It's nice to be home in Mankato for the duration of the regular season. Will I still be here for the playoffs? The Magic 8-Ball says, "Outlook not so good." MSU has just four games remaining (they're idle next weekend), while everyone else in the WCHA, except Alaska-Anchorage, has six.
As for this weekend, fifth-ranked Minnesota Duluth is in town. The Mavericks have a six-game winless streak against the Bulldogs, who are powered by the lawfirm of Connolly, Connolly & Fontaine. That line is great, especially on the power play, but MSU's penalty kill (now second in the WCHA in league play) and penchant for taking penalties (second-fewest PIMs in league play!) have improved greatly over the course of the season. Read more about the Mavs' penalty kill here.
Based on practice this week, it looks like Minnesota State is healthier than they were last week at Colorado College. Rylan Galiardi is "day to day," coach Troy Jutting said, but was on the purple line in practice. So was Chase Grant. Check out The Free Press' gameday preview here.
As for goaltending, Jutting wouldn't name a starter. I have a hunch the coach will continue to ride the hot hand of Austin Lee, at least for tonight. Read my column on the Mavs' goaltending situation here.
For UMD, the Duluth News Tribune has a preview here, including a note that defenseman Brady Lamb will miss the series with an upper-body injury. With Lamb out and the mid-season departure of first-round draft pick Dylan Olsen, senior Chad Huttel will get to play for just the sixth time this season.
You can read more of Kevin Pates' outstanding coverage all weekend right here.
Going around the rest of the WCHA ...
Minnesota at Wisconsin: It's the battle of the Big Ten (and, yes, more and more is getting written about that) but the WCHA seedings are on the line in this one and both the Gophers and Badgers try to get home ice for the playoffs. The Gophers broke out of a slump last Saturday and got a big performance from Finland's Eric Haula. ... For the Badgers, freshman Tyler Barnes is realizing that he has to start shooting more. Madison.com also had an article this week about the early departures Wisconsin and Minnesota have faced in recent years.
North Dakota at St. Cloud State: The Sioux have already clinched home ice and have their sights set on the McNaughton Cup. North Dakota does a lot of things well, and you can add faceoffs to the list. Read more from the Grand Forks Herald here. ... As for the Huskies, the St. Cloud Times has a feature on junior Jared Festler, who ranks second on the team in goals.
Nebraska-Omaha at Alaska-Anchorage: Coming off of a weekend sweep of Wisconsin, Omaha is hoping to keep its momentum going at the always-tough Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. No WCHA team has swept the Seawolves in their home barn this season. ... As for Anchorage, which is also in the hunt for home ice, there's a call out to make the Sully even tougher for visiting teams.
Colorado College at Bemidji State: The Tigers moved into sixth place in the WCHA standings with its split against MSU last weekend, and they hope to stay there with fab freshman Jade Schwartz expected to be back in the lineup tonight. More notes from The Gazette here. ... For the Beavers, they're hoping to turn around their luck in their new home rink, where they're just 4-7-1.
Michigan Tech at Denver: The Huskies are trying to find little victories in what's become a disaster of a season. While their overall losing streak was stopped at 18 games last weekend, their winless streak still increased to 26 games. ... Meanwhile, the Pioneers can clinch home ice with at least one point tonight.
Here are some weekend previews from INCH and USCHO, and check out the weekend picks on Gophers beat writer Roman Augustoviz's blog. It's always entertaining when an old college-hockey scribe, Chris Miller, chimes in.
Get a sneak peak at Charter's "College Hockey Weekend" pregame show: