Monday, December 29, 2014

Jutzi back with Mavs

Minnesota State junior defenseman Jon Jutzi is back skating with the team after leaving the team and school for a semester due to undisclosed personal reasons.

“He’s registered for school, he’s back in town and he’s skating with us,” Hastings said on Monday. “I think he’s in pretty good shape. I think he’s taken care of his body, which I thought might be a major issue.”

Said Jutzi: "I tried to stay in shape and skate as often as I could so if and when I came back I wouldn't be too far behind."

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Jutzi played in all 82 of MSU’s games in his first two seasons, compiling one goal and 14 assists. Last season, he ranked second on the team in blocked shots with 70 and was also plus-5, which ranked fifth on the team and third among defensemen.

“He was solid,” Hastings said. “His play last year, in a word, was reliable. He was consistent.”

Jutzi should provide some helpful depth to the Mavericks’ defensive corps, although, in his absence, the team has seen growth and development from players such as sophomore Casey Nelson and junior Blake Thompson, who were part-time players last season.

Hastings said Jutzi’s return doesn’t automatically move him in front of anyone on the depth chart, however.

“From a depth standpoint, (Jutzi) can potentially help us,” Hastings said. “But the guys we have, up to this point, have done a pretty good job. … We’ll wait and see how he practices.”

Jutzi said he wasn't going into any details about his departure. But, as he said in September, it was always his intent to return to MSU after Christmas.

"I just want to help the team any way I can," he said.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mavericks remain third

There was a change at the top of the U.S. College Hockey Online rankings this week, but Minnesota State remained No. 3 in the poll. The Mavericks received six first-place votes.

Boston University moved up to No. 1, while North Dakota slipped a spot to No. 2. Harvard and Michigan Tech flipped positions, going to No. 4 and 5, respectively.

Bowling Green, the other WCHA team in the poll, remained 13th.

Those positions were the same in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings, although the Mavericks received no first-place votes in that poll.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Flu outbreak cancels second Princeton game

Saturday night's Minnesota State men's hockey game against Princeton has been cancelled due to an illness that has affected several members of MSU's team.

"At this point (around 2 p.m.) Saturday, we're sick and getting sicker," coach Mike Hastings said. (Read more on The Free Press website here.) "We couldn't have put a team on the ice."

Athletic director Kevin Buisman, in a press release sent out Saturday afternoon, said:

"Several members of our men's hockey team have come down with the flu and we do not have enough healthy student-athletes to field a team tonight. After consulting with several stakeholders, including the NCAA, Verizon Wireless Center and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and discussing our options, it was decided to cancel the game. There were several complicating factors in the decision which involved facility scheduling, individual and team travel and the fact that there is no guarantee that we would have enough bodies to play tomorrow. We know that our fan base and those that follow us would have wanted to see the third-rated Mavericks play tonight and hope everyone can understand this difficult situation and the issues we faced in coming to this decision."

Buisman said that the game would be declared a "no contest" and that plans for ticket reimbursement will be announced at a later date.

According to NCAA policies and guidelines, no contest may be declared in cases in which a team cannot participate due to illness, weather conditions, vehicle breakdowns, etc. It is not a forfeit.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Princeton coach Ron Fogarty said in a release. "As our staff, our priority is to the well-being of the student-athlete."

Minnesota State is off until Jan. 2-3 when it will play a WCHA series at Northern Michigan.

The third-ranked Mavericks defeated Princeton 5-0 on Friday night. With the cancellation, they closed out the first half of their season with a 13-4-0 record.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Mavericks 5, Tigers 0

Photo by Pat Christman
Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Huggins is back: After some early-season struggles, Cole Huggins put together his best game of the season in goal, stopping 15 shots for his seventh career shutout. Now that might not seem like a busy night, but he had to be really good early on (nine shots in the first period) as his teammates were a little slow out of the gate (shots were 9-2 midway through the first) and Princeton had several good scoring chances. He's now in a four-way tie for the Mavericks' career shutout lead with teammate Stephon Williams and former players Mike Zacharias and Eric Pateman. You can read more about Huggins' night in my Free Press game story.

2. Stepan up: Another player who has gotten off to a slower start, at least statistically, is sophomore forward Zach Stepan. He, too, had a great game, assisting on three goals and finishing plus-3. "He was good," coach Mike Hastings said. "I think there's been an attention to detail that's helping him, but that's coming from him. I think he's done something with coach Knott and coach Blue as far as doing some extra work besides what we ask in practice." Stepan assisted on goals by Zach Palmquist, Dylan Margonari and Max Gaede.

3. One for the Gator: Gaede's goal was his first of the season and just the seventh of his career. The senior forward has now played in 129 games (all in a row) and has carved out a spot on the Mavericks' fourth line or energy line. He seems to get plenty of scoring chances but has trouble finishing. Even though the game was well in hand when he scored MSU's fifth goal with 5:57 remaining in the game, the bench reacted like it was a tiebreaker. Well-liked player who works hard out there. He had two goals last season and one the year before. Gaede is plus-9 for the season. Bryce Gervais and C.J. Franklin had MSU's other goals. Gervais' was his team-leading 11th.

Around the WCHA: Ferris State 5, Lake Superior State 2 ... Bemidji State 4, Northern Michigan 2 ... Minnesota Duluth 3, Michigan Tech 1 ... Alaska 2, Alabama Huntsville 1 (OT)

Minnesota State vs. Princeton — Game 1 live blog

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Friday Morning Skate

The No. 3 Mavericks will close out what's so far been a successful first half of the season with a nonconference series against Princeton at the Verizon Wireless Center.

Minnesota State's veteran depth up front has been a common theme over the last 2 1/2 months, but two rookies are making big impacts on this team. C.J. Franklin and Brad McClure certainly aren't playing like first-year players thus far.

For more on the series, check out The Free Press' gameday preview, too.

It's a big weekend for MSU sports, with the football team hosting a national semifinal game on Saturday afternoon. There's also thoughts going out to athletic director Kevin Buisman, who recently revealed that he has cancer.

Going around the WCHA ...

Minnesota Duluth at Michigan Tech: The series of the weekend takes place in Houghton where the No. 9 Bulldogs take on the No. 4 Huskies. This will be the 226th and 227th meetings between the two teams, who are now nonconference foes, but perhaps one of the most meaningful.

Lake Superior State at Ferris State: The Lakers and the Bulldogs meet in Big Rapids where the home team needs to win a couple of games if it wants to stay in the hunt for home ice over the second half of the season. After this weekend, 10 of Ferris State's next 12 games are on the road.

Northern Michigan at Bemidji State: This should be another good series and an important one for possible movement within the league standings. Bemidji State has seen recent improvement after losing a bunch of close games. Special teams has been a big difference between losing and winning.

Alabama Huntsville at Alaska: In Fairbanks, the Nanooks, coming off their series split in Mankato will host an improved Chargers team, one that has its sights on taking postseason-ineligible Alaska's place in the league playoffs at the end of the year.

For more on the WCHA (and the UMD-Tech series) check out Jack Hittinger's and my USCHO column this week. Also see who we pick in this weekend's games.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hastings 'concerned' about civic center cuts

Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings on Tuesday said he is "concerned" about the slim and trim budget and proposed cuts to the Verizon Wireless Center project and hopes that money can be found to get the things his program needs during next summer's renovation.

"It's not a Band-Aid," he said in a story published in Wednesday's Free Press. "It's the future."

As in the future of the program.

