Friday, December 10, 2010

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.

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