Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Morning Skate

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Hey there hockey fans ... Depressed about seeing no end to the NHL lockout? ... Well have no fear, college hockey is here!

Once again, all 12 WCHA teams are in action against each other this weekend, including right here in Mankato with Minnesota State hosting Alaska Anchorage. The Mavericks will try to make it five, maybe six, wins in a row as they play another of their fellow left-behind teams.

While the Mavericks' success has been largely due to the play of their high-end veterans, like Matt Leitner, Eriah Hayes and Jean-Paul LaFontaine, the freshmen are certainly making an impact now, most notably goaltender Stephon Williams (pictured). Also, Dylan Margonari is on a five-game scoring streak, while World Juniors-bound Teddy Blueger is coming off probably his best game as a college player.

For more on the series, see The Free Press' gameday preview here.

As for the Seawolves, they scored their first WCHA victory last Saturday, but MSU coach Mike Hastings isn't taking them lightly, noting that they've taken at least one point in every series they've played so far. However, Anchorage also has a pretty thin roster right now.

If you haven't read it yet, here is my column on the WCHA's hands being tied a bit when it comes to promoting its future new-look league while the upstart NCHC touts its future teams. Appropriate considering Minnesota State and Alaska Anchorage are playing each other this weekend.

Going around the rest of the WCHA ...

Bemidji State at Minnesota Duluth: The Beavers are coming off a forgettable series (for them) in Mankato and are back at "ground zero" says senior defenseman Jake Areshenko. For the Bullodgs, they're showing improvement after a tough start, and their freshmen are starting to come through.

Denver at North Dakota: The WCHA's two best teams over the last 10 years (and the ringleaders for the NCHC's formation) will square off at The Ralph. This must be the week college hockey writers like me, Duluth's Kevin Pates and Grand Forks' Brad Schlossman are scrambling for ideas and heading for the freshmen, as Schloss takes a look at UND's Drake Caggiula. The Pioneers, meanwhile, are coming off a one-point home weekend against Wisconsin and are on a four-game winless skid.

Nebraska Omaha at St. Cloud State: The red Mavericks were 7-0 in November before losing at Minnesota last Saturday (Dec. 1) and would like to keep it rolling. For the Huskies, they're beginning a stretch of 10 straight home games that goes through Jan. 19.

Minnesota at Colorado College: All right, Mike Russo, joining the trend and writing about freshmen, too! The Gophers have two rookies heading to the United States' World Junior Team camp later this month, but for now, their focus is on CC. In other Minnesota news, sophomore Nick Bjugstad, by the numbers, appears to be off to a surprisingly slow start. Not so, Bjugstad says. For the Tigers, they're 1-4-1 in their last six games, but don't blame the goalies.

Michigan Tech at Wisconsin: The Huskies are coming off a tough, even bitter and certainly frustrating, nonconference loss to rival Northern Michigan on Tuesday night and now head to Madison for a key series for both teams. For the Badgers, who bounced back from their two losses to MSU with a win and a tie at Denver last week, the concern isn't just winning games but putting butts in the Kohl Center seats.

More WCHA coverage from USCHO.

Be sure to check back later for more news and during the game tonight when I'll be live blogging during the game.

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