During Monday's Mankato City Council meeting, City Manager Pat Hentges reported on the cuts and said that Minnesota State is going to have to come up for the money to pay for things like therapy whirlpools, steam rooms, a reception area, displays and other items.

Those items, Hastings said, not only were expected to be in the final project but things like the whirlpools are vital, items in the modern care of the players through injury.

The cost of the civic center expansion project is just under $31 million, but the hockey portion of the project is set at just $4.7 million, and now there is a shortfall of at least $444,000.

Hastings said he was told since the day he was hired that state bonding money would take care of the facility issue that Minnesota State has at the civic center and All Seasons Arena, its part-time practice home (and current full-time home of the MSU women's team). 

After officials toured Bemidji's now 4-year-old, $75 million Sanford Center (they also toured the 4-year-old, $80 million Amsoil Arena in Duluth recently), Hastings was told that MSU's renovation would be far better than what Bemidji has. Now, he's not so sure.

He's also seeing the arena arms race escalate, with Nebraska Omaha opening an $82 million on-campus arena next season, Minnesota proposing $8 million or more in locker room and other renovations to Mariucci Arena and even hockey's crown jewel, North Dakota's Ralph Engelstad Arena, getting a multi-million-dollar locker room update (link includes video of the completed project).

"We're at a point of importance," Hastings said.

And, oh by the way, there's still no talk about a video scoreboard.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mavs fall, rise to No. 3

Following their home split with Alaska over the weekend, the Mavericks moved to No. 3 in both national polls.

I say moved, because they went down one spot in the U.S. College Hockey Online rankings and up a position in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings.

Ah ... rankings.

North Dakota stayed No. 1 in both polls. Boston University is No. 2, Michigan Tech is No. 4 and Harvard is No. 5.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mavericks 5, Nanooks 2

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Hat tricks for everybody: For the fourth time this year — the fourth time in MSU's last five series — a Minnesota State player has recorded a hat trick. On Saturday, it was Dylan Margonari's turn to join the club (members also include Bryce Gervais, Teddy Blueger and Brett Knowles). Margonari had a "special" night, to use coach Mike Hastings' word. The junior center's speed and fearlessness was just what the Mavericks needed against a tough Alaska team that seemed to present some matchup problems for them at times. Margonari scored a power-play goal in the second period, got the game-winner 41 seconds into the third when the game was tied 2-2 and completed the trick in the final minute after an unselfish set-up from Teddy Blueger.

2. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: PucKato has given a lot of praise to Stephon Williams in recent weeks, but he struggled again on Saturday. After Alaska scored two second-period goals to erase MSU's 2-0 lead, Hastings finally made the switch and put Cole Huggins in for the third period. Williams allowed seven goals on 34 shots over five periods and an overtime against the Nanooks, including two goals on just eight that got to him on Saturday. I'm sure he would have liked a better result against his hometown team. Huggins faced only six shots to get his first win of the season and helped the Mavericks kill a major penalty in the process. Hastings said he has confidence in all three goaltenders, but he probably doesn't like having to tinker with the position at this point. Curious to see what happens going forward.

3. Casey at the point: The Mavericks got off to their 2-0 lead thanks to sophomore defenseman Casey Nelson's performance on the power play. He scored the game's first goal and assisted on Margonari's first goal. He now has 14 points, which ranks fifth on the team in scoring. Nine of the points have come on the power play. "The kid is growing up right in front of our eyes," Hastings said. As a freshman, Nelson, the brother of former MSU defenseman Josh Nelson (the two were teammates last year) had just five points in 19 games. "He plays a calm game," Hastings said. "The young man has spent time developing his trade, and I don't think he's afraid to play the game. He wants the puck at important times." Thanks, in part, to Nelson, the Mavericks' power play finished 3 for 5 on Saturday.

Read my game story here.

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

Minnesota State vs. Alaska — Game 2 live blog

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Nanooks 5, Mavericks 4 (OT)

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Streak comes to an end: So there was a moment on Friday evening when Lake Superior State had leads of 3-0 and 4-1 over North Dakota, and it was easy to think about the curse of No. 1 and what it might mean next week if indeed UND lost and Minnesota State moved up to the top spot. Never mind. Not only did North Dakota come back and win that game 7-4 but MSU lost, too, falling 5-4 to Alaska in overtime and seeing their six-game winning streak come to an end. It was a wild and wacky game, especially in the third period and overtime, with the teams trading five goals and having an Alaska goal awarded via review 29 seconds after it happened. MSU freshman Brad McClure scored a falling-down game-tying goal with 3:20 left in regulation. But it was another rookie, Austin Vieth, who potted the winner at 2:59 of OT.

2. Pressure's on: Alaska did a good job sustaining pressure in the MSU end, winning races to rebounds and loose pucks and forcing turnovers. The Mavericks ended up stuck on some long defensive shifts, including on the game-winning goal. The Nanooks just seemed to have that slight edge on Friday that allowed them to upset the Mavericks. "We're a hard-working team," said Vieth, who also scored the reviewed goal, initially ruled to have gone off the crossbar. "We have a bunch of guys who work hard. We don't have all the skill in the world, but when we work hard it shows up."

3. Jones outduels Williams: Alaska goaltender Davis Jones stopped 38 of 42 shots, including 16 of 17 in the first period to get the win, his fifth of the year. Meanwhile, the Mavericks' Stephon Williams lost for the first time since Nov. 1, stopping 21 of 26 shots. Not his best night. He allowed five goals a week after scoring back-to-back shutouts on the road and two weeks after being a rock on the back end against then-No. 1 Michigan Tech. On Friday, he certainly could have used a little more help clearing rebounds and clearing the zone from time to time. But he did the goal support that's usually good enough to win games.

Read more in my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Bowling Green 5, Northern Michigan 5 (OT) ... North Dakota 7, Lake Superior State 4 ... Bemidji State 3, Alaska Anchorage 3 (OT)

Minnesota State vs. Alaska — Game 1 live blog

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Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks are back home for the first time since Nov. 8 and after four games on the road, which has to be a good feeling for the No. 2 team in the country. Minnesota State will host Alaska in what ought to be an entertaining WCHA series at the Verizon Wireless Center.

One of the most impressive things about MSU has been its depth up front and, really, throughout the lineup. More proof of that came in the form of a hat trick from Brett Knowles last week. Patience certainly has paid off for the junior forward, who missed a big chunk of the beginning of the season while continuing rehab and recovery from offseason surgeries.

A couple of extra comments from Knowles that didn't make the story:

• "I think anyone playing the game here, really, they want to play, right? So it's just learning to be patient and learning to read your body and kind of letting it tell you when to go rather than push things too far."

• "We were successful before I came back, so I just tried to come in and, realistically, not disturb things too much. Just kind of be what I need to be."

• "Obviously, my track record hasn't been scoring goals like I did on the weekend. I just try to bring energy and speed to the game, and I was lucky enough to pot a few goals. So hopefully, that will continue, too."

For more on the Mavericks' depth and the Alaska series, see The Free Press' College Hockey Gameday preview here. Also, read more on goaltender Stephon Williams' improved play here.

As for the Nanooks, they are looking for more consistency after winning five in a row, losing five in a row and splitting their last two series. One player who has found some of that consistency is sophomore Marcus Basara. He has 10 points, including seven goals, in his last nine games after starting the season a bit slowly.

Going around the WCHA ...

