays!

PucKato will be off for the Christmas weekend and back next week to preview the Mavericks' trip to Chicago for the Notre Dame tournament.

Make sure you check The Free Press print/online edition this week some upcoming stories on Mankato West goal-scoring sensation Ville Rantanen (the exchange student from Finland leads the state in scoring with 23 goals in eight games) and on ex-West player Nate Jose, who is keeping his hockey career alive in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League this season.

On the college scene, here are a couple of my columns from the paper: one on the WCHA at the midway point and another on MSU at the midway point.

Meanwhile, here's a good story on Gophers coach Don Lucia by former Star Tribune college hockey writer Rachel Blount. Lucia opens up about his illness and the way steroid treatments made him feel. The telling quote: "That first weekend (January, 2009), we played at Mankato and I was a madman."

The World Junior Championships begin on Sunday in Buffalo, N.Y., and seven WCHA players made the U.S. roster. Check that roster out here. Two others made the Canadian team, Duluth defenseman Dylan Olsen and Colorado College forward Jaden Schwartz.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

You Want Answers!?!?

There wasn't a lot of participation on the YWA!?!? But I'm not going to take it out on those who did ask questions. So let me get to those. If this post sparks more questions, I'll can answer those over the weekend.

From Jeff: Shane, Do you think that MSU has some kind of mental block against UND? The current streak against them is eerily reminiscent to the streak against the U of M. The Mavs always play them tough, but find a way to give up that one last goal to the Sioux or just miss the one crucial goal that would win the game. It's like watching a bad movie over and over again and not being able to turn the TV off.

Jeff, I don't know if I'd go so far to call it a mental block. The streak must be disconcerting, especially when seven of the Mavericks' last 10 losses to UND have been by one goal -- and I'm counting Sunday's game in that stat (the Sioux scored an empty-netter to make it 4-2). The Mavericks had chances to win both of those games. They were not blown out. They had many opportunities, including at least three so-called Grade A chances, to take a 3-1 lead in Friday's game. And Sunday, they barely gave themselves a chance to tie the game despite having 1:49 of 5x3 power-play time. I don't know if I'd compare it to a bad movie. Those were two pretty good hockey games over the weekend. Sometimes you just have to credit the winning team. North Dakota's the best team I've seen play this season.

From Sam: 1) Another poster said he saw Matt Leitner on the bench this past weekend. Any truth to that? Is that normal when you're academically ineligible? ... 2) What is it going to take for the Mavericks to get to the level of consistency (nationally ranked, runs to the Final Five, a national tourney berth or two) that schools like Duluth and St. Cloud have shown over the years? To me, there is no reason they should be consistently better than us. What's your take on that?

Sam, Leitner's situation is unique. Technically, he's not a member of the team. He's a student at MSU who is slated to join the Mavericks next season -- provided his grades are OK. I talked to him on Sunday, and he's not playing for the Mavs this year. He said he might play a men's league or something like that in Mankato just to play get hockey in this winter. I've noticed that he's been attending home games, too. He sits with the scratched players. When people have said they saw him on the bench, they mean that he's stood there to watch warmups with the other players who didn't dress. But he has not skated in any practices or anything like that.

As for your other concern, that's the $64,000 question, isn't it? Duluth was in desperate straits for awhile (hardly consistent) but is certainly back on top now -- and just in time to open a brand-spankin'-new arena, too. UMD has a great tradition in the WCHA that dates back 50 years in a hockey-crazy community. St. Cloud State? They're most similar to MSU, but what sets them apart? Is it the on-campus rink/practice facilities? Is it a bigger hockey budget? Is it simply the age of the D-I program, relative to MSU's. Perhaps it's all of the above. I am still of the belief that early departures may have hurt Minnesota State, at least from a consistency standpoint, as much if not more than any other team. They haven't lost high draft picks; they've lost free agents and lower picks -- guys like Jackman, Stevenson, Carter, Wagner, Peto, Kalinski and Bruess. Kalinski's the only guy in that group who was drafted. Those are huge losses, especially for a program that doesn't get a lot of top-end recruits. You expect to lose guys like Backes and Pitlick. Speaking of Pitlick, how much better would MSU be this season with Pitlick?

