Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday morning skate

Pat Christman/The Free Press
It gets no easier for the Mavericks, as No. 3 Denver comes to town tonight. Minnesota State hasn't beaten the Pioneers in their last 14 meetings, going 0-12-2.

Of course, we all know strange things can happen when these two teams meet, especially in Mankato.

Barring any late-week injuries, don't expect too many lineup changes for Minnesota State from last Saturday's important win over No. 2 Minnesota. As of Thursday afternoon, coach Mike Hastings wasn't committed to a starting goaltender. Phil Cook had the game-saving stop on Saturday, but neither his nor freshman Stephon Williams' numbers have been stellar to start the season.

As the Mavericks try to improve defensively from the net on out, junior defenseman Josh Nelson (pictured) has made some big strides, especially compared to where he was a year ago. He's a minutes eater and is on the second power-play unit. He also scored his second career goal to get things going against the Gophers.

As for the Pioneers, they are making their first road trip of the season. While they lost some top-end forwards to pro contracts in the offseason, there is a belief that Denver is already showing signs of better chemistry with this squad.

Going around the rest of the WCHA ...

North Dakota at St. Cloud State: Tonight, UND hopes to break a 10-game Friday-night losing streak at St. Cloud. It won't be easy, as the Huskies are off to their best eight-game start (5-3-0) since the 2003-04 season. ... Also, UND beat writer Brad Schlossman has a fun story on what the folks at Ralph Engelstad Arena do with all the hats thrown on the ice after a player scores a hat trick.

Bemidji State at Colorado College: Last week's bye week came a little too early for the Beavers' liking, so they're more than glad to be back on the ice this weekend. Meanwhile, the Tigers are back in the rankings and getting a great start from junior defenseman Eamonn McDermott.

Minnesota at Alaska Anchorage: A lot of teams would take the Gophers record, but they're trying to find a way to bounce back from Saturday's loss at Minnesota State. One Minnesota player who was really good in Mankato was Wild draft pick Erik Haula. For the Seawolves, they're digging deep to find talent for their team. Also, Anchorage lost a player, Andrew Pickering, who had to retire due to concussion issues.

Minnesota Duluth at Nebraska Omaha (Saturday-Sunday): The Bulldogs have to wait one extra day off their bye week to start this series. They will face a team that is killing penalties at a 91.4 percent clip as well as one that's expected to get a key player back in the lineup this week.

Also in the WCHA this week, Wisconsin is dealing with issues, including Mark Zengerle's broken finger and subsequent surgery and the surprising departure of assistant coach Bill Butters.

The USCHO preview notebook this week focuses on Denver's luxury in goal.

Be sure to return to the blog later to see tonight's lines and my in-game live chat. And if you're not doing it already, be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Finally, at Gustavus Adolphus tonight, the Gustavus women's team's MIAC-opener against Bethel will be a "White-Out" as a tribute to junior Marah Sobczak, who was critically injured this summer in a head-on traffic collision near her home in Stillwater. Family, friends and fans are encouraged to wear white in honor and in support of Marah and her family. White T-shirts for the event will be sold to raise money for the family and Sobczak's recovery.

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