Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mavericks 4, Huskies 2

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Big win, big crowd: A record crowd of 5,446 was on hand Saturday night to see the No. 2 Mavericks bounce back from a somewhat disappointing tie (albeit in a good game) for a 4-2 win and a three-point weekend against the No. 3 Huskies. The fans were entertained, and so were the Mavericks by what they saw surrounding them in the Verizon Wireless Center. Chase Grant compared the crowd to games against Minnesota from his freshman season. "It's been a special year," the senior said, "and there's a lot of excitement about this team. It's cool to be part of the turnaround." For the weekend, the Mavericks had a series-record attendance figure of 10,618. 

2. Getting to four: Thanks to crack stat researcher Dan Myers, we learned tonight that it was the first time this season that Michigan Tech goaltender Jamie Phillips allowed four goals. Phillips has been, consistently, the best goaltender in the WCHA this season (.934 sv%), proving that with his 43-save performance on Friday. But the Mavericks got their defensemen better involved offensively in the rematch (goals from Jon Jutzi and Carter Foguth) and used a strong second-effort in front on a rebound (Dylan Margonari) to get to three. Bryce Gervais, who was snakebit on some great chances throughout the weekend, finally broke through gave the Mavericks a little cushion with a power-play goal that made it 4-2. "He's a guy, if he get enough chances, he's going to finish," coach Mike Hastings said of Gervais, who now has 21 goals.

3. Senior salute: It was the last regular-season game at home for six seniors: Leitner, Chase Grant, Jean-Paul LaFontaine, Max Gaede, Zach Palmquist and Brett Stern. They were honored after the game, and Hastings gave a nice tribute to them on the ice in front of a large percentage of the crowd that stuck around to celebrate the win. In classy fashion, Hastings gave a shout out to former MSU coach Troy Jutting and assistants Darren Blue and Todd Knott for recruiting the group and getting them to MSU before his arrival. He also brought MSU's first coach, Don Brose, on the ice, saying, "To the guy who built this program ... I want to say thank you." Hastings also thanked the fans for continuing to set record crowds. 

Deep thought: The Mavericks can clinch at least a share of the MacNaughton Cup with one point next weekend at Bemidji State.

Read my game story here. A few bodies in the press box tonight; here's a recap from Chris Dilks. And Jim Rosvold of U.S. College Hockey Online had a photo gallery.

Around the WCHA: Bemidji State 1, Ferris State 1 (OT) ... Lake Superior 3, Northern Michigan 0 ... Alaska 4, Alabama Huntsville 3 (OT) ... Bowling Green at Alaska Anchorage (late)

MSU vs. Michigan Tech — Game 2 live blog

The No. 2 Mavericks and No. 3 Huskies will try to top Friday night's excitement when they wrap up their series before a full house at the Verizon Wireless Center on Saturday night. Don't have a ticket? No problem! Follow along on the live chat. Click the blog post title above or go here to participate. The puck drops at 7:07 p.m.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Mavericks 1, Huskies 1

Photo by Trevor Cokley, The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Missed it by that much: Minnesota State can still win the MacNaughton Cup, but it will have to do it away from home. The Mavericks outplayed the Huskies, outshooting them 44-23 (out-attempted them 83-61), only to have to settle for an overtime tie. That keeps them one point ahead of the Huskies in the WCHA standings, but, with a win on Saturday, they can only go up by as much as three with four points still to be had on the final weekend when they're in Bemidji. Tech goaltender Jamie Phillips was just two good, making some crazy saves on some great looks. You could tell how much the Mavericks wanted to win so they could go for a sweep and a championship by their play in the final minute of regulation. Their desperation reeked of a team down a goal trying to force overtime, rather than a team simply trying to win.

2. Ready for the rematch? The fifth-biggest crowd to see a hockey game in Mankato was on hand Friday; 5,172 was the announced attendance. Saturday's game sold out before Friday's did, and one would hope that everyone shows up, even if there's no chance of a trophy celebration. Friday's game, while somewhat sleepy in the second period, ended up being a rollicking good time between two teams that both deserve their high ranking. "No. 2 and No. 3?" said Jean-Paul LaFontaine, the Mavericks' goal scorer. "Yeah, it's one of those games where it's like, 'Bring it. Everything we've got.' ... Obviously, we should have won the game, with 44 shots on net. But our team played well. Every line was rolling along."

3. Getting healthy: Although both practiced this week, Teddy Blueger and C.J. Franklin were held out of Friday's game due to injury. That's a lot of points on the shelf (17 goals, 47 points combined), especially in a game in which the Mavericks needed finishers. Still, the Mavericks are also looking out for the long term. After this weekend, there remains one regular-season weekend, the first round of the league playoffs, possibly a game or two in the Final Five and at least one NCAA tournament game (more, they hope, of course). Dylan Margonari and Brett Knowles were back in the lineup and quite effective, getting four and six shots on goal, respectively. Margonari had a mini-breakaway in overtime and missed just high over Phillips.

