Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks are back home this weekend for a WCHA series against Lake Superior State, an improved  Lake Superior State, according to MSU coach Mike Hastings and according to the Lakers' last games, a tie/shootout win over Cornell and a win over Notre Dame to give them the Florida College Hockey Classic tournament championship. It's not the same team the Mavericks shut out a combined 10-0 over Thanksgiving weekend.

One could argue that fourth-ranked MSU isn't necessarily the same team either. A player who has emerged over that time is sophomore defenseman Casey Nelson. Nelson, who enters this weekend on an eight-game point-scoring streak has stepped out of the shadow of his big brother (Josh, who graduated last year and is now an assistant coach at Shattuck-St. Mary's) and become not only his own player but one of the top-scoring defensemen in the country.

As for the rest of the team, Hastings said one or both goaltenders could see action this weekend. Also, sophomore forward Zach Stepan, who was a scratch last Saturday due to an upper-body injury, has been cleared to play tonight. Junior defenseman Jon Jutzi, who returned to the team after Christmas is now on the the Mavericks' roster and could possibly make his debut soon.

As for the Lakers, read more about their recent success here.

Going around the WCHA ...

Ferris State at Alaska Anchorage: The Bulldogs and Seawolves began their series on Thursday night, with Ferris State winning 4-1 to snap a four-game losing streak. The two teams will complete the series and the Bulldogs will complete their four-game Alaska trip tonight.

Alaska at Bowling Green: Two of the hottest teams in the league square off in Ohio. For the host Falcons, who have the best winning percentage in conference play and have four games in hand compared to MSU, they control their own destiny. But the Nanooks go into the series with hopes of avenging a pair of home losses to Bowling Green earlier in the year.

Alabama Huntsville at Bemidji State: The Chargers go to northern Minnesota in a position it hasn't been in in quite some time, riding a three-game unbeaten streak, one that includes its first-ever WCHA sweep. That (along with Alaska's NCAA sanctions) puts Huntsville into a real competition over the second half of the season for a postseason opportunity. Bemidji State is among the teams trying to hold them off.

Michigan Tech at Northern Michigan: The U.P. rivals square off in a home-and-home series that starts tonight in Marquette. Both teams will try to keep pace in the playoff race, with the Huskies having their eye on a conference championship and the Wildcats hoping to improve and land an upper-division (home ice) position.

For more on the weekend, read Jack Hittinger's and my WCHA column on USCHO and check out our weekend picks. College Hockey News also has its weekend preview.

In case you missed it, the Minnesota State women's hockey team won its first game of the season on Wednesday, defeating Lindenwood 4-1. The two teams are playing a three-game series, which continues today and Saturday.

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