Thursday, December 26, 2013

Stepan makes final U.S. roster

A tad late on this because of the holiday ...

Minnesota State's Zach Stepan survived the final cut and made the final 23-player roster for the U.S. Junior National Team, which is playing in the IIHF World Junior Championships this week in Malmo, Sweden.

Stepan, a freshman forward, is the first MSU player to play for Team USA in the championships and the second Maverick to participate in the tournament. Last year, Teddy Blueger, now a sophomore forward, played for Latvia.

Stepan was in the lineup on Thursday for Team USA’s 5-1,tournament-opening victory over the Czech Republic. He was plus-1 and credited with one shot on goal. However, he departed the game in the third period with what was reported to be a lower-body injury. The report said his status is day to day.

Team USA will play Slovakia at 6:30 a.m. Friday. All U.S. games are available on the NHL Network and

The rest of the U.S. schedule is as follows (all times CST):

Sunday vs. Germany, 8 a.m.
Tuesday vs. Canada, 10:30 a.m.

If Team USA advances, the quarterfinals are Thursday, Jan. 2, with the semifinals on Saturday, Jan. 4, and the finals Sunday, Jan. 5.

Friday, December 20, 2013

WCHA commissioner McLeod to retire

McLeod with former MSU coach Troy Jutting/WCHA photo
The WCHA announced on Friday that commissioner Bruce McLeod will retire at the end of this season. The 62-year-old is in his 20th year as commissioner.

The Fort Frances, Ontario, native and former Minnesota Duluth player oversaw a highly successful era that included eight WCHA teams winning national championships and 10 players winning Hobey Baker awards, a lucrative Final Five event for the last 13 years as well as the advent of a women's hockey hockey. It was also under McLeod's watch that Minnesota State was admitted to the league in 1999.

"The opportunity to get to know and to work alongside so many outstanding coaches and administrators, to become acquainted with so many marvelous student-athletes, and watch our sport grow and prosper has been a blessing," McLeod said in a statement issued by the WCHA. "I will forever be a fan."

However, the era's final years included with the flight of eight programs from the league, including two to the Big Ten and six to start up the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. He helped piece the league back together, bringing in the teams leftover from the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Conference and Alabama Huntsville.

In a WCHA statement, Minnesota State president Richard Davenport, chair of the WCHA board of directors said: "We will forever be grateful for the commitment, loyalty and leadership of commissioner McLeod. His integrity, work ethic, unselfishness and enthusiasm for both the WCHA and the sport of college hockey shine through in everything he does. Bruce has led the league to tremendous successes over his 20 years, all the while keeping the focus on the member institutions, student-athletes and staffs. We also are indebted to him for the tremendous efforts and leadership he put forth during the recent transition period in college hockey, where he was instrumental in making certain the WCHA remained a leader and a competitive and successful organization. We wish him the best in retirement."

Read the full WCHA press release here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stepan's going to Sweden

John Cross photo
Zach Stepan survived Wednesday morning's cuts following the U.S. Junior National Team's 3-2 overtime exhibition victory over Minnesota State on Tuesday night.

Team USA went into the game with 29 players, sitting five locks to make the roster, as well as a third goaltender and an injured player.

On Wednesday morning, the U.S. team announced that Boston College forward Ryan Fitzgerald, Michigan forward J.T. Compher and Sarnia Sting (OHL) defenseman Anthony DeAngelo have been cut. Compher probably was a lock to make the team but injured his foot blocking a shot in practice on Monday, according to reports.

The 26 remaining players —15 forwards, 8 defensemen and 3 goalies — will fly to Sweden today after this morning's practice. The U.S. will play two exhibition games there before the World Junior Championships begin on Dec. 26. Three more players — likely two forwards and a defenseman — will be cut before the tournament begins.

On Tuesday night, U.S. coach Don Lucia called Stepan "a good utility guy." "That's one of his strengths," the coach said. "He can play three forward positions, a little power play if necessary, some penalty kill. Versatility is one of his great strengths."

