Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday morning skate

Finally, it's gameday!

Unfortunately, PucKato remains back in Mankato while the Mavericks are in Huntsville, Ala., for their first series of the season and first series for new coach Mike Hastings. I'll be monitoring the game from the radio and will tweet some updates throughout the day as well as post some recaps afterward.

The Mavericks' linechart will look a little different than the exhibition game, as senior Eli Zuck and freshman Dylan Margonari were left behind with injuries. The top two lines will look the same, with J.P. Burkemper taking Margonari's spot on the third line. The fourth most likely will include the combination of Max Gaede, Brett Knowles and Corey Leivermann, with Charlie Thauwald going as the extra forward.

Defensively, all seven healthy defensemen are on the trip, with freshman Nick Buchanan as the extra. Hastings suggested senior Phil Cook is the likely starter in goal tonight but did not commit to a Saturday starter. Freshman Stephon Williams is on the trip.

Read more about the Mavericks, Hastings and preview the Huntsville series here.

The Chargers, meanwhile, are a program that was on the chopping block a year ago only to be given an 11th-hour reprieve. They're still without a conference affiliation but would love to make a good impression on the WCHA this weekend. Reportedly, WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod will be at tonight's game, and tickets are free, even though MSU is the only Division I team playing at Huntsville this season.

Going around the rest of the WCHA ...

Minnesota opens the season by hosting future Big Ten brethren Michigan State. The Gophers appear to be great, but there are questions in goal, where Kent Patterson must be replaced.

St. Cloud State begins the year at New Hampshire in a matchup of teams that had similar seasons a year ago.

Wisconsin will meet Northern Michigan halfway, playing a series in Green Bay, Wis. For the Badgers, sophomore defenseman Jake McCabe has some big skates to fill.

Minnesota Duluth hosts Ohio State, and the Bulldogs have all kinds of holes to fill after the departure of so much talent to graduation and early departures. Among those tough tasks is replacing Kenny Reiter in goal. Two-year backup Aaron Crandall will get the nod, but the Buckeyes' Brady Hjelle might have had that job had he not transfered from UMD.

Colorado College opens the season by hosting Clarkson, and the Tigers are hoping to have another strong start to the season like they did last year — while avoiding the late-year collapse that took place in February.

Nebraska Omaha will play in the IceBreaker Tournament in Kansas City with Army tonight and Notre Dame or Maine on Saturday. Red Mavericks coach Dean Blais believes his team might have the best defensive corps in the WCHA this season.

Alaska Anchorage will host Canisius and Air Force in the Kendall Hockey Classic to open the season.

Michigan Tech opened the season with a 4-2 loss Thursday night at Lake Superior State; the two teams will play again on Saturday night in Houghton, Mich.

North Dakota and Bemidji State are still in exhibition mode and will play the U.S. Under-18 team today and Saturday, respectively. Denver does not play this weekend.

Other coverage includes WCHA previews by USCHO, Inside College Hockey and College Hockey News. The latter also has a Q&A with Mike Hastings, and you can read USCHO's Minnesota State preview here.

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