Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday morning skate

Pat Christman photo
This is it. The final week of the regular season. The final home games in Mankato for the year. The final home games for Kurt Davis, Ben Youds, Rylan Galiardi, Channing Boe and Andy Sackrison -- and Brett Peterson (who, apparently, will play on Senior Night).

For the Mavericks, those seniors, who collectively have played 671 games in an MSU uniform, would like to leave the Verizon Wireless Center with a few more memories of their careers. 

Minnesota State will host Alaska-Anchorage and on the line are higher spots in the standings, better seedings for the WCHA playoffs and general preparedness for the postseason. You can read more about the Seawolves here.

Going around the rest of the WCHA, the next two nights are going to decide the pairings for the WCHA tournament, so there will be plenty of scoreboard watching. Here are the matchups:

Minnesota at Bemidji State: A lot of fans around the league have enjoyed the demise of the Gophers, but look out  now. The Gophers are 4-0-1 in their last five games and sitting pretty for home ice. One reason for that turnaround is the play of Jacob Cepis, something the senior credits to a talk with his coach. For the Beavers, they are hoping to improve their playoff position and get out the 10th-place tie with MSU.

Colorado College at Wisconsin: Interesting series here. CC sits one point ahead of Wisco in the standings, and the difference their spots is the difference between home ice and a road trip for the first round. For the Badgers, they're also trying to snap a six-game winless streak in which they suddenly can't score goals and have seen their once-great goaltending slip. The Tigers, meanwhile, are enjoying the return of freshman Jaden Schwartz, but not to be discounted is the play of his big brother, Rylan.

Nebraska-Omaha at Minnesota Duluth: Another matchup with implications for the final standings. This series may determine who draws MSU for the playoffs. There's also the chance to finish second in the WCHA, something the red Mavericks couldn't have imagined back in October. For the Bulldogs, this will be the first time coach Scott Sandelin will be facing his old coach, boss and mentor, Dean Blais, in seven years.

St. Cloud State at Denver: Denver is in second place and would like to keep that spot. The Pioneers also have a chance to see star forward Jason Zucker become the second freshman in WCHA history to win the league scoring title. Zucker has a one-point lead over Duluth's Jack Connolly. The Huskies, meanwhile, have been on a tear of late, losing just one of their last six games. Senior Garrett Roe has been very good and needs just eight points to become St. Cloud's all-time leading scorer.

North Dakota at Michigan Tech: The only first-round matchup that's set for next week is league-champion North Dakota hosting last-place Michigan Tech. The two teams will get a warmup series against each other in Houghton this weekend first. One thing the Fighting Sioux won't be doing this weekend, apparently, is resting their players for next week. They want to keep their seven-game unbeaten streak alive. For the Huskies, this series marks the end of what's been an exasperating season.

More WCHA predictions continue to trickle in. Here's another from College Hockey News, along with some conference award voting. Read the USCHO weekly preview here. (By the way, nice to see both CHN's and USCHO's coverage comes from former Free Press stringers Dan Myers and Tyler Buckentine. Good work, boys!)

1 comment:

Sam said...

What is everyone's opinion on Jason Zucker's status following DU's season? Does anyone seeing him leaving after his freshman year to suit up for the Wild?

I personally would love to see it, for a number of reasons:

1) The Wild, while a solid to good squad, are sorely lacking talented players
2) As an MSU fan, I'd be okay if the Mavericks didn't have to face him anymore
3) I'm a Wild fan, and would love to see that kid in a Wild uniform.