From Alex: 1. what happened to tyler thompson, why isn't he on the team this year? and it seems the team really misses a skater like tyler pitlick out on the ice ... 2. it seems like the team really missed grant and cook in saturday's game, are the injuries going to be long term? ... 3. what is going on with the play of evan mosey lately? seems like he is lacking confidence out there and he did not look like a D1 defenseman out on the ice on saturday.

Alex, 1. From the way I understand it, Thompson was basically kicked off the team, or at least not invited back, after last season. ... As for Pitlick, see my comment above. I thought he was due to have a monster year in the WCHA. They could use his skill -- especially his scoring ability. ... 2. It sounds like none of the injuries are long-term problems, so the Mavs should be healthy after the break. They will always miss Grant when he's out. I don't think goaltending was the difference in the second game, although I'd like to get another look at the game-tying goal. I'm not sure how that snuck in behind Lee. It looked like it might have been a centering pass that went in off an MSU defenseman. If Lee was following the pass, that might be why that near side opened up the way it did. ... 3. That's a good question about Mosey. He was the most-improved player last year but has been slow out of the gate this year. It seems like he's behind or even with Josh Nelson right now. I like some things Nelson has done, but Mosey has some ability that should keep him in the lineup every night. He got a chance on Sunday but that did not look like the kid who wowed everybody in those last five games against St. Cloud State last season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

You Want Answers (mid-season edition)

It's the halfway point of the Mavericks season. Seems like a good time to answer your questions about this team. It's been an interesting first half, with the early ties, the long road trip, the rough loss at Denver, the brilliant sweep over Minnesota and the close-but-no-cigar series against North Dakota. So ask away in the comments section of this post, and, I'll answer the questions in a Thursday update.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sioux 4, Mavericks 2 (update)

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. 5 x 3 = no advantage: The Mavericks led 2-1 after the first period on goals by Ben Youds and Rylan Galiardi (who got a great up-the-gut pass from Youds during a power play for a breakaway). The Sioux came back with two goals in the second period to take a 3-2 lead. In the third period, Minnesota State got 1:49 of 5x3 power-play time but it mustered just one shot on goal. Early on, the puck was sitting in the crease, practically on the goal line, but no one could get there to pop it in. From there, it was a lot of missed and blocked slap shots and good clears by the Sioux to kill it off. "You gotta score there," MSU coach Troy Jutting said.

2. Best team so far? North Dakota might have to go up in the rankings when PucKato sends them in this week. The Sioux are loaded with talent (and even had two of their top players, Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall, out with injury this week). Matt Frattin scored his nation-leading 17th goal on Sunday. Brad Malone had a fabulous weekend, and Chay Genoway is simply fun to watch out there. The Sioux simply seem to have the Mavericks' number, going 16-1-1 against MSU in their last 18 meetings. The Mavericks' last 10 losses to the Sioux, including both this weekend, have come by one goal each (UND's fourth goal on Sunday was an empty-netter).

3. Break time: The  Mavericks will get the next two weeks off until they start preparing for Notre Dame's Shillelagh Tournament in the Chicago area. The Mavericks went 4-2-0 since their Thanksgiving break. Despite not being able to get a win against the Sioux, Youds said he likes they way they're playing of late. "We used our speed," he said. "Over the past three weekends, we've used our speed. I think we're finally starting to get it. It's our biggest asset." Later: "With North Dakota ranked fifth and us having a really good weekend, we're close. We're close."

Read The Free Press story here. Check out the Grand Forks Herald story here. See the box score here.

Due to the postponed game, Monday's paper didn't have the Freep Stars of the Series. Here they are:

1. Matt Frattin, F, UND — The nation's leading goal scorer had a pair highlight-reel goals in the series and now has 17 already this season.

2. Ben Youds, D, MSU — Two goals, two assists in the series. Former Gophers great Pat Micheletti (whose son Alex attends MSU and helps out the gameday staff) attended the game and said, "I'd take Youds on my team any day."