I'm curious to know who else on the roster fits that bill and if that description makes Stepan expendable or an ideal 13th forward for the tournament.

Team USA will play exhibition games Friday and Saturday against Sweden and Finland.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Team USA 3, MSU 2 (OT)

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Entertaining game: The Mavericks put up a good fight against some of college hockey's best young players. Minnesota State led 1-0 and 2-1 on power-play goals by Jean-Paul LaFontaine and Johnny McInnis. LaFontaine and Zach Palmquist each finished with a two-point game. The U.S. outshot MSU 30-22. But it was good to see the Mavericks play the exhibition with a lot of energy on the night before going on break. The game-winning goal by Minnesota's Hudson Fasching was as pretty a goal as you're going to see. Tough play for Blake Thompson and Evan Karambelas to defend.

2. Good test for the U.S. ... Team USA coach Don Lucia said the Mavericks gave his youngsters a good test before it heads to Sweden for the World Junior Championships. "With (MSU's) game, we knew it was going to be a good, up-and-down game. They're an older, stronger team with 22- and 23-year-old guys." Lucia also appreciated that the game went to overtime where the teams played 4 on 4, which will be how the WJC format will work. The U.S. coaches and management will meet on Wednesday morning and make some cuts. What will the fate of Zach Stepan be? (See link below.)

3. ... and for MSU, too: Minnesota State got to play some different players in different positions in the game, and coach Mike Hastings said he was pleased with what he saw. Thompson made his MSU debut after sitting out the last year after transferring from Minnesota, and Dylan Margonari got his first chance to play center, playing on a line with LaFontaine and Zach Lehrke. Karambelas, the Mavericks' third-string goalie, got a rare chance to play, spelling Stephon Williams, who was excellent in the first two periods, including one particular glove save on, of all people, Stepan!

As for more of the Zach Stepan story, give that a read here.

And one more thing ... The Mavericks go on break now and are scheduled to return for practices on Dec. 29. MSU will head to Alaska on Jan. 1 for a 12-day trip

MSU vs. U.S. Junior National Team

Lines can be found below the live chat

9-Gervais ... 18-Leitner ... 22-McInnis
12-LaFontaine ... 26-Margonari ... 19-Lehrke
21-Grant ... 16-J. Nelson ... 8-Gaede
11-Flanagan ... 14-Herndon ... 10-Knoll

7-Palmquist ... 5-Foguth
27-Stern ... 6-C. Nelson
4-Buchanan ... 3-Thompson


Scratches: Blueger (with Latvian national team) ... Huntebrinker (inj.) ... Jutzi (inj.) ... Knowles (inj.) ... J. Nelson (inj.) ... Stepan (with U.S. national team)

19-Erne ... 15-Eichel ... 21-Hartman
23-Matteau ... 13-Hinostroza ... 18-Samuelsson
8-Motte ... 25-Shore ... 22-Fasching
20-Fitzgerald ... 26-Stepan ... 14-DiPauli

4-Butcher ... 28-Carrick
2-Skjei ... 27-Pesce
3-McCoshen ... 24-DeAngelo
6-Slavin ... 16-Santini


Referees: Justin Brown, Rod Tocco. Linesmen: Matt Tyree, Neil Missling

LaFontaine named player of the week

Minnesota State forward Jean-Paul LaFontaine was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week for his performance over the weekend at Alabama Huntsville. He was league's top scorer over the weekend, recording four points (2-2) in the MSU sweep.

The junior has 12 points (7-5) in the Mavericks' last eight games and leads the Mavericks with 16 points (8-8). This was the second time this season that LaFontaine earned the award.

Other WCHA awards this week went to Ferris State goaltender C.J. Motte, who was named Defensive Player of the Week for the fourth time this season. Rookie of the Week honors went to Alaska goaltender David Jones.