Bowling Green at Northern Michigan: This has the makings of a great weekend, with a pair of top-20 teams squaring off. Falcons coach Chris Bergeron is calling it a "huge series," especially with the challenge of facing Wildcats goalie Mathias Dahlstrom. Northern Michigan returns home after a two-series road trip to Alaska, where it went 2-2-0.

Bemidji State at Alaska Anchorage: Both of these teams snapped long losing streaks their last time out. For the Beavers, who had lost seven in a row despite playing well, they are finally seeing an increase in scoring and hope that's a trend that continues for them. The Seawolves, meanwhile, are looking for more goals from their senior captains.

Lake Superior State at North Dakota: Things get no easier for the Lakers, who were shut out twice at home by Minnesota State last weekend. Off to No. 1-ranked North Dakota for the teams' first meeting in 41 years. Can UND avoid the curse of No. 1, which has bumped off Minnesota, Michigan Tech and Boston University in consecutive weeks? More good stuff from Grand Forks hockey writer extraordinaire Brad Schlossman here.

For more on the league, including, yes, more on Minnesota State's depth, read my and Jack Hittinger's USCHO column. And see our weekend picks here.

College Hockey News also has its thoughts on this week in the WCHA.

And the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune's Ryan Satkowiak gives his WCHA power rankings.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Williams honored — again

For the second week in a row, Minnesota State goaltender Stephon Williams was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week.

Hard to argue with handing him another, considering he shut out Lake Superior State twice on the road. Williams stopped all 45 shots he faced for the sixth and seventh shutouts of his career.

And here's something I missed while taking a little time off: Williams is now tied for the most shutouts in MSU history, joining Eric Pateman, who had seven shutouts between 1998 and 2002, and Mike Zacharias, who blanked seven teams from 2005 to 2009.

Williams is now 11-1-0 with a .931 save percentage. His 1.52 goals-against average ranks fourth nationally.

Other WCHA award winners this week were Michigan Tech's Alex Petan (offensive) and Bemidji State's Gerry Fitzgerald (rookie).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mavericks move up to No. 2

With its national-best six-game winning streak, 11-3-0 record and hold on the top spots in the getting-more-meaningful-everyday Pairwise Rankings, there was some thought that Minnesota State might be the No. 1 team in the nation on Monday when the opinion polls came out.

Several teams ahead of them, including last week's No. 1, Boston University, lost two of three following their rise to the top of the poll.

Well, the Mavericks aren't there yet.

They are, however, ranked No. 2 in the nation in the USCHO rankings, their highest position ever in the poll. North Dakota is No. 1.

The Mavericks received five first-place votes (North Dakota had 29) and were one of seven teams that received first-place votes.

Perhaps being No. 2 is a good thing for Minnesota State, as teams holding the No. 1 spot recently haven't fared too well the following week (BU, Michigan Tech, Minnesota). The Mavericks will host Alaska on Friday and Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center.

Other WCHA teams in the poll including Michigan Tech at No. 5, Bowling Green at No. 14 and Northern Michigan at No. 19.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mavericks 3, Lakers 0

Freddy's three thoughts from afar ...

1. Williams keeps rolling: What a story Stephon Williams is becoming. A great freshman year followed by a sophomore season in which he lost his starting job to Cole Huggins and now red hot again as a junior. He shut out Lake Superior State on back-to-back nights, stopping 21 shots on Saturday and 45 for the weekend. Say what you want about the Lakers, but Williams kept MSU ahead when both games were close. On Saturday, the Lakers' Gordon Defiel had stopped 30 of 31 shots through two periods. Williams now has a .931 save percentage for the season.

2. Stepan up: Sophomore forward Zach Stepan had a goal and an assist on Saturday, just his first goal and third assist of the season. That line appeared to Minnesota State's best of the night, with Dylan Margonari scoring MSU's first goal with Stepan and freshman Brad McClure assisting. Stepan scored the second goal, putting back the rebound of a point shot by sophomore defenseman Carter Foguth. All in all, the Stepan line continued to prove just how much depth the Mavericks have and how well they can play when the secondary scoring kicks in.

3. Sunday Funday: Just a couple of thoughts tonight, as I'm off for a few of days of R&R (look for me at Lambeau Field on Sunday). Back at it this week as the Mavs return home to take on Alaska and try to improve their winning streak to seven, perhaps eight, games (they have won nine of their last 10). In the meantime, don't forget to get your tickets at on Monday when $5 tickets will be sold for Cyber Monday.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Mavericks 7, Lakers 0

Freddy's three thoughts from afar:

1. Big night for B.K.: Brett Knowles had double hip surgery in the offseason, and his rehab has come along slower than he'd probably like. There have been setbacks, and as a result, he's played in just four games so far (including Friday). But he got a nice reward for the work he's put in by scoring his first career hat trick. In a phone interview after the game, coach Mike Hastings talked about the Knowles' effort and adversity to get back into the lineup,  and gave a lot of credit to new athletic trainer Masayasu Takaiwa for his part in Knowles' rehab. The fourth line of Knowles, Max Gaede (two assists) and Jordan Nelson was pretty good throughout the game.

2. Williams keeps rolling: It's easy to overlook the goaltender when a team scores seven goals, but give credit to Stephon Williams for his 24-save shutout, his first of the season and sixth of his career (he had one last season and four as a freshman). Ten of his saves came in the first period when the Mavericks had a 1-0 lead. They had a 9-1 shot advantage through part of the period but then were outshot 9-5 the rest of the way after going to the box twice. Williams made some a big saves to keep the score that way at intermission. The Mavericks scored four goals in the second period to open things up. Williams now has 10 victories and a .924 save percentage and 1.67 goals-against average.

3. Secondary scoring: Including Knowles and his line, it wasn't necessarily the usual suspects who did the scoring for the Mavericks. Chase Grant had a three-point game, including two goals, and Casey Nelson also scored a goal (and had an assist). Defenseman Sean Flanagan finished with three assists. One of the primary guys, Teddy Blueger, had the other goal, and Jean-Paul LaFontaine finished with two assists. Defensive partners Flanagan and Nelson each finished the game +3. The seven goals marked a season high and the most for the Mavericks since a 7-3 victory over Alaska Anchorage on this same weekend last year (Nov. 30, 2013).

Read more about the game here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 4, Alabama Huntsville 2 ... Ferris State 1, Wisconsin 1 (OT, UW wins meaningless shootout) ... St. Cloud State 6, Bemidji State 3 ... Northern Michigan at Alaska (late)

Friday Morning Skate

Happy Black Friday, everyone! I don't know about you, but I'm staying away from Mankato's malls and stores. Unfortunately, even if Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., seems like about as far as one could be from them, I'm not there with the Mavericks this weekend. I'll be monitoring their game via

For Minnesota State senior forward Jean-Paul LaFontaine, the trip to the Soo is a return to his onetime boyhood home. He and fellow senior Matt Leitner appear to be heating up over the last few weeks. Read more about that and the series in my College Hockey Gameday.

The Mavericks were also College Hockey News' Team of the Week. USCHO's WCHA column focuses on Northern Michigan as well as Minnesota State.

Going around the WCHA ...

Michigan Tech at Alabama Huntsville: The Huskies will try to bounce back from their two losses to MSU with a road series against the improved Chargers.

Northern Michigan at Alaska: The Wildcats continue their long road trip in Alaska, going from Anchorage to Fairbanks, while the Nanooks are trying to avoid another one-goal loss.

Ferris State at Wisconsin: The Bulldogs are looking to avoid being the Badgers' first victim this season. It's shocking that Wisconsin is winless on Thanksgiving weekend.