3. Brad Malone, F, UND — Scored four points, including three assists on Friday and the game-winning goal on Saturday.

MSU vs. North Dakota - Game 2 live blog

Lines are posted below. ... Austin Lee will start in goal for MSU. Word is that Phil Cook may have gotten nicked up on Friday night. ... Chase Grant, Andrew Sackrison and Josh Nelson also are out, replaced by Zach Lehrke, John McInnis and Evan Mosey.

Dorr - Louwerse - Hayes
Zuck - Galiardi - Leivermann
Burkemper - Lehrke - Jokinen
Mueller - Schiller - McInnis

Elbrecht - Youds
Boe - Davis
Cooper - Mosey


Scratches: Sackrison, Grant, Nelson, Heath, Peterson

Trupp - Malone - Frattin
Marto - Knight - Kristo
Rodwell - Lamoureux - Rowney
Cichy - Nelson - Gleason

Blood - Genoway
MacWilliam - Forbort
LaPoint - Simpson


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mavs-Sioux game postponed

Saturday night's Minnesota State-North Dakota game has been postponed due to the blizzard. The game will be played at 4 p.m. on Sunday. According to an MSU press release, the decision was made after discussions were held between officials from both universities and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

The Mavs-Sioux game was the second WCHA game to be postponed due to the severe weather. Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth's game in Minneapolis will also be played at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Minnesota State's women's hockey 3 p.m. game against Bemidji State is slated to go on as scheduled.

The Anthony Ford Pond Hockey Silent Auction that was to be held in conjunction with Saturday's MSU men's game also will take place on Sunday. The auction will be open from 3 to 4 p.m. as well as between periods of the game and for a half hour after the game.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sioux 4, Mavericks 3 (updated)

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Great start: The Mavericks couldn't have started better, getting a goal by Eriah Hayes just 48 seconds into the first period and a power-play goal from Kurt Davis seven minutes later to go up 2-0 on the fifth-ranked Fighting Sioux. "For the most part we were buzzing all night," said Hayes, who got his fifth goal by deflecting in a Channing Boe shot from the point. The Mavericks put 38 shots on goal, the most North Dakota has allowed all season.

2. Interesting intermission: North Dakota didn't record a shot on net officially until 4:44 remained in the first period. But in those last five minutes of the opening period, the Mavericks were called for three penalties, and the Sioux gained some momentum when Chay Genoway scored a 5x3 power-play goal to be down 2-1 at the first break. The Mavericks bounced back with 20 shots on goal in the second period but they couldn't get the puck past Aaron Dell (career-high 35 saves) and were stuck with their 2-1 lead going into the third. "The second period was crucial," MSU coach Troy Jutting said.

3. Unhappy ending: The Sioux scored three goals in a stretch of 2:47 in the third period to take a 4-2 lead. Matt Frattin scored his nation-leading 16th goal of the season to tie the game at the 7:40 mark. After a long delay to fix an ice problem, North Dakota needed just 11 seconds of game time to grab a 3-2 lead, as Evan Trupp scored from Frattin. Jake Marto added the next Sioux goal. The Mavericks' Ben Youds scored a power-play goal with 3:16 to play to make it a one-goal game again but that's as close as they'd get.

Notes: The Mavericks lost Andrew Sackrison for the game when he was hit by Frattin in the first period. Frattin was called for interference on the play. Sackrison received 10 stitches on his chin. No word on his return for Saturday. ... WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod attended the game.

Read The Free Press game story here. Read the Grand Forks Herald story here. Read the box score here.

MSU vs. North Dakota - Game 1 live blog

Tonight's lines are posted below the live box ...

Dorr - Sackrison - Haes
Grant - Galiardi - Louwerse
Burkemper - Zuck - Jokinen
Mueller - Schiller - Leivermann

Elbrecht- Youds
Boe - Davis
Cooper - Nelson


Scratches: Heath, Lehrke, McInnis, Mosey, Peterson

Trupp - Malone - Frattin
Marto - Knight - Kristo
Davidson - Lamoureux - Rowney
Cichy - Nelson - Rodwell

Blood - Genoway
MacWilliam - Forbort
LaPoint - Simpson


Referees: C.J. Beaurline, Brad Shepherd. Linesmen: Dana Penkivech, Jarod Moen.