Tuesday morning skate (updated)

Could be a fun game tonight at the Verizon Wireless Center as the Mavericks host the U.S. Junior National Team in an exhibition. The U.S. roster is full of college hockey's best young players (and others from the major junior ranks), including MSU's Zach Stepan. In all there are 26 NHL draft picks on the roster, including nine selected in the first or second round.

UPDATE: Kids 17 & under can go to tonight's game for free. Go to to print off the coupon.

Stepan, it turns out, is all right after the violent hit he took on Saturday night in Huntsville. He practiced with the national team on Sunday night and told Dan Myers of that he was removed from the game afterward for precautionary reasons. Dan, who used to cover the Mavericks for the MSU Reporter, also had this feature on Stepan for

Stepan, it's been reported by Chris Peters, has practiced some with the penalty kill. Today's morning practice in Minneapolis and night game in Mankato make up a very important day, Peters wrote, as there could be cuts before the team heads to Sweden where it will have more exhibition games before the World Junior Championships.

As for the Mavericks, they'll be without Stepan, as well as Teddy Blueger, who is in Poland playing for Latvia in the World Junior Championship Division I A Group. Latvia lost out in the relegation round last year in the big tournament. That tournament will end in time for Blueger to return to the Mavericks prior to their trip to Alaska. If Stepan makes the U.S. roster and the U.S. advances far enough, he'll miss the first half of that trip.

Minnesota State also will be without forward Brett Knowles (upper body). However, tonight marks the debut of sophomore defenseman Blake Thompson, who transferred from Minnesota a year ago. Check back later today for lineups.

Meanwhile, MSU moved back into the U.S. College Hockey Online poll this week after winning seven games in a row. So folks are starting to take notice of the Mavericks again.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mavericks 4, Chargers 1

Freddy's three thoughts from afar ...

1. Seven in row: Just as they did at this time a year ago, the Mavericks have won seven straight games to put themselves into a pretty good position. They're now 11-7-0 overall and 9-3-0 in the WCHA. They're in second place in the league, four points behind red-hot Ferris State. Both teams have played 12 conference games. In the Mavericks' run they have outscored opponents 27-11. Once again Saturday, the power play carried the day, going 3 for 10, including a pair of late goals by Matt Leitner and Chase Grant to ice the game.

2. Willy's back: Stephon Williams got the start in goal, and while he stopped 17 of 18 shots while teammates put 46 on net at the other end, he had to be sharp. He stopped a short-handed breakaway early in the game when it was still scoreless, as well as another partial breakaway and a few more tough shots. That's two pretty good outings in a row for Williams. "He looked like he was back into it," coach Mike Hastings said. "He looked like he was back in the zone." Williams is now 4-4-0. Could he get a start in the Mavericks' next regular-season outing in his hometown of Fairbanks?

3. Getting ugly: The Mavericks' late power-play goals came as a result of a pair of major penalties by Huntsville's Frank Misuraca and Ben Reinhardt. They hit Brett Knowles and Zach Stepan from behind, although the hit on Stepan looked more like a high, dirty elbow from the TV replay. Both MSU players were down on the ice for awhile and had to be helped off the rink. Not sure of their status, although Hastings said he thought Stepan would be OK. Stepan is due to join the U.S. Junior National Team on Sunday night in Minneapolis. The game was still just 2-1 when the hits happened; not sure what those players were thinking. Clearly more interested in delivering big hits than winning the game. Hastings said he expects the WCHA will review the plays.

Around the WCHA: Bowling Green 4, Michigan Tech 4 (OT) ... Alaska 5, Bemidji State 1 ... Ferris State 2, Michigan State 0 ... North Dakota 3, Northern Michigan 1 ... Lake Superior at Alaska Anchorage (late)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mavericks 4, Chargers 1

Freddy's three thoughts (from afar) ...

