Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Morning Skate

It's been three weeks since Minnesota State played at home. The 18th-ranked Mavericks are back and are hosting Bowling Green in a WCHA series that's drawing interest of many of the sports observers (see, this new WCHA ain't so bad). There will be two pretty good teams going at it this weekend, that's for sure. You can read more about the series here.

For Minnesota State, junior forward Chase Grant is off to a sneaky good start, and more will be expected of him going forward. A case can be made that he's MSU's best two-way forward. Perhaps it's been talked about too many times, but Grant's got those Oklahoma roots, a rarity in college hockey or, really, hockey at any high level. The NHL this season called up its first Oklahoma native, former Denver standout Matt Donovan. There are two players in that state in college hockey; the other is MSU sophomore Taylor Herndon.

While he doesn't wear a letter on his jersey, Grant considers himself one of the team's leaders, especially with Josh Nelson out of the lineup. The roster may look like it has just one senior, Johnny McInnis, who can play. But Grant is in his fourth year at MSU (remember, he missed a year with a hip injury), as is Matt Leitner, who was ineligible as a freshman.

As for Bowling Green, it has yet to win on the road this season and this series marks the beginning of a tough four-week stretch that includes four games against the Mavericks (the two teams will meet Nov. 22-23 in Ohio), as well as series against Ferris State and Lake Superior State, both of which are ranked.

Both teams will be missing some players this weekend. The Mavericks' Carter Foguth and Michael Huntebrinker have been declared out (Huntebrinker was expected to have surgery on his broken wrist this morning), while Bowling Green's top scorer from last year, Ryan Carpenter, has been out all season with a broken finger and is not ready to return. That's been a big loss, but the veteran Falcons have made up for his absence with plenty of scoring from Bryce Williamson, Dan DeSalvo, Ben Murphy and others.

A thought on the other WCHA series this weekend ...

Bemidji State at Ferris State: Another pretty good matchup, this one in Michigan. Ferris was picked to finish second in the league and is playing well, albeit with a soft schedule. And Bemidji State is proving to be no pushover this season.

Alaska at Lake Superior State: The Nanooks are leaving Alaska for the first time this season and going to a place they haven't won at since 2011. The Lakers' hot start got a dousing on Saturday when they lost 8-1 at Wisconsin. Curious to see how they bounce back.

Alabama Huntsville at Alaska Anchorage: These are the teams that were picked to finish ninth and 10th in the WCHA this season. Huntsville's struggles are no surprise; there' a lot of work to be done there. But Anchorage has had a nice start and has a good chance to keep that going.

Michigan State at Michigan Tech: This nonconference series will be the first games between these two teams in Houghton, Mich., since 1984. No one's played a tougher schedule to start the season than Tech. Should be a fun time there.

Northern Michigan at Western Michigan (Sat.-Sun): Another nonconference series in Michigan, as these old CCHA teams keep their rivalry going. Northern's been up and down to start the season but is certainly capable of making some noise this weekend.

On USCHO, Matt Wellens and I give our WCHA picks for this weekend. Our league notebook column can be found here.

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