Friday-morning skate

Minnesota State will close out the first half of its regular-season schedule this weekend by hosting fifth-ranked North Dakota. The Mavericks have beaten the Sioux only once in their last 16 tries, but that win did take place the last weekend they hosted UND. Remember Zach Harrison's short-handed hat trick?

Back to this weekend ... Minnesota State has won its last four games, so expect little change to the lineup tonight. That includes Phil Cook in goal. It's been a whirlwind year for the sophomore goalie. It was one year ago this weekend that he was virtually unknown -- a third-string rookie getting his first career start. Last week, he was the man, stopping 49 shots to beat Minnesota. Read the more of The Free Press' weekend preview here.

On the North Dakota side, the Grand Forks Herald's Brad Schlossman, as usual, has outstanding coverage. Give him props, too, for making Mankato one of his favorite road trips!

More from Brad: UND is having its best first half in seven seasons under coach Dave Hakstol. They're 11-5-2 (9-5-0 in WCHA). But the Sioux are doing that without being completely healthy. Top-liners Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall have been ruled out for tonight. The Sioux are fortunate to have the versatile Jake Marto to help pick up the slack. Schlossman talked to MSU coach Troy Jutting, who certainly wasn't resting on any laurels from last weekend.

Going around the rest of the league ...

Minnesota Duluth at Minnesota: Much has been made of the Bulldogs' top-line players but defenseman and captain Mike Montgomery's decision to return for his senior season can't be overlooked. Follow more coverage on Kevin Pates' blog. ... The Gophers, meanwhile, left Mankato and now host the No. 2-ranked team in the country. By the way, they are worried about Duluth's top line. You can read more on Roman Augustoviz's blog, including Roman's and Patesy's picks for this week (by the way, he's picking a UND sweep over the Mavs). In the Pioneer Press, the Gophers sound none too happy about not being the best college hockey team in the state right now.

Bemidji State at Wisconsin: Coming off their best weekend of the season, the Beavers head to Madison, a place leading scorer Jordan George knows well. Eric Stromgren's blog is full of other good info on BSU. ... Meanwhile, the Badgers have shuffled up their lines after winning just twice in their last nine games. Wisconsin's power play has been stellar, but the team is searching for more balance.

Colorado College at St. Cloud State: The Tigers have won three in a row and are 5-2-0 in their last seven games. One reason why is the improved play of senior winger Tyler Johnson. ... As for the Huskies, assistant captain Chris Hepp and company are having a hard time dealing with their first half. St. Cloud State has just one win in its last seven games.

Denver at Alaska-Anchorage: The Pioneers are celebrating the life of legendary coach Murray Armstrong, who died Wednesday night at his home in Florida. He was 94. Armstrong led DU to five national titles between 1958 and 1969. More stuff on Mike Chambers' blog, including the decision to put Adam Murray in goal tonight. ... As for the Seawolves, they've been involved in a lot of tight games this season.

Michigan Tech at Nebraska-Omaha: This series actually started on Thursday night, with Omaha bouncing back from getting swept at Bemidji State to win 5-2. The second game of the series is tonight.

On the national sites, Inside College Hockey checks in with MSU coach Troy Jutting, U.S. College Hockey Online hands out its midseason awards and College Hockey News has a cool story on the Guentzel family, which is scattered around rinks throughout the country.

Finally, there's always good stuff by the kids over at Charter College Hockey Weekend. Check out links to their coverage here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Highlights from MSU's sweep of Minny

Here is a highlight package from MSU's sweep over Minnesota last weekend. It was nice to see some replays from the weekend since they are not available during games at the Verizon Wireless Center.

A few observations:

• Ben Youds' rocket shot on Friday night was a wrister. I may have written that it was a slap shot after seeing it in real time, but now I'm even more impressed. Very patient play, too, as Youds faked the shot first and got everybody moving.

• Great pass by Corey Leivermann on Adam Mueller's goal. Leivermann got the puck along the wall and made a backhanded pass to the goal line to his linemate, who was coming out of the corner.

• Nice highlight of some good backchecking by Cameron Cooper and Josh Nelson late in  Friday's game to prevent what would have been a 1-on-0 chance against Phil Cook with about 6 minutes left.