1. No need to panic, right? The Mavericks held a slim 1-0 lead into the third period and seemed to be controlling the game pretty well. But let a team hang around ... Huntsville tied the game at 3:46 of the third, and you're thing this could give the Chargers, who won for the first time last week, some life. But the Mavericks didn't panic, coach Mike Hastings said afterward, and with the help of a quick UAH penalty after the goal, Jean-Paul LaFontaine got the lead back 29 seconds later.

2. Power play stays hot: After struggling a bit early on, the Mavericks finished 3 for 7 on the power play and had 17 shots on goal with the man advantage. LaFontaine's goal was his sixth power-play goal of the season. Dylan Margonari and Johnny McInnis also scored power-play goals, and both of Matt Leitner's assists came on the power play. During their six-game winning streak, the Mavericks are 13 of 32 on the power play (40.6 percent). Over that same span, they've allowed just three opponents' power plays. Huntsville finished 0 for 5 on Friday.

3. Lehrke scores again: Zach Lehrke didn't figure into the power-play scoring but he did score an important goal — Hastings called it "a special, individual play," — giving the Mavericks a 3-1 cushion at 7:21 of the third period. Lehrke got the puck one on one against a defender, dangled a bit and used that D-man as a screen as he fired past the Huntsville goalie. Lehrke now has three goals and six points in seven games, which ranks tied for fifth already on the Mavericks' scoring chart.

Around the WCHA: Bowling Green 3, Michigan Tech 2 ... Alaska 3, Bemidji State 3 (OT) ... North Dakota 4, Northern Michigan 1 ... Lake Superior 3, Alaska Anchorage 1

Friday morning skate (end-of-the-half edition)

The Mavericks will close out the first half of the regular season today and Saturday at Alabama Huntsville. They'll try to extend a five-game winning streak that has propelled them into second place in the WCHA standings. The streak is somewhat reminiscent of one from last year at this time that also gave Minnesota State a much-needed lift.

The Chargers got that much-eluded victory last Saturday after starting the season 0-15, and, if anything, that (as well as several other close games Huntsville's been involved in) should have reminded MSU not to overlook its opponent.

Sounds like it will be pretty busy at the rink in Huntsville this weekend.

Going around the WCHA ...

Bowling Green at Michigan Tech: Everything about the Falcons says they're a good team. However, they're reeling a bit right now, partially due to continued injury concerns. Bowling Green has won just two of its last nine games. Meanwhile, the Huskies are on a five-game unbeaten streak, although last weekends ties with Bemidji State were less than satisfying.

Alaska at Bemidji State: This series features two teams that have been able to score goals but also two teams that have given up quite a bit, too. Bemidji State got those two hard-fought ties at Michigan Tech last weekend but is a bit banged up going into break. The Nanooks got a much-needed win on Saturday at Anchorage, snapping a five-game losing streak.

Lake Superior at Alaska Anchorage: This should be a good series in Anchorage, where the Seawolves have been pretty good this year. However, for years, the series just before Christmas has been mailed in by UAA. Things seem to be different this year. The Lakers, meanwhile, have been one of the better road teams in the WCHA this season.

Northern Michigan at North Dakota: The Wildcats' trip to Grand Forks gave The Mining Journal reason to look the challenge of nonconference scheduling for Northern Michigan and other teams in the WCHA. Meanwhile, NMU, as we saw in Mankato last weekend, is pretty beat up right now. Of course, you can read lots more great coverage from Grand Forks' Brad Schlossman, whom we all miss in the WCHA.

Ferris State at Michigan State (Saturday only): The Bulldogs kept their unbeaten streak, now up to 14 games, going on Wednesday with a tie at Michigan and now face the Spartans in another matchup of old CCHA teams. Ferris State is now starting to get some national attention.

This week's USCHO notebook focuses on Huntsville's win, and check out Matt Wellens' and my picks for this weekend.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

So you're saying there's a chance

When the USA Hockey released its preliminary roster for the Junior National Team, officials said more players could be added for the training camp. For the Mavericks' Zach Stepan, that meant there was still a chance.