St. Cloud State at Bemidji State: The Beavers' tough schedule continues with a nonconference series against the Huskies. Bemidji State is on a six-game losing skid, against Minnesota State, Michigan Tech and Bowling Green. Brutal schedule.

Read my and Jack Hittinger's weekend picks here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NAHL's top scorer commits to MSU

Chandler Madry, the leading scorer in the North American Hockey League, announced his commitment to Minnesota State on Wednesday via Twitter:

The 6-foot-0, 190-pound forward from the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, has 39 points, including 12 goals in 26 games this season. The 19-year-old is a Denver native who spent some time playing in California and is in his third season in Fairbanks.

In a story about his commitment on the NAHL's website, Madry said, "Winning is what you're always striving for in hockey. I've got an opportunity to go to a winning program. I want to keep that going there and hopefully produce for them"

Last week, another NAHL player, defenseman Daniel Brickley committed to MSU. Brickley is a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder is from Sandy, Utah, who has seven goals and 19 points this season. He's also +11 in 22 games with 34 PIMs.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Williams earns WCHA award

Photo by David Archambeau, Daily Mining Gazette
Minnesota State goaltender Stephon Williams was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, following his backstopping of the Mavericks' sweep over then-No.1 Michigan Tech over the weekend.

Williams stopped 55 of 58 shots in the two games to improve his record to 9-1-0. The junior now has 35 career wins, which ranks fifth on the Mavericks' all-time list.

Ferris State's Chad McDonald was named Offensive Player of the Week, and Lake Superior State's James Roll was named Rookie of the Week.

For more on Williams' weekend read my series review from Monday's Free Press.

Release the polls!

For the first time in its Division I history, Minnesota State swept a team ranked No. 1 in a weekend series when it won a pair of WCHA games at Michigan Tech.

According to MSU sports information, the Mavericks have had other significant sweeps, including last year's home sweep of No. 2 Ferris State, a home sweep of No. 2 Wisconsin in 2005-06, a home sweep of No. 4 Denver in 2007-08 and a home sweep of No. 7 North Dakota in 2002-03.

So what did the then-No. 9 (No. 2 in the Pairwise) Mavericks and then-No. 1 Huskies do in this week's polls? Well, MSU rose and Tech dropped, but the flip-flop most people expected to see did not happen (except in the Pairwise). However, Minnesota State's No. 7 ranking in the opinion polls is an all-time high for the program.

Here's how they look:

1. Boston University (42 first-place votes), 8-1-1, 988 points
2. North Dakota (3), 9-3-1, 889
3. Minnesota (1), 7-3-0, 825
4. UMass-Lowell, 8-2-3, 806
5. Miami, 10-4-0, 764
6. Michigan Tech, 10-2-0, 748
7. Minnesota State (3), 9-4-0, 746
8. Minnesota Duluth (1), 9-5-0, 615
9. Colgate, 9-4-1, 575
10. Denver, 8-3-0, 572

Other WCHA teams in rankings: 15-Bowling Green, 19-Northern Michigan, RV-Ferris State. For full top 20 go here.

1. Boston University (27 first-place votes), 497 points
2. North Dakota (4), 447
3. Minnesota, 409
4. UMass-Lowell, 367
5. Michigan Tech (1), 358
6. Miami, 337
7. Minnesota State (2), 321
8. Minnesota Duluth, 241
9. Colgate, 236
10. Denver, 226

Other WCHA teams in rankings: 15-Bowling Green. For full top 15 go here.

1. Minnesota State
2. Nebraska Omaha
3t. Minnesota
3t. Michigan Tech
3t. Minnesota Duluth
6. Boston University
7. Miami
8. Bowling Green
9. Vermont
10. Denver
11. North Dakota
12. Quinnipiac
13. UMass-Lowell
14t. Harvard
14t. Penn State
16. Yale

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mavericks 3, Huskies 2

Freddy's three thoughts of the game

1. Playoff-esque: Circle Feb. 27-28 on your calendar. Minnesota State's last regular home series of the season. That's when the Mavericks will have a rematch against Michigan Tech. Although there's a lot of hockey to be played between now and then, my guess is that will be a pretty meaningful series, possibly with MacNaughton Cup consequences. This was simply fabulous weekend of well-played hockey between two very good college hockey teams, and Minnesota State was able to come out on top each night and sweep the previously unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Huskies. It probably could have gone either way or been a split or a three-point series for someone or a couple of ties. "It was a road game, and we knew it would be hard," Matt Leitner said. "We knew there weren't going to be any tic-tac-toe plays. We had to get bodies to the front of the cage. ... We had to keep it simple."

2. Senior salute: The old guard got it done for the Mavericks, with Leitner and LaFontaine scoring third-period goals (each assisting on the other's, too) to give their team a 3-1 lead. Leitner's shot was a slow one that hit off a defenseman and deflected past goalie Jamie Phillips. LaFontaine made a hustle play to the goal line to retrieve a 50-50 puck and, noticing Phillips out of position went behind the net and scored with a wrap-around. They've only had two of them, with the last one coming three years ago, but Saturday nights in Houghton have been pretty special for the duo. Credit senior defensemen Brett Stern and Zach Palmquist for their back-end play, and senior forwards Chase Grant and Max Gaede for adding their veteran grit, too.

3. Getting the Willies: Stephon Williams had his best weekend of goaltending since his freshman season. He stopped 25 of 27 shots on Saturday and 55 of 58 on the weekend for the big sweep. Again, a lot of credit has to go to his teammates for keeping the sheet clean in front of him and keeping Tech clear of the scoring areas for the most part. But he stood tall in the second half of the third period for the sweep when the Huskies made their big push and MSU took three penalties over the final 8:40. Tech scored on the third power play, a rebound goal, but he stopped 13 of 14 shots in the third, including 6 of 7 when his team was short-handed in the frame. He has nine wins now. "The young man has put in a lot of work — physically, preparation-wise and mentally," coach Mike Hastings said. "It's nice to see him rewarded for that dedication."

Deep thought: I tweeted this out earlier, but if you're a college hockey fan, you have to make the trek to Houghton for a Michigan Tech game or two. Great student atmosphere, great pep band, great traditions. As college hockey grows in non-tradition places and in big mega-conferences (which is great for the sport), it needs to continue to latch on to the its roots. It's here in the U.P. Worth the drive and, yeah, even worth the weather.

Read my game story here.

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

MSU at Michigan Tech — Game 2 live blog

Click on the post title above or go here to join the live chat.

15-Franklin, 23-Blueger, 9-Gervais
21-Grant, 18-Leitner, 12-LaFontaine
25-Stepan, 26-Margonari, 19-McClure
24-Knowles, 16-J. Nelson, 8-Gaede

7-Palmquist, 5-Foguth
27-Stern, 3-Thompson
11-Flanagan, 6-C. Nelson


Scratches: Buchanan, Huntebrinker, Knutson, A. Nelson, Schmeisser

15-Johnstone, 19-Pietila, 7-Sturos
23-Petan, 10-Kero, 14-Gould
18-Eick, 8-Steman, 9-Gillies
27-Heinonen, 25-Neville, 20-Hietala

2-Watson, 17-Sweeney
22-Hanna, 3-Roy
6-Leibinger, 29-Hyland


Referees: Mike Elam, Jarod Moen. Linesmen: Eric Froberg, Dan Juopperi

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mavericks 2, Huskies 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Little Willy Willy won't give up goals: As I write in my gamer (link below), all eyes were on Michigan Tech goaltender Jamie Phillips, who was outstanding in shutting out the Mavericks for almost 52 minutes on Friday night. But when the Mavericks scored two quick goals and took a 2-1 lead with 8 minutes to play, attention turned to Stephon Williams in the MSU net. Williams played his best game of the season, maybe his best game since his freshman year and stopped 30 of 31 shots for the win over No. 1 Tech. He had 15 saves in the third period alone and stopped seven shots on the penalty kill. He gave a lot of credit to his teammates for they way they defended. "I had a lot of games where I faced just 15-16 shots," he said. "I know that's not going to happen all year. But when you do give up a lot of shots, it's the quality (of shots) you're giving up. I'm fortunate that my team doesn't give up a lot of quality chances."