• Good to see MSU players crashing the net, like on Rylan Galiardi's power-play goal on Saturday. Chase Grant made the pass and went to the net. Galiardi stayed with the puck all the way. The Mavericks needed to get grittier and they did on that play.

• Kurt Davis' goal, now that was a slap shot!

• Cook had a lot of praise for the way his teammates played defense, and the highlight reel indeed shows several blocked shots. Again, a little grit was something the Mavericks needed to find.

Finally, here's a link to my column today, putting a little perspective on last weekend's sweep.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WCHA honors Cook (and Bakala)

As expected, Mavericks goaltender Phil Cook was named WCHA defensive player of the week for his efforts in last weekend's sweep of Minnesota. Also, as expected, he's sharing the award with Bemidji State goalie Dan Bakala, who helped the Beavers sweep Nebraska-Omaha.

A couple more nuggets on Cook's performance, courtesy of MSU's sports info staff: Cook's 49 saves are the most by an MSU goalie in WCHA regular-season action and the most since Des Christoper had 54 saves on 57 shots in a 3-1 loss to Colorado College on Dec. 12, 1997, before the Mavericks joined the WCHA. ... Cook has started 11 of the last 12 games for MSU.

Other WCHA awards went to CC forward Jaden Schwartz, who had seven points against Michigan Tech, and Denver forward Jason Zucker, who helped the Pioneers in a split at Minnesota Duluth.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Bakala did one better on Cook today, getting named national player of the week by  Inside College Hockey Online.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mavericks getting votes

The Mavericks' sweep over Minnesota caught the eyes of some voters. Minnesota State received nine points this week, which wasn't good enough for the top 20 but is enough to get some consideration.

Some disclosure here. I vote on that poll and did not have MSU in my top 20. The Mavs were on my list of teams to consider but they didn't quite make the cut (neither did Minnesota or Colorado College or Bemidji State, by the way). Let's see what happens against the Sioux.

Here is this week's poll:

1. Yale (34 first-place votes) 10-1-0
2. Minnesota Duluth (13) 12-2-2
3. New Hampshire 9-2-4
4. Boston College (3) 11-5-0
5. North Dakota 11-5-2
6. Miami 10-5-3
7. Boston University 7-3-5
8. Maine 7-3-4
9. Denver 11-5-2
10. Nebraska-Omaha 9-4-1
11. Notre Dame 10-5-2
12. Michigan 9-5-4
13. Union 8-3-3
14. Alaska 8-5-3
15. Rensselaer 8-4-3
16. Wisconsin 8-7-3
17. Merrimack 7-4-4
18. Ferris State 8-6-3
19. Dartmouth 6-3-1
20. Western Michigan 7-5-4

Others receiving votes: Clarkson, Minnesota, Robert Morris, Colorado College, Minnesota State, Northern Michigan, Michigan State, Bemidji State, Princeton, Providence, Niagara

By the way, I was one of the votes who kept UMD No. 1 this week.

Cook's got some competition

After getting swept by Minnesota State, Minnesota coach Don Lucia on Saturday night declared, "I think we know who the player of the week is."

He was referring to Phil Cook, Mavericks goaltender, who stopped 49 of 50 shots in Saturday's win. But Bemidji State pulled off home sweep of a ranked team, too, beating Nebraska-Omaha twice thanks to goaltender Dan Bakala. Bakala shut out the Red Mavericks 3-0 on Friday.

So who will win WCHA defensive player of the week honors this week? The league often gives co-winners, and I'm betting that's what happens this week. But if only one could get it, who would it be? Let's compare goalies:

Phil Cook: defeated 17th-ranked Minnesota 3-2 and 3-1. He stopped 33 of 35 shots in the opener and 49 of 50 shots (including 22 of 23 in the third period) on Saturday for a weekend save percentage of .965. The Gophers were scoreless on 10 power plays.

Dan Bakala: defeated fourth-ranked Nebraska-Omaha 3-0 and 3-1. He stopped 25 shots in the shutout and 39 of 40 shots the next day for a weekend save percentage of .985. Omaha was scoreless on nine power plays.

