Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday morning skate

Pat Christman/The Free Press
The Mavericks wrap up a four-game homestand this weekend when they host the red Mavs of Nebraska Omaha, a team they are winless again in the last five meetings. This will be the first and only conference series between these two teams in Mankato. They played last year in Omaha and will play there again next year. Time will tell if the two schools will continue the Spirit of the Maverick Trophy series in nonconference play after UNO moves to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Minnesota State will have virtually the same lineup as it did last Saturday with a couple exceptions. Forward Corey Leivermann is out with an injury suffered in the weight room, and defenseman Brett Stern continues to fight the injury bug and will not play tonight. However, Mike Louwerse will be back from his injury and take Leivermann's spot on the line chart. Mat Knoll will take Stern's spot. Phil Cook will start in goal, as Austin Lee, too, remains out with an injury.

Today's Free Press story takes a look at the the all-senior line of Justin Jokinen (pictured), Joe Schiller and Adam Mueller. While they might make up a defensive-minded third line, their roles will be vital over the final six weekends of the regular season. Read the Freep's series preview here.

As for Omaha, it is coming off a win over top-ranked Minnesota Duluth that broke the Bulldogs' 17-game unbeaten streak. But players say they're not overlooking 11th-place MSU, giving the purple Mavericks the respect many teams have this year.

A couple of other UNO notes from the World-Herald: Omaha boasts the top penalty kill in the WCHA ... The red Mavericks will be without forward Dominic Zombo tonight. He's been suspended by the league for one game for a knee-to-knee hit on Duluth's J.T. Brown. UNO coach Dean Blais says he supports the suspension but says there was more to the incident than met the league's eye.

Also, Omaha blogger Matthew Semisch did a little online Q&A with PucKato previewing the series.

Going around the WCHA ...

Colorado College at Minnesota: Quick story: When the Mavericks hosted CC in December, Gophers assistant coach Mike Guentzel was in attendance to watch his on Gabe, a defenseman for the Tigers, play. I talked to him briefly and he said he was hoping for a three-point game from Gabe but an MSU win to help Minnesota in the standings. Neither happened. Tonight Guentzel will face Guentzel as CC heads to Minnie. The dad had the son and his teammates over for dinner on Thursday night, but there's no question as to who Mike wants to win this weekend.

Alaska Anchorage at Wisconsin: Anchorage is tied with MSU for 11th place in the WCHA and suddenly senior defenseman Curtis Leinweber is suddenly leading the Seawolves in scoring. As for the Badgers, coming off last weekend's split in Mankato, they have two freshman wingers who have drawn comparisons to MSU alum and NHL standout David Backes.

North Dakota at St. Cloud State: There was a lot of excitement surrounding North Dakota freshman Rocco Grimaldi this season, but injuries have hampered him all year, and now he's being shut down to have knee surgery. He'll be eligible for a medical hardship season, but speculation is that he won't be in college for four more years anyway. Meanwhile, the Huskies are being led by a lunch-pail guy in senior center Jordy Christian.

Alabama Huntsville at Minnesota Duluth: Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Bulldogs' unbeaten streak was that they haven't played a home game in 63 days. Before falling 3-1 at Omaha on Saturday, they didn't lose in seven straight road games. They return to Amsoil Arena tonight to take on the Chargers in a nonconference series. One reason for UMD's success has been the brilliant play of J.T. Brown — and the NHL scouts are drooling over the free agent.

Northern Michigan at Michigan Tech: The UP rivals will play a single game on Saturday.

More WCHA coverage from USCHO, Inside College Hockey and a good column on checking from behind from College Hockey News' Dan Myers.

Check back later tonight for my live blog. And follow my on Twitter @puckato for any other college hockey tidbits I come across.

1 comment:

crossjcek said...

But honestly have you ever interviewed a coach or player that has said "yeah we are going to look past this weekends series and start preparing for ____."
Ahhh sports cliches