Posting this late Thursday night since I'll be hitting the road to Marquette, Mich., early-early Friday morning for MSU's series against Northern Michigan.
The Mavericks are hoping to improve their road record, which is just 5-11 this season. They've won just one of their last six games away from Mankato. That's part of a stretch of games in which 10 of 12 games are being played on the road.
Their only road sweep this season was at Alabama-Huntsville on Dec. 13-14. Two wins this weekend would put MSU into a tie for first place in the WCHA.
After last weekend's two losses in the North Star College Cup, the Mavericks are hoping to get their penalty kill back on track. A strength of the team throughout the season, it dropped from fourth in the nation to ninth against Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State. Getting better in goal — I'd expect Cole Huggins to get the nod tonight — and cutting down that penalty-minute average, which leads the nation, likely will help.
Read more about the series in The Free Press' gameday preview here.
As for Northern Michigan, it will have a different look than the one that was swept at Mankato on Dec. 6-7. The addition of two freshmen, including sudden-impact forward John Siemer, have boosted the offense. At the same time, the Wildcats continue to be decimated by injuries on the blue line.
Around the WCHA ...
Michigan Tech at Bowling Green: Interesting weekend in Ohio. The Falcons are hoping to keep pace with MSU and Ferris State and make it/keep it a three-team race for the MacNaughton Cup. Meanwhile, the Huskies are trying to climb out from the bottom rungs of the conference ladder sooner than later.
Alabama Huntsville at Alaska: Like Tech, the Nanooks also seem to be a team too talented to wind up out of the playoffs in six weeks. They have a good chance to make a move with the Chargers in town. Huntsville is making its second trip to Alaska this season. Check out the Daily News-Miner's feature on Alaska's Garrick Perry.
The league race will be interesting down the stretch — make that league races, with first place, home ice and avoiding being left out of the postseason all on the line. Once everything has settled in March, none of the home teams will have a cakewalk to the Final Five, and that includes first and second place. ... That and more in this week's USCHO conference notebook by Matt Wellens and me.
Also, Matt and I give this week's picks.