2. Stern warning: It's probably not often that you see Teddy Blueger defer to Brett Stern for a quality goal-scoring opportunity, but that's what happened on the game-tying goal. Good work by rookie C.J. Franklin to bust down the ice on the forecheck and get the puck to Blueger and to Blueger for noticing Stern sneaking down toward the hash marks where he fired a shot that "had eyes" (Stern's words) and beat Phillips above the blocker. Stern, a senior defenseman has five career goals now, two this season. "Brett's done a better job over the last year and a half working on his offensive game," coach Mike Hastings said. "And he's been rewarded for that work." Stern actually led the Mavericks in the game with six shots on goal. Sophomore defenseman Carter Foguth also picked up a point, is first of the season, assisting on Dylan Margonari's game-winning goal.

3. Knocking off No. 1: The Mavericks certainly seemed to keep the win over the top-ranked Huskies in perspective. After all, it's still November. Lots of hockey left to be played. Including Saturday night's series finale. "It's good to beat a top-ranked team," said Margonari, who scored his third goal of the season and the 21st of his career. "But we've still got business to do tomorrow. We've got to try to get that sweep." Stern echoed those sentiments, saying "It's just another game. Every weekend is going to be tough." The Mavericks are still chasing the Huskies in the WCHA standings, too, and trying to keep pace with Bowling Green. "(Tech coach) Mel (Pearson) and I talked about this before the game," Hastings said. "This league is difficult to play in — every single weekend. It's got great goaltending, great coaches and guys who compete their tail off."

Read my Free Press game story here.

Around the WCHA: Alabama Huntsville 3, Ferris State 2 (!) ... Bowling Green 3, Bemidji State 1 ... Alaska 7, Lake Superior State 5 ... Northern Michigan 1, Alaska Anchorage

Minnesota State at Michigan Tech — Live blog

Click on the post title above or go here to join the live chat.

15-Franklin, 23-Blueger, 9-Gervais
21-Grant, 18-Leitner, 12-LaFontaine
25-Stepan, 26-Margonari, 19-McClure
24-Knowles, 17-Huntebrinker, 8-Gaede

7-Palmquist, 5-Foguth
27-Stern, 3-Thompson
11-Flanagan, 6-C. Nelson


Scratches: Buchanan, Knutson, A. Nelson, J. Nelson, Schmeisser

28-Baltus, 19-Pietila, 7-Sturos
23-Petan, 10-Kero, 14-Gould
27-Heinonen, 25-Neville, 15-Johnstone
18-Eick, 8-Steman, 9-Gillies

2-Watson, 17-Sweeney
22-Hanna, 3-Roy
6-Leibinger, 29-Hyland


Referees: Mike Elam, Jarod Moen. Linesmen: Eric Froberg, Dan Juopperi

Friday Morning Skate

Greetings from the road. On my way to the U.P. to see No. 1 Michigan Tech host No. 9 Minnesota State. Could be a classic series between the two teams.

Who would have thought, just a few years ago, that this would be a matchup of top-10 teams? Read more about the series in The Free Press' gameday preview.

If you can't make the trip to Houghton, remember: the games are available (for a fee) on

Back in Mankato, initial plans were unveiled on Thursday night for the $30 million Verizon Wireless Center expansion project, which includes upgrades to Minnesota State's hockey facilities. The project is one MSU coaches Mike Hastings and Eric Means believe will be quite helpful for their programs.

For the first time this season, all 10 WCHA teams are in action against each other this weekend.

Read more about the league in the weekly USCHO column by Bemidji's Jack Hittinger and myself and check out our weekend picks.

Bemidji State at Bowling Green: The schedule gets no easier for the Beavers, who travel to Ohio to take on the Falcons. Bemidji is looking to end a four-game losing streak.

Northern Michigan at Alaska Anchorage: Speaking of losing streaks, the Seawolves have dropped five in a row and are back home after a long Michigan trip and must face the conference's best goaltender, Mathias Dahlstrom, and the Wildcats.

Alaska at Lake Superior State: The Nanooks, too, have dropped five in a row and must go on the road against the Lakers in hopes of finding their way back into the win column.

Alabama Huntsville at Ferris State: The Chargers must be feeling good about themselves after having some success, but the Bulldogs are, too, have hanging up 14 goals a week ago.

I'll get the live blog fired up shortly after getting to Houghton. More later.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How about the WCHA for Arizona State?

Arizona State on Tuesday announced that it is upgrading its club hockey team to the NCAA Division I level, making official news that had been rumored and talked about throughout the year.

The move, made possible by $32 million in donations, will happen over the next two seasons, with the Sun Devils playing a hybrid schedule involving D-I and club programs next year, followed by an independent D-I schedule in 2016-17 and conference affiliation in 2017-18.

So where will Arizona State land? The WCHA, perhaps?

Commissioner Bill Robertson said in a phone interview shortly after the news broke that "the WCHA is very interested in Arizona State University. I can say that we have started discussions with their program."

Robertson hinted as much over the summer, shortly after taking the position. Not naming names, he said he had talked to "western" schools in regards to league and college-hockey expansion.

"Part of my vision is to grow the WCHA and college hockey," Robertson said on Tuesday. "There's a lot of potential in the sun belt for growth in college hockey."

Not surprisingly, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference has reached out, too, according to a report in the Grand Forks Herald.

"I think they would be a wonderful fit to our conference," Robertson said. "There's a process in place. That's all I can really say."

Tech ranked No. 1, MSU stays at 9

When the schedules came out last spring and summer, people who follow the WCHA had an inkling that Nov. 21-22 had the chance to be a fun weekend, with Minnesota State traveling to Michigan Tech for a matchup of two of the better teams in the conference.

But now it looks like a matchup of two of the better teams in the country.

Tech, at 10-0-0 and the only undefeated team in the nation, indeed was voted No. 1 in the polls this week. The Mavericks, meanwhile, remained at No. 9 following their idle weekend. For what it's worth, the two teams are ranked 1-2 in the Pairwise Rankings. Click the previous link for my Free Press column.

In the USCHO top 20, there are four WCHA teams. Others include Northern Michigan at No. 17 and Bowling Green at No. 18.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

No. 1 on the horizon?

Minnesota State travels to Houghton, Mich., this weekend to take on Michigan Tech. Tech just might be No. 1 in the country by then after improving to 10-0-0 with a sweep at Bemidji State Friday and Saturday. The Huskies are the only undefeated team in the nation.

"Who would have thought we would be 10-0," coach Mel Pearson said. "I'm so happy for our players, fans and alumni. We're off to a good start, but we have a lot of hockey to go."

While it's waaaaaay too early to start taking the Pairwise Rankings seriously due to their volitility and the sport's obsession with them series to series, game to game, hour to hour, I must point out that, as of right now, the Mavericks-Huskies series will pit the top two teams in the rankings against each other.

