Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday-morning skate

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Minnesota State opens its home schedule tonight against Rensselaer. It's a matchup of two similar teams. Both are 1-0-1. Both had just 12 wins last season. And both were led last year by young players.

One player who wasn't there for the Mavericks last year was Chase Grant (pictured). He made quite the return from a season-ending hip injury by recording a hat trick a week ago, proving that he needs to be a key contributor to the team this year.

The link also has the MSU gameday preview. Some notes from that: Phil Cook will get the start in goal tonight, but coach Mike Hastings did not commit to a Saturday starter (Stephon Williams played the second game a week ago at Huntsville). ... Injured centers Dylan Margonari and Eli Zuck will be back in the lineup tonight. Margonari will skate between Eriah Hayes and Jean-Paul LaFontaine. ... Official lines will be posted later today.

As for the RPI Engineers, they had a good start to the year with a win and a tie against Ferris State. There are high hopes for sophomore forwards Jacob Laliberte and Matt Neal, who suffered through some injuries last year. Meanwhile, RPI coach Seth Appert also says that his team and Minnesota State are similar.

Going around the WCHA ...

Led by freshman goalie Matt McNeely Minnesota Duluth had a nice win on Thursday night, beating No. 9 Notre Dame 3-1 on the road.

Minnesota begins its final season in the WCHA before moving to the Big Ten when it plays a series at Michigan Tech. It's the only league series of the weekend. Gophers coach Don Lucia needs just one win to reach 600 for his long and successful coaching career, but he insists he's still the small-town guy from northern Minnesota. The Star Tribune has a WCHA preview here. The Huskies, meanwhile, are awaiting the near-unanimous No. 1 team in the nation.

St. Cloud State hosts Alabama Huntsville, the team that Minnesota State beat and tied a week ago. The Huskies are excited about the start for freshman Jimmy Murray. Huntsville, meanwhile, is hoping it made a good impression on WCHA officials during last week's series against MSU.

Bemidji State hosts Lake Superior in what will be a battle of league foes next year when Lake Superior joins the WCHA. It's also a series between a pair of old rivals.

Nebraska Omaha hosts Northern Michigan, the team that upset Wisconsin twice last weekend. Omaha's coaches certainly took note of what the Wildcats did, and assistant Troy Jutting calls Northern a "salt-of-the-earth hockey team" (How come he didn't give me quotes like that?)

Colorado College plays at Air Force and hosts UMass-Lowell, and those nonconference teams will also play at Denver, which opens its season this weekend. The Gazette has a good story about three CC players whose fathers played in the NHL. Also, the Tigers-Falcons matchup is always a big one in Colorado, while Air Force would love to win a "state championship" this weekend.

Meanwhile, Denver freshman Nolan Zajac is the fourth and final Zajac brother to play college hockey. Two of his brothers played at North Dakota (including New Jersey Devils star Travis) and another was at Union. Their dad, Tom, played college hockey at DU.

North Dakota and Alaska Anchorage are playing in Fairbanks' Alaska Gold Rush Tournament, and  No. 2 UND arrived there extremely short-handed due to injuries and suspensions.

Wisconsin doesn't play this weekend but it score a big win or loss from the NCAA as it awaits a ruling on the eligibility of freshman Nic Kerdiles.

More WCHA weekend previews here, here and here.

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