Friday, December 5, 2014

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.

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