Tough call.

Meanwhile, here are a few more notes from this weekend's series.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mavericks 2, Gophers 1 - MSU sweep

Pat Christman photo
Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Cookie Monster: Mavericks goaltender Phil Cook (pictured from Friday's game) was the star of the show, stopping 49 of 50 shots in Saturday's victory. He stopped 82 of 85 shots in the series sweep (.965 save percentage). Cook stopped 22 of 23 shots in the third period alone and also stoned Gophers leading scorer Jay Barriball on a pair of breakaways. "I think we know who the player of the week is," Gophers coach Don Lucia said.

2. Who's your daddy? The Mavericks are 7-28-6 all-time against Minnesota, but they have now won five of the last six meetings. All of those games came after the epic three-game playoff series in Mankato in 2008. The current senior class has a record of 6-6-1 against Minnesota. Senior defenseman Kurt Davis scored Saturday's game-winning goal on a rocket shot from the high slot midway through the third period. Another senior, Rylan Galiardi also scored. "(Galiardi) was a senior captain all weekend long," MSU coach Troy Jutting said.

3. Get your hard hat: Minnesota State has a hard-hat award that it gives players who exhibit blue-collar, lunch-bucket play -- the kind of play the Mavericks are known for. While Galiardi said the team keeps its list of winners under wraps (although some players have slipped out of the locker room with the hat on), everybody could have worn a hard hat after Saturday's game. "It's the kind of hockey we normally play and hadn't been playing this year," Jutting said. "I'm pleased with the effort, especially in the third period."

See the box score here. Read the MSU recap here. Read The Free Press story here.

MSU vs. Minny, Game 2 live blog

Lines are posted below with starters in bold. Cook will start again in goal for the Mavericks. The only lineup change is Mike Louwerse in for J.P. Burkemper.

Dorr - Sackrison - Hayes
Grant - Galiardi - Lehrke
Zuck - Louwerse - Jokinen
Mueller - Schiller - Leivermann

Elbrecht - Youds
Boe - Davis
Cooper - Nelson


Scratches: Burkemper, Heath, McInnis, Mosey, Peterson

Hoeffel - Haula - Barriball
Cepis - Condon - Bjugstad
White - Matson - Hanson
Serratore - Larson - Sacchetti

Fairchild - Helgeson
Ness - Alt
Wehrs - Holl


Friday, December 3, 2010

Mavericks 3, Gophers 2 (updated)

Free Press photo by Pat Chritman
Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Home sweet home: 4,106 braved the snowstorm and got a good show from the Mavericks. Ben Youds' opening goal (pictured at left) -- a blast from the high slot -- shattered goalie Alex Kangas' water bottle and got the packed student section going. The crowd stayed into it through the very end when the Mavericks were killing off a penalty over the final 1:25. "Our crowd was involved tonight, especially late in the game when we were ahead," Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said. "It gives us an era boost, especially when we're killing." The Mavericks, of course, have not played a home game since Oct. 23.

2. Mueller comes through: The No. 1 star of the game rightly went to Adam Mueller, who had the game-winning goal, assisted on Youds' goal and played a key role on the penalty kill. He had five shots on goal and also clanked a shot off the crossbar. Gophers goalie Alex Kangas also robbed him of an open shot from close range. Mueller has embraced his penalty-killing job, too. "Coach said, 'Take some pride penalty killing,'" Mueller said. Indeed, the Mavericks killed off all five Gopher power plays, including 43 seconds of 5x3 time. MSU had to kill off two penalties in the final 5 1/2 minutes.

3. The little things: A few other notes about the game. Michael Dorr scored MSU's other goal, a power-play goal. It was his first game against the team he began his college career with. ... The Gophers outshot the Mavericks 35-24. MSU goalie Phil Cook stopped 33 shots, including 13 on the Minnesota power plays. ... Kangas made 21 saves for the Gophers. ... Mankato native Corey Leivermann assisted on Mueller's goal. ... Freshman defenseman Josh Nelson assisted on Dorr's goal for his first college point. ... MSU is now 5-6-4 (3-6-2 in WCHA).