On Tuesday, Team USA indeed added more players to its roster, and Stepan was among those chosen. There are now 29 players on the roster. The final roster for the World Junior Championships will have 23 players.

Stepan will participate in the training camp Dec. 15-18 at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis before moving on to Sweden. The camp will include an exhibition game against Minnesota State on Tuesday night (Dec. 17) in Mankato, which means Stepan likely will be playing against his current teammates.

The World Junior Championships will take place Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Malmo, Sweden. 

Stepan is coming off a good weekend for the Mavericks. He had a goal and an assist in Friday's victory over Northern Michigan. He now has four goals and three assists in 12 games and is plus-3.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mavericks 3, Wildcats 0

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Lehrke keeps rolling: Zach Lehrke broke a scoreless tie at 11:16 of the third period to help the Mavericks to their fifth win in a row and second straight WCHA series sweep. The power-play goal was his eighth point in six games since returning to the team. He's been quite the catalyst for Minnesota State's surge over the last few weeks. I wrote more about Lehrke in my game story, but one key stat that didn't get in this: In 10 games without Lehrke in the lineup, the Mavericks were 4 for 46 (8.6 percent) on the power play. In six games since his return, MSU is 12 for 30 (40 percent).

2. Shutout for Huggins: Coach Mike Hastings went with Cole Huggins again on Saturday after the freshman got the win on Friday night. A week earlier, Huggins won on Friday and Stephon Williams got the start on Saturday. "I thought he earned another start," Hastings said. Huggins stopped 17 Northern Michigan shots for his second shutout of the season. Like his first shutout, the game was scoreless for most of the game. He didn't have to wait until overtime, though, as Lehrke got the Mavericks on the board with 8:44 to play. Huggins is 6-3-0 with a .932 SV% and a 1.80 GAA.

3. Depth comes through: Freshman center Jordan Nelson scored the Mavericks' second goal, less than two minutes after Lehrke scored. It was quite a shot, as Nelson had fallen to his backside and pushed the puck through the goalie's legs. It was a much-deserved goal for the line of Nelson, Max Gaede and Brett Knowles, who were rock-solid all weekend. "That was a real big moment for us," Hastings said. Add to that the play of the third group of defensemen, Sean Flanagan and Mat Knoll. Flanagan had two assists, and Knoll ate a lot of minutes, getting a chance with Casey Nelson out with a lower-body injury.

Around the WCHA: Alabama Huntsville 4, Bowling Green 3 (OT -- first win of the season for the Chargers!) ... Ferris State 3, Lake Superior State 1 ... Bemidji State 2, Michigan Tech 2 (OT) ... Alaska At Alaska Anchorage (late)

MSU vs. Northern Michigan - Game 2 live blog

Lines can be found below the live chat ...

12-LaFontaine ... 23-Blueger ... 19-Lehrke
26-Margonari ... 25-Stepan ... 22-McInnis
21-Grant ... 18-Leitner ... 9-Gervais
24-Knowles ... 16-Nelson ... 8-Gaede

27-Stern ... 7-Palmquist
28-Jutzi ... 5-Foguth
11-Flanagan ... 10-Knoll


Scratches: Buchanan, Herndon, Huntebrinker, Nelson, Nelson

9-Seckel ... 40-Vigier ... 29-Daugherty
7-Salminen ... 11-Sooth ... 15-Shine
22-Adair ... 20-Nowick ... 19-Aynsley
16-Johnson ... 3-Kesti ... 6-Taurence

27-Epp ... 14-Maschmeyer
4-Jones ... 25-Handley
23-Baker ... 42-Kaib


Referees: Chris Perrault, Brad Shepherd. Linesmen: Matt Anderson, Rick Nelson

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mavericks 3, Wildcats 2

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Attention, Team USA: Zach Stepan was left off the preliminary roster for the U.S. National Junior Team, which will play in the World Junior Championships after Christmas. If the team adds to the list (which officials said they might do, depending on injuries), Stepan made a good case for himself on Friday with a goal and an assist and a team-high six shots on net. He and Dylan Margonari had some good chemistry in the first period as each helped the other score and give the Mavericks a 2-0 lead. Whether Stepan makes the U.S. team or not, the Mavericks appear to have quite the young player. 