Should be a fun series.

In other WCHA action over the weekend, Alabama Huntsville won a home game against a D1 opponent for the first time since 2010-11, beating Lake Superior State 5-2 on Saturday for a series split. The Lakers won Friday's game 1-0. ... Bowling Green split a series against Ohio State, bringing the WCHA's record against Big Ten teams to 10-4-1. ... Ferris State swept Alaska Anchorage on Thursday and Friday, outscoring the Seawolves 14-2.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday morning skate

The Mavericks are idle this weekend, resting up for next week's showdown against Michigan Tech. But here's what's happening around the WCHA and college hockey this week:

 • Ferris State and Alaska Anchorage kicked off their series on Thursday night, and the schedule change might have been just the shakeup the Bulldogs needed. After scoring just 11 goals in their first  nine games, including four in their last seven, they put a 10-spot on the Seawolves, winning 10-2. Anchorage coach Matt Thomas called it "rock bottom" for his team, which has lost four straight. Despite Anchorage's record in recent years, this was only the third time it has allowed 10 goals in a game.

• Bemidji State hosts No. 5 Michigan Tech and will try to be the first team to knock off the Huskies this season. "Bring it on," Beavers goalie Andrew Walsh said this week. Tech ranks second in the WCHA in scoring (behind MSU) with 3.5 goals per game and is second in defense (behind Northern Michigan), allowing 1.12 per game.

• Lake Superior State travels to Alabama Huntsville in the battle of the league's bottom two teams. But it's also a battle to see which team can continue an unbeaten streak. The Lakers won their last game, getting their first win of the season on Nov. 1 at Anchorage. The Chargers won and tied last weekend at Air Force and with their tie at Northern Michigan on Halloween, are unbeaten in three of their last four.

• Bowling Green will try to keep alive the WCHA's solid record (9-3-1) against the Big Ten with a home-and-home series against Ohio State. The Falcons, who have won three in a row since losing a series opener against MSU, moved into the national rankings this week. Read about BG senior forward Dan DeSalvo here.

• In our WCHA column this week on USCHO, Jack Hittinger and I take a look at Huntsville's awakening and Bowling Green's move into the national conversation. We also make or weekend picks.

• Don't tell anyone because they're way too volatile and it's a little sick to be looking at them in mid-November, but Minnesota State is No. 3 in the Pairwise Rankings. Four WCHA teams are in the top 13.

• Earlier this week, Ryan Lambert did his NCAA post for the fabulous Puck Daddy blog and wrote about his distrust of the WCHA's good start, lumping the league in with Atlantic Hockey as one of the nation's weaker conferences. Not sure that is a fair analysis of this season, so it sparked some twitter back and forth between Lambert and me that I'm sure you can find on my timeline.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mavs sign five recruits

Five recruits for next season signed National Letters of Intent to play for the Minnesota State men’s hockey team on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period. The class includes three forwards and two defensemen, including one defenseman who has college hockey experience.

Clint Lewis began his career at Cornell last season, playing in 32 games. However, he left the Big Red and currently plays junior hockey at for the United States Hockey League’s Sioux Falls Stampede. The 6-foot-2, 201-pound Burnsville native, 19, played for the U.S. National Team Development Program and participated in the U.S. World Junior Championship team’s evaluation camp this summer.

The group also has three other USHL players, Sioux Falls forward Ryan Schwalbe, Waterloo Blackhawks forward Max Coatta and Madison Capitols defenseman Alec Vanko, as well as Steen Cooper of the BCHL's Penticton Vees.

Schwalbe, 20, is a 5-11, 185-pound center, who had 38 goals and 85 points in two seasons (110 games) for Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault. From there, the Anchorage, Alaska, native went to the British Columbia Hockey League for one year before going to the USHL last season.

Coatta, 20, is a 5-10, 174-pound forward from Minnetonka, who had 17 goals and 35 points in 57 games for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL last season. In four seasons at Minnetonka High School he scored 89 goals and 190 points in 113 games.

Vanko, 20, is a 6-1, 174-pound blueliner from Oregon, Wis. He has four assists in 13 games and had 29 points in 50 games for the USHL’s Chicago Steel last season.

Cooper, 19, is a 5-9, 170-pound center from Duncan, British Columbia, who has seven points in 17 games this season. He also played 2 ½ seasons for Cowichan Valley of the BCHL before being traded to Penticton last season. Finished last year with 49 points in 65 games.

With six seniors on the current roster, it makes sense that there will be more signings for next year's team during the spring signing period. The Mavericks have other committed players, some of whom likely will play another year of junior hockey after this one.

The group of other committed players, includes (via junior league reports): Casey Jerry (F, Cedar Rapids Roughriders), Jake Jaremko (F, Chicago Steel), Jason Pawloski (G, Green Bay Gamblers), Charlie Gerard (F, Madison Capitols), Michael Bigelbach (D, Omaha Lancers), Josh French (F, Omaha Lancers), Parker Tuomie (F, Sioux Falls Stampede), Jason Krysch (D, Tri-City Storm), Marc Michaelis (F, Minnesota Magicians).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Blueger honored, Mavs move up

Minnesota State junior forward Teddy Blueger was named the WCHA's offensive player of the week for his performance over the weekend, including his first career hat trick. He finished the Bemidji State series with four goals and an assist, scoring twice on the power play and once short-handed.

I was wondering if he or Bryce Gervais (who earned the league honor a couple of weeks back) would be named. Gervais has been on a tear — he also had five points against the Beavers — and leads the country in scoring.

I have to give some credit to the WCHA from avoiding a lot of co-players of the week over the last season or so (after many years of doling out too many), but this certainly was a case in which these linemates could have shared the award.

The league also awarded Bowling Green goalie Tommy Burke (defensive) and Alabama Huntsville forward Brennan Saulnier (rookie) for their weekend work. Read more here.

Meanwhile, Minnesota State moved up to No. 9 in both national polls, USCHO and USA Today/USA Hockey.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mavericks 5, Beavers 3

Photo by Trevor Cokley
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Teddy Hockeygame: Teddy Blueger is the subject of my Free Press game story, but he has to be mentioned here, too. His hat trick, which included a pair of power-play goals 59 seconds apart in the first period, led the Mavericks to the win and series sweep over a relentless Bemidji State team. He's shooting the puck more, so much so that he leads the team in shots on goal, and is showing more and more confidence as a player. He finished the weekend with five points, just as his linemate, Bryce Gervais, did. Seems like one of those two will be the WCHA offensive player of the week. Question is, which one?

2. Margo moves up: Dylan Margonari was overshadowed a bit by Blueger and Gervais, but he was another junior forward who had a rock-solid weekend, finishing with three points and showing off his dangerous speed. His offensive-zone faceoff win and shot on goal in the first period led directly to rookie Brad McClure's first-period goal. (McClure's fourth of the season). "You know what, Dylan had a good weekend," coach Mike Hastings said. "I think Dylan's healthy. I think when he's healthy his mind gets right. It's hard to play when you're not 100 percent. I thought he did a real good job, preparing of the weekend, and to see him get some success that should help him down the road. I thought he was real good both nights."