Read the box score here. Read The Free Press game story (and see other photos) here and the Star Tribune gamer here.

Around the rest of the WCHA, Denver edged top-ranked Minnesota Duluth 5-4 in overtime, Colorado College pounded Michigan Tech 7-3, Alaska-Anchorage edged Wisconsin 2-1, North Dakota defeated St. Cloud State 3-1 and Bemidji State surprised and shut out Nebraska-Omaha 3-0.

Minnesota State vs. Minnesota, Game 1 live blog

Tonight's lines are posted below. Cook will start in goal. Louwerse and Mosey are among the scratches.

Dorr - Sackrison - Hayes
Grant - Galiardi - Lehrke
Burkemper - Zuck - Jokinen
Mueller - Schiller - Leivermann

Elbrecht - Youds
Boe - Davis
Cooper - Nelson


Scratches: Louwerse, McInnis, Mosey, Heath, Peterson

White - Haula - Barriball
Cepis - Condon - Bjugstad
Gardiner - Matson - Hansen
Serratore - Larson - Sacchetti

Fairchild - Helgeson
Ness - Alt
Wehrs - Holl


Referees: Pete Friesma, Tim Walsh. Linesmen: Tony Czech, Matt Anderson

Crystal ball time

Normally, I'm not one to do predictions going into a college-hockey weekend. I have no real reason for this, other than I'm lazy and that the WCHA tends to be rather unpredictable. But this week, the Star Tribune's Gopher writer, Roman Augustoviz, asked me to go head to head with him on his blog in his weekly prediction post. Every week, Roman picks a different college-hockey follower to square off with and, since the Mavericks are hosting the Gophers this weekend, he challenged me. 

Already, I've been ripped for picking a tie in one series and basically called a homer in a reader comment for picking MSU to win one game. Sheesh! Maybe that's why I've avoided the prognostication business. Anyway, you can read my comments on each series on Roman's blog (might as well give him a plug), but I'll give you my picks here:

Minnesota at Minnesota State: series split (Roman's pick: Minny sweep)
Denver at Minnesota Duluth: split (Roman: Duluth sweep)
Wisconsin at Alaska Anchorage: Sconnie with three points (Roman: split)
Colorado College at Michigan Tech: split (Roman: split)
St. Cloud State at North Dakota: Sioux sweep (Roman: split)
Nebraska-Omaha at Bemidji State: UNO sweep (Roman: UNO sweep)

Friday-morning skate

Can you believe there will be hockey in downtown Mankato tonight? It's been 40 days and 40 nights of wandering the country for the Mavericks, who will take on 17th-ranked Minnesota tonight and Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center. Here's what college hockey scribes are saying about the series and other matchups around the WCHA this weekend ...

After getting a hat trick last Friday, Minnesota State junior forward Justin Jokinen is leading the team in goal scoring. He's come a long way since the end of last season when he was a healthy scratch for the last 11 games of the year. A strong summer workout regimen has transformed the Buffalo Sabres draft pick into a consistent, comfortable player this year.

You can read more of The Free Press' preview here. Besides the usual Gopher-week excitement, this will be the first chance for MSU junior Michael Dorr to play against his old team.

As for Minnesota, goaltender Alex Kangas struggled to start the season, but, according to the Star Tribune. he might be heating up just in time to come to Mankato. Read the Strib's series preview here.

It's a full slate of WCHA action this weekend, with all 12 teams playing each other.

The biggest series is in Duluth where No. 1 UMD hosts No. 10 Denver in a battle of the two hottest teams in the country. It will also be the Bulldogs' last series at the famed DECC. They will move into the Amsoil Arena after Saturday's game. You can read more on the DECC coverage here and on Kevin Pates' blog. The Denver Post also recognized the end of an era.

In other action ...

St. Cloud State at North Dakota: For the Huskies, Drew LeBlanc's improved skating has turned him into one of the team's top scorers. The Times also takes a look at the return of North Dakota captain Chay Genoway. There's lots of UND coverage on Brad Schollsman's blog, including a story on Mike Cichy's long road to college hockey.