2. Leit's going on: The game-winning goal by Matt Leitner was a thing of beauty. Once again, it's too bad that this place doesn't have a jumbotron for folks to re-watch that goal in the building. I'd like to see it again. Maybe later this week. Leitner took a pass from Zach Lehrke (another power-play assist for him, by the way) as he gained speed in the neutral zone, and with other teammates waiting onside a the blue line, he skated in and zipped past three defenders standing like statues before shooting a quickie past goalie Mathias Dahlstrom. Leitner also did great work helping kill off more than a minute of 5x3 time for NMU during the second period.

3. Not deterred: The Mavericks outshot the Wildcats 41-16 and carried play most of the night. Minnesota State had the puck; Northern Michigan didn't. Still, the game was tied 2-2 before Leitner's goal at 11:52 of the third. The Mavericks let a 2-0 lead slip away, just as they did last Friday against Alaska Anchorage, giving up a goal late in a dominant first period. NMU tied the game with a power play 29 seconds into the third. But the Mavericks' dauber wasn't down; they kept playing with speed, kept making plays and kept getting good chances against Dahlstrom, who could have stolen that game. Instead, MSU won its fourth straight game and for the fifth time in six WCHA games.

Read my game story here. Game stats here.

Around the WCHA: Bowling Green 3, Alabama Huntsville 0 ... Bemidji State 2, Michigan Tech 2 (OT) ... Ferris State 5, Lake Superior 3 ... Alaska Anchorage 3, Alaska 2

MSU vs. Northern Michigan - Game 1 live blog

Lines can be found below the live chat ...

12-LaFontaine ... 23-Blueger ... 19-Lehrke
26-Margonari ... 25-Stepan ... 22-McInnis
21-Grant ... 18-Leitner ... 9-Gervais
24-Knowles ... 16-Nelson ... 8-Gaede

27-Stern ... 7-Palmquist
28-Jutzi ... 5-Foguth
11-Flanagan ... 10-Knoll


Scratches: Buchanan, Herndon, Huntebrinker, Nelson, Nelson

9-Seckel ... 40-Vigier ... 29-Daugherty
7-Salminen ... 11-Sooth ... 15-Shine
22-Adair ... 20-Nowick ... 19-Aynsley
16-Johnson ... 3-Kesti ... 6-Taurence

27-Epp ... 14-Maschmeyer
4-Jones ... 25-Handley
23-Baker ... 42-Kaib


Referees: Chris Perrault, Brad Shepherd. Linesmen: Matt Anderson, Rick Nelson

Friday morning skate (wind chill edition)

The Mavericks remain at home this weekend and will play Northern Michigan for the first time in school history. Northern Michigan was the team MSU essentially replaced in the WCHA in the late-1990s after the Wildcats jumped over to the CCHA. NMU was the first of that conference's leftovers to commit to returning to the WCHA after the Big Ten and NCHC were formed.

It's a big weekend for both teams, who are just one point apart in the standings. Minnesota State is hoping to stay hot -- or very warm, at least -- after winning three games in a row and four out of five conference games. Northern Michigan garnered just one point at home last week but has only lost once in its last seven games.

A few things to know about the Mavericks: Look for their lineup to stay close to the same as last week, although freshman defenseman Casey Nelson is out tonight with an upper-body injury. Coach Mike Hastings said he will decide on his starting goaltender after this morning's pregame skate.

Speaking of staying hot, check out my feature on MSU junior forward Jean-Paul LaFontaine, who certainly has been living up to his famous name over the last few weeks.

Read more about the matchup in The Free Press' gameday package.