3. Gotta close: The Beavers kept themselves in the game, just as they did on Friday night, with some late-period goals. That's certainly an area, the Mavericks hope to clean up as they go forward. Phil Brewer made it 3-1 with 2.5 seconds left in the first period, and Graeme McCormack scored on the power play with 1:42 left in the second, making it 3-2. Fortunately for MSU, Blueger completed his hat trick with 25.9 seconds left in the period. Bemidji State even added their third goal with 10.5 seconds left in the game. One area where the Mavericks were able to close things out in the third period was on the penalty kill. They were called for three penalties in the final 8:27 and kept the Beavers' power play off the board. But that's fire they don't want to keep playing with.

Deep thought: Some folks were wondering about Brett Stern's 10-minute misconduct that put him in the penalty box for a good chunk of the second period. No real details other than it was something he said to the official.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 3, Alaska Anchorage 1 ... Northern Michigan 2, Ferris State 0 ... Alabama Huntsville 3, Air Force 3 (OT) ... Bowling Green 3, Alaska 2

MSU vs. Bemidji State — Game 2

Join the chat by clicking the post title above or by going here. ... Tonight's lines:

15-Franklin, 23-Blueger, 9-Gervais
21-Grant, 18-Leitner, 12-LaFontaine
25-Stepan, 26-Margonari, 19-McClure
17-Huntebrinker, 16-J. Nelson, 8-Gaede

7-Palmquist, 5-Foguth
27-Stern, 3-Thompson
11-Flanagan, 6-C. Nelson

29-A. Nelson

Scratches: Buchanan, Knowles, Knutson, Schmeisser

23-Gerbrandt, 11-Arentz, 18-Harms
9-Marinaccio, 13-Ward, 8-Parker
15-Heller, 21-Fitzgerald, 26-Fitzgerald
22-O'Connor, 27-Cain, 19-Brewer

28-Beauvais, 4-Windle
20-Rendle, 7-Prapavessis
25-Pedan, 12-McCormack


Referees: Chris Perrault, Brad Shepherd. Linesmen: Neil Missling, Matt Tyree

Friday, November 7, 2014

Mavericks 6, Beavers 3

Photo by Pat Christman
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. They've got a lot of Gerv: Wrote a lot about Bryce Gervais in my game story, but what a roll he's on right now. After scoring two goals and assisting on two others, he's tied for the national lead in goals and points. He's putting himself into scoring spots and, more importantly, finishing when he gets there. On Friday, his goals came key times. The Mavericks were in a bit of trouble after two periods, trailing by a goal and having lost all momentum. Gervais tied the game on the power play less than 3 minutes into the third and added another power-play goal with 5:14 to play to make it 5-3. "He's a goal scorer," said Matt Leitner, who had a three-point game. "He gets in all the right spots. He finds the right places to be." Solid nights, too, from Dylan Margonari (pictured) and Teddy Blueger.

2. Unsung heroes: Senior defenseman Brett Stern scored the game-winning goal, firing in a shot from the left point. From the VWC press area, it appeared that the puck changed direction on goalie Michael Bitzer. It was Stern's first goal of the season and the third of his career. But this thought is also about junior Blake Thompson, who had the first assist on the goal. Thompson appears to be getting more comfortable in his spot. He played in just in nine games before this season and now has a three-game point streak, all assists. He showed some poise under pressure as he found Stern and moved the puck across the top of the zone. "He's keeping the game real simple," coach Mike Hastings said. "He's not trying to do too much." Thompson was +2 with two blocks and a penalty.

3. Surprise in goal: Hastings said he went with Cole Huggins in goal on Friday because the sophomore had a good week of practice and deserved a shot. Certainly, Huggins' resume from last year says enough not to give up on the guy. But he's struggled to start the season, and, after allowing three goals on 11 shots over two periods, he got the hook. Stephon Williams finished up, making just four saves, and got his sixth win of the season. Clearly, the Mavericks are trying to shore up their goaltending, though, because they don't give up a lot of shots (15 to the Beavers). Williams' save percentage is at .908 right now, above the 90% mark that coaches want, but not elite. Five goalies in the WCHA are above 93%, including Northern Michigan's Mathias Dahlstrom at .965 and Michigan Tech's Jamie Phillips at .957 after tonight.

Around the WCHA: Ferris State 1, Northern Michigan 0 (OT) ... Michigan Tech 2, Alaska Anchorage 0 ... Alabama Huntsville 4, Air Force 2 ... Bowling Green 3, Alaska 2

Minnesota State vs. Bemidji State

Click the title above or go here to join the live chat.

15-Franklin, 23-Blueger, 9-Gervais
21-Grant, 18-Leitner, 19-McClure
25-Stepan, 26-Margonari, 12-LaFontaine
17-Huntebrinker, 16-J. Nelson, 8-Gaede

7-Palmquist, 5-Foguth
27-Stern, 3-Thompson
11-Flanagan, 6-C. Nelson

29-A. Nelson

Scratches: Buchanan, Knowles, Knutson, Schmeisser

23-Gerbrandt, 11-Arentz, 18-Harms
9-Marinaccio, 13-Ward, 8-Parker
17-Fitzgerald, 21-Fitzgerald, 26-Fitzgerald
22-O'Connor, 27-Cain, 19-Brewer

28-Beauvais, 4-Windle
20-Rendle, 7-Prapavessis
25-Pedan, 12-McCormack


Referees: Chris Perrault, Brad Shepherd. Linesmen: Neil Missling, Matt Tyree

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks return home following their series split at Bowling Green to take on in-state rival Bemidji State in a WCHA series. Minnesota State ...

Minnesota State' Zach Palmquist is tied for the national scoring lead for defensemen. His nine points are tied for the Mavericks' and WCHA's scoring lead as well. Suffice to say, his decision to return for his senior season is paying for both him and the Mavericks.

How high up will Palmquist move up MSU's DI-era scoring list for defensemen? Here's where he stands:

  1. Kurt Davis 96 points
  2. Todd George 91
  3. Jason Krug 86
  4. Ben Christopherson 82
  5. Steven Johns 80
  6. Kyle Peto 78
  7. Zach Palmquist 76

Read the Freep's College Hockey Gameday here. And here are a few other series notes to keep in mind:

• Forwards Zach Stepan and Dylan Margonari sat out last Saturday's game with minor injuries, but both should be back in the lineup tonight. Both have practiced all week.

• Brett Knowles got his first game action on Saturday but continues to take precaution while recovering from this summers surgeries. Whether he plays or not this weekend likely would be a game-day decision.

• Bryce Gervais, who recorded his first college hat trick a week ago, is tied with Palmquist for the team scoring lead with nine points, including seven goals.

For Bemidji State, the line to watch out for is the trio of Nate Arentz (this week's WCHA offensive player of the week), Brendan Harms and Markus Gerbrandt. The Bemidji Pioneer takes a look at the relationship between good friends Arentz and Harms.

Going around the WCHA ...

Bowling Green at Alaska: Lots of stuff going on in Fairbanks right now, with the NCAA sanctions that have come down on the Nanooks. On the ice, the team is trying to focus on playing and not the distractions from the situation. Adam Wodon of College Hockey News says Alaska's punishment does not fit the crime. As for the Falcons, they're off to a good start, thanks, in part to their depth. However, coach Chris Bergeron would like to see his team's goaltending improve.

Alaska Anchorage at Michigan Tech: The Seawolves face a tough test by going to Houghton to take on the undefeated Huskies. But that test is nothing compared to what the scare sophomore Tanner Dusyk has been going through, something that has kept him off the ice thus far. Good story by  Doyle Woody.

Ferris State at Northern Michigan: The Bulldogs are looking for goals, and the Wildcats aren't giving up many in what has the makings of an important early season series.

Alabama Huntsville at Air Force: Mike Corbett returns to Colorado Springs to face his old employer in a nonconference series. The Chargers coach was an assistant at Air Force for 10 years.

In other conference coverage, Jack Hittinger and I examine the WCHA season thus far and make our weekend picks. College Hockey News also has a weekend preview.

Meanwhile, the Star Tribune takes a look at how the "Power 5" situation in the NCAAs might affect college hockey.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Alaska banned from postseason

The Alaska Nanooks are off to a good start this season at 5-3-0. But their hopes of playing in the playoffs were dashed on Wednesday when it was announced that they have been banned from the postseason due to a series of eligibility infractions involving 40 athletes in nine of the school's 10 sports between 2007 and 2011.

The ban comes with with other penalties, including scholarship reductions and a $30,000 fine. For hockey, the postseason ban includes the WCHA tournament.*

With the WCHA playoffs including the top eight finishers, the ninth-place team (provided it's not Alaska) will make the field this year. The Nanooks still could win the MacNaughton Cup as regular-season champion.

However, besides losing one scholarship for each of the next three years, Alaska must vacate its wins, points and individual statistics for games in which there was an eligibility issue.

According to a statement from UAF leaders, "these infractions are the result of university errors. They are not due to any wrongdoing by student athletes but rather stem from the university's failure to establish and maintain adequate systems to ensure that NCAA eligibility was being performed correctly. Our student-athletes are high academic achievers who display integrity in their sport These infractions are the university's responsibility, not theirs."

More details on the Alaska penalties can be found here. The 44-page NCAA report on the situation can be found here. Coverage from the Fairbanks News-Miner here.

Alaska will host Bowling Green in a WCHA series this weekend.

* The WCHA playoff ban makes sense, since you wouldn't want a team ineligible for the NCAA tournament to be in a position to win the league's at-large bid and cause certain chaos or be the team that prevents another team from winning the bid.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Falcons 3, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts from afar ...

1. Welcome to Splitsville: Most folks probably looked at this series as one in which a road split would be good for Minnesota State. And, at the end of the day, it probably was. Still, you win on Friday, and you tend to get greedy. The Mavericks weren't greedy enough, though, mustering one goal. They went 0 for 6 on the power play, which, Mike Hastings said in a phone interview after the game, "was our demise." The Mavericks and the Falcons split both of their regular-season series last year, which is something I feel like I've written about 384,000 times over the last week.

2. Franklin's big weekend: Freshman forward C.J. Franklin scored the Mavericks' lone goal, giving him a four-point series. He had three assists on Friday night and now has seven points (2-5) to rank tied for third on the team in scoring. Hastings had some additional praise for another freshman, Brad McClure, who led the Mavericks with seven shots on goal. Both players are off to fantastic starts, it seems, and certainly are getting opportunities.

3. Church is back in session: Apparently there's a new religion in northwest Ohio, the Church of Dufour. Kevin Dufour, Bowling Green's sophomore forward scored his team's third goal, giving him a nine this season, which leads the nation. He has scored in every game, except Friday, when the Mavericks shut him out. What's crazy is how he's become this Twitter sensation. Not sure I get it, but it can't be bad for the WCHA or for college hockey. Can Minnesota State fans get something like this going? What? And with whom? Send in your ideas.

Around the WCHA: Bemidji State 4, Alaska 3 (OT) ... Michigan State 4, Ferris State 1 ... Northern Michigan 4, Alabama Huntsville 1 ... Michigan Tech 6, Michigan 2 ... Lake Superior State at Alaska Anchorage (late)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Mavericks 5, Falcons 2

Freddy's three thoughts from afar ...

1. Trick is treat: Bryce Gervais recorded his first career hat trick on Friday night to lead the Mavericks to the impressive road victory over Bowling Green. The kid is on fire, and that hot streak goes back to when MSU made its run last year. In his last 15 games (seven this season), he has 14 goals and 20 points. In his last 23 games, he has 18 goals and 27 points. He continued to play on a line with center Teddy Blueger and left wing C.J. Franklin. Franklin, a freshman, assisted on three goals. He now has six points for his young career.

2. Taking over: The first 8 minutes of the game looked to be a back-and-forth, up-and-down-the-ice affair, not unlike MSU's game at Duluth two weeks earlier. Fastest pace of the season, coach Mike Hastings said. Bowling Green struck first, playing as aggressively as Hastings predicted they would. But after a Jean-Paul LaFontaine power-play goal evened the score, MSU really seemed to dominate time of possession and carry the play. In the rare instance that the Mavericks didn't have control, Stephon Williams was there to make a save — including a couple of acrobatic ones — to keep his team in front.

3. Casey at the stick: Sophomore defenseman Casey Nelson continues to improve, especially with his confidence. The brother of former Mav Josh Nelson, Casey had a goal and an assist against the Falcons, which gives him five points, equalling his total from his freshman year He also had three shots on goal, giving him 23 for the season so far, which ranks tied for second on the team. As for other defensemen, Blake Thompson recorded his first assist of the season, and Zach Palmquist had an assist to improve his point total to nine.

Deep though: The Mavericks kept the red-hot Kevin Dufour (eight goals this season) off the board, ending his goal-scoring streak to start the season. Dufour didn't register a shot on goal, either.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 4, Michigan 1 ... Ferris State 1, Michigan State 0 ... Alabama Huntsville 1, Northern Michigan 1 (OT) ... Bemidji State 6, Alaska 1 ... Alaska Anchorage 3, Lake Superior State 2

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks are on the road at Bowling Green this weekend in what could be a very good, entertaining series between two teams that played four one-goal games during the regular season last year with three of them decided in overtime.

The series also could also showcase that the WCHA is no slouch this season. Minnesota State certainly understands that, especially knowing there will be no more gimmes now that Alabama Huntsville has been played and is off the schedule (And can you really call UAH a gimme when Friday's game was scoreless after two periods?).

But the Huntsville series did help the Mavericks find some consistency in its lineup. Don't expect any changes from last week to this week. If there is a substitution this weekend, junior forward Brett Knowles is finally ready for some action. That and more in The Free Press' gameday preview.

As for Bowling Green, sophomore Kevin Dufour leads the nation with eight goals in six games and has fans worshiping his game.

Going around the WCHA ...

Michigan at Michigan Tech: For the first time since 1983, the Wolverines will trek all the way to Houghton for a series. It should be a fun weekend on the Keweenaw with Tech 4-0-0, Huskies coach Mel Pearson hosting his longtime boss, Red Berenson, and some of the sport's most famous trophies on display.

Alaska at Bemidji State: The Nanooks and Beavers begin league play after starting the season against some tough nonconference competition. Bemidji State has one win, playing against North Dakota and Minnesota, two of the top three teams in the country. Alaska is 5-1-0 in its early season schedule.

Ferris State at Michigan State: The Bulldogs look to bounce back from a pair of home losses to Michigan Tech against another in-state rivalry, an old CCHA cohort they've beaten four times in a row.

Lake Superior State at Alaska Anchorage: The Seawolves open league play at home where they hope to continue playing well. Meanwhile, the winless Lakers and their new coach have not gotten a break since playing a series on the first weekend that practice could begin.

Alabama Huntsville at Northern Michigan: This is a nonconference series between conference opponents, a quirk from a schedule set up before conference realignement. The Wildcats have not lost yet this season, and the Chargers have not one.

Check out Jack Hittinger's and my USCHO column as well as our weekend picks.