Nebraska-Omaha is at Bemidji State: It's a battle of the newbies as the Red Mavs face the Beavers. One person who's not surprised that Omaha has had a smoother transition into the WCHA than Bemidji is BSU coach Tom Serratore. That was the story of the series in both papers.

Wisconsin at Alaska-Anchorage: Like last year, the Badgers have one of the best power plays going. But there is only one similarity between last season and this season, and that's defenseman Justin Schultz. Wisconsin will test their power play against goalie Rob Gunderson, who was red hot a week ago in a split at Colorado College.

Colorado College at Michigan Tech: The Tigers head to Houghton, and grinder Nick Dineen is featured in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Also, read weekend previews (and more on the DECC closing) by Inside College HockeyUSCHO and College Hockey News.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

You want answers (Gopher week edition)

From Sam: 1) Will Austin Lee get another shot in goal this weekend? 2) Was the Mavericks' sweep of UMass-Lowell a results of improved play on their part or simply because they played a terrible Redhawks team?

Sam, 1) I'm not sure on Lee. Jutting was non-committal on his goalies on Wednesday. If Cook is considered the No. 1 guy, which he was pretty much throughout the road trip, I'm guessing he'll start on Friday night, with Saturday's starter dependent on Friday's performance. However, they did score their first series sweep a week ago by going with Lee Friday and Cook Saturday. We'll likely have to wait until Friday to find out. ... 2) It was probably a combination of both, but you have to be encouraged by the 11 goals the Mavericks scored and the one even-strength goal allowed. Also, getting two wins on the road at the end of a long road swing is huge, as is beating up on a team that was struggling. I'm sure each teams looked at the other's record and recent performance and said, "We need to take care of business against these guys." MSU did that.

From Alex: Will Mike Louwerse be back in the lineup? Will Jutting play both goalies this weekend? Any injuries heading into the weekend?

Alex, I don't know on Louwerse. He's been practicing on the "teal" line all week, which usually means he won't be in the lineup on Friday night. Perhaps there will be a late lineup change, but after getting scratched in both games at Lowell (when he originally was supposed to be in the lineup), it's obvious that more is expected out of the junior forward. Louwerse has two goals (none on the power play), three assists and eight penalty minutes in 11 games. He's certainly got the talent to do more, that's for sure. ... On the goalies, see my answer above. ... Right now, it looks like the Mavericks are completely healthy -- at least no one's out due to injury this week.

From hockey25: What is with the white "Maverick" hardhat some of the players wear after games for interviews? Cook did it after the win against UAA and Lehrke did the same after the win Saturday at Lowell.

hockey25, I'll have to look into this. I haven't seen the hardhat. Then again, I've only witnessed on MSU win in person this year.

From LetsGoMavs: What's the status of Ben Youds? Any feedback on why Leiverman isn't playing lately?

LetsGoMavs, Youds will be in the lineup on Friday night. That is huge for the Mavericks; they need him. In my opinion, he was the Mavericks' MVP last season and he's starting to come on this year. Friday night at Denver, I thought he was really good. He also said all the right things after the Saturday-night loss at DU. He's really becoming a strong leader for this team. ... As for Leivermann, he practiced on the "gold" line this week, so I expect to see him in the lineup on Friday. I think there are a few freshmen who are interchangeable right now, so their ice time will depend on how they're playing in practice/when they get their opportunities in games. John McInnis was in the lineup at Lowell, and going home to the Boston area was one reason for that. Leivermann took McInnis' spot this week.

From MSUMaverickFan: Any idea what the ticket availability is for the weekend? Can we expect sellouts? Troy mentioned that there would be some changes made to the power play systems. Any specifics that you can elaborate on? Different systems, different personnel or both? 

MSUMaverickFan, Last I checked there are still seats available. Not sure how many. I'd guess both games will be official sellouts with standing-room-only tickets available. ... I don't have a lot of details on any system changes. I hope to understand more seeing them in action this weekend. I know there was some different personnel on the power play last weekend, although the one goal they scored came from regulars: Dorr from Youds and Hayes. Cooper and Nelson got some power-play time last week, as did Jokinen. Also, Youds and Davis were together on Friday night (Youds was hurt Saturday); in the past those two each ran a power play.