Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Morning Skate (Soo edition)

Minnesota State closes out the road portion of its regular-season schedule this weekend with a series at Lake Superior State. It's the first-ever meeting between the two teams, and it will take place in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

With four games remaining before the playoffs, the Mavericks are four points behind Ferris State in the race for the MacNaughton Cup. Catching the Bulldogs might be a tough task, but MSU can drop no further than its current second-place position over what is a very crowded WCHA standings. Lake Superior sits right in the middle of that group.

The only thing known for certain is that Ferris and MSU will finish in some order of 1-2 and Alabama Huntsville will be 10th. The question is: Will anything else be sorted out after this weekend's games.

One key to the weekend might be in goal where the Lakers' Kevin Kapalka (.931 save percentage) returned from injury last week. But there's a familiar face there, too, as senior Kevin Murdock began his career at Minnesota State before transferring.

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

Going around the WCHA ...

Bowling Green at Northern Michigan: The Falcons are also aware that time is running out on the season and that they could finish in a home-ice spot just as easily as they could miss the playoffs altogether. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are the team currently sitting in that ninth-place spot, this despite a favorable second-half schedule.

Alabama Huntsville at Bemidji State: Huntsville's travels this week were chronicled in the New York Times, and the article includes photos taken in Mankato two weeks ago. The Chargers are back on the road, this time at Bemidji, its longtime rival. The Beavers hope to avoid getting spoiled by UAH and keep itself in playoff position.

Ferris State at Alaska: The Bulldogs could clinch first place this weekend with a sweep and an MSU slip in the Soo. This will be not only Ferris' first trip to the state of Alaska this season but its first trip there since November of 2011. As for the Nanooks, they appear to be peaking at the right time, winning four in a row and six of their last seven. Alaska also has scored 26 goals in its last four games.

Michigan Tech and Alaska Anchorage are idle this weekend.

Matt Wellens kicks off our USCHO column with Ferris State not focusing on first place in the WCHA but on a bigger run in the postseason. Check out Matt's and my weekend picks here.

College Hockey Inc. put out a cool graphic this week with its state-by-state MVPs. It shows how many states (all but nine of the 50) are represented by college hockey players and the top ones from those states. There are two Mavericks on the list: California's Matt Leitner and Oklahoma's Chase Grant.

Meanwhile, it's playoff time in women's hockey and in the Division III ranks.

The Minnesota State women will play a first-round WCHA playoff series this weekend at No. 2 Wisconsin. The Badgers swept the Mavericks last weekend in Mankato and have only lost once to the Mavericks in the history of the series.

In St. Peter Saturday there will be a doubleheader with the Gustavus women and men playing back-to-back MIAC playoff games. Each team earned the No. 2 seed (the first time in 10 years the women did not win the league's regular-seasont title) and will face Bethel and St. John's, respectively. Those are semifinal games, with the championship games taking place a week later.

Finally, the Mankato West boys hockey team saw its season end for the second year in a row in the Section 1A championship game. New Prague won a game often dominated by West 3-2 with Trojans goalie Conner Wagner making the difference in the first two periods. Pat Christman has a photo gallery from the game here.

No comments: