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)

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