As for the Wildcats, they are without senior captain and defenseman C.J. Ludwig, who suffered a season-ending knee injury a week ago. That's a big loss; Ludwig's been one of the league's best players so far. NMU is hoping its young players can step in fill his skates.

Minnesota State and Northern Michigan are the teams Matt Wellens and I know the most. We're predicting different outcomes for the series as part of our weekly USCHO picks.

Around the WCHA ...

Alabama Huntsville at Bowling Green: The Chargers remain winless on the season at 0-14-0 and that could cure what's been ailing the Falcons. But Bowling Green isn't taking anything for granted, having won just once in its last seven games.

Bemidji State at Michigan Tech: Pretty good series in Houghton this weekend between a couple of teams that aren't doing what was expected. The Beavers are scoring goals (but also giving up a lot), while the Huskies are not (but are getting good goaltending). 

Ferris State at Lake Superior State: It seems like every week I ask, "Is anyone going to slow down the Ferris State train before it runs away with the WCHA?" The Bulldogs have the nation's longest unbeaten streak, now at 10 games. This  might be their biggest test of the season so far — on the road against a good Lakers team.

Alaska at Alaska Anchorage: Bragging rights, of course, are on the line when these in-state rivals meet, as is the Governor's Cup, the traveling trophy that they've played for for 20 years. But this year's games mean even more as WCHA points are up for grabs. Both teams also are hoping to break out of slumps, so there's even more incentive.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Stepan left off U.S. roster

Minnesota State freshman forward Zach Stepan was left off the preliminary roster of the U.S. Junior National Team, which was announced on Wednesday morning. 

Stepan participated in last summer’s Junior National Evaluation Camp, but was not among the 26 players invited to this month's training camp that leads up to the Dec. 26-Jan. 5 World Junior Championship in Sweden.

The list includes 18 players currently playing college hockey, none from the WCHA.

“It’s always going to be a little disappointing,” Stepan said after practice on Wednesday. “It was a little nerve-wracking coming into today. But that’s not what’s important right now. What’s important is getting points at home this weekend. Right now is Maverick time, and I’m just going to worry about the Mavericks.”

Stepan has three goals and two assists in 10 games this season. He missed four games with an upper-body injury.

There might be some hope for Stepan. Team USA general manager Jim Johannson said Wednesday that more players could be added to the roster next week due to potential injury concerns. The final roster, which will have 23 players, will be announced on Dec. 23.

Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings, who has been a U.S. assistant at two World Junior tournaments, said he has seen late roster additions before and that Stepan’s versatility would be valuable. He can be a top-six or bottom-six forward and can play power play and penalty kill, Hastings said.

“The best thing about Zach Stepan is that he’s always the same,” Hastings said. “He’s worried about what he can control, which is today. He hasn’t changed, from the process this summer, to starting the season really well, to having an injury, to coming back and being really good since.”

As part of its training camp, which begins Dec. 15, the U.S. team will play Minnesota State in an exhibition game on Tuesday, Dec. 17, in Mankato. The team will be coached by Minnesota coach Don Lucia.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

LaFontaine earns WCHA honor

Mavericks junior forward Jean-Paul LaFontaine netted this week's WCHA Offensive Player of the Week award for his five-point weekend in a series sweep of Alaska Anchorage last weekend. LaFontaine had three goals and two assists in the two games, including a two-goal, one-assist effort on Saturday.

LaFontaine leads the Mavericks in scoring with 11 points (6-5) through 14 games, with seven of his points coming over the last four games.

Other WCHA players of the week were Ferris State goaltender C.J. Motte (defensive) and Michigan Tech defenseman Shane Hanna (rookie).

McInnis, LaFontaine back on the highlight reel

For the second time this season, a Johnny McInnis goal off a pretty pass from Jean-Paul LaFontaine is among the NCAA's top plays of the week. Check out the video here.

McInnis' overtime winner against Bowling Green from Nov. 9 made that week's list.

Looking for all of this past weekend's highlights?