Deep thought: The Mavericks dropped a spot in the Pairwise Rankings with the tie (their third non-win in a row) to No. 2 behind North Dakota.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Bemidji State 2, Ferris State 1 ... Northern Michigan 5, Lake Superior State 0 ... Alaska 4, Alabama Huntsville 2 ... Bowling Green 4, Alaska Anchorage 3

MSU vs. Michigan Tech - live blog

It's a top-three matchup as No. 2 Minnesota State hosts No. 3 Michigan Tech at the Verizon Wireless Center. To join the conversation, click the blog post title above or go here.

Williams named Richter Award nominee

Stephon Williams
Minnesota State goaltender Stephon Williams was named one of 28 nominees for the Mike Richter Award, which is awarded to the most outstanding goaltender in college hockey.

Going into tonight's game against Michigan Tech, Williams is 19-4-2 with a 1.64 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.

Other WCHA goaltenders on the list include Bemidji State's Michael Bitzer, Alabama Huntsville's Carmine Guerriero, Alaska Anchorage's Olivier Mantha, Ferris State's C.J. Motte and Michigan Tech's Jamie Phillips.

A full list of nominees can be found here.

Friday Morning Skate

It's finally here.

The No. 2 Mavericks and No. 3 Huskies square off tonight at the Verizon Wireless Center, which should be jam-packed. Looking at the Ticketmaster page, there remain a few hundred seats for tonight's game but Saturday has been into standing-room-only territory since Wednesday. As for student tickets, Minnesota State reported that all of the free ones have been distributed but students could buy SRO tickets for $5 at the civic center.

Whether you have tickets or not, I'd suggest you get to the arena early to avoid long lines (to get into the building, to get a 21+ wristband, to get concessions) that could keep you in the concourse past the opening faceoff.

For MSU and Tech, their roads to becoming two of the best teams in the country began well before conference alignment. They began three and four years ago, respectively, when Mike Hastings and Mel Pearson were hired to try to turn them into winners. (The previous link also includes brief video interviews with three of MSU's six seniors: Zach Palmquist, Brett Stern and Chase Grant). Now, they'll play in a series that features 10 of the top 11 scorers in the WCHA.

More info about the series can be found in my College Hockey Gameday preview, including what a lot of people are wondering about: injuries. By Thursday, the Mavericks had every player on the ice for practice. Dylan Margonari and Brett Knowles are clear to play, but Teddy Blueger and C.J. Franklin were still "day to day," Hastings said. Sounds like a game-day decision on those two.

I also wrote about the matchup as the lead item to my and Jack Hittinger's USCHO column. We also make our picks for this weekend's WCHA matchups.

Going around the WCHA ...

Bemidji State at Ferris State: Two teams fighting for (presumably) the final home-ice spot square off in Big Rapids, where superstar goalie C.J. Motte might be playing the final home games of his college career. Beavers players are predicting a 'cage match' with so much on the line for both teams.  At the end of the season it very well may come down to some deep tiebreakers to award that spot (Northern Michigan is in the mix, too) as's Geoff Morris investigates here.

Northern Michigan at Lake Superior State: As mentioned above, the streaky Wildcats are in the mix for home ice, too, thanks, in part, to their upset sweep at Bowling Green last week. They have a good chance to make some hay this weekend against the Lakers (and might have to with a season-ending series against Michigan Tech next week), although Lake Superior State is hoping to lock down a conference playoff spot.

Bowling Green at Alaska Anchorage: Seems almost inevitable that the Falcons will finish in third place (they need only a tie to secure home ice), however, they probably don't like the mini-slump they're on right now, having lost three games in a row. They're trying to stay positive, though, considering any more losses could be a big blow to their Pairwise number. As for the Seawolves, as the Alaska Dispatch News' Doyle Woody writes, they're still in rebuilding mode under second-year coach Matt Thomas, even if they've taken two steps back after a big leap forward last year.

Alaska at Alabama Huntsville: The Nanooks are making their first trip to Huntsville since 1982 and don't have a lot to play for, considering their NCAA-sanctioned postseason ban. So it's a long trip for a team that's done playing at home, can't make the playoffs and is coming off a bye week. The Chargers, meanwhile, are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot after being one of the teams that sat out last year.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mavericks remain No. 2, Huskies up to No. 3

Need a bit more intrigue in this weekend's WCHA series between Minnesota State and Michigan Tech?

The teams will be two of the top three teams in the country when they meet at Mankato's Verizon Wireless Center.

Minnesota State remained No. 2 in the country in this week's U.S. College Hockey Online rankings, while Michigan Tech moved up to No. 3 in the poll. They own the same spots in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, each moving up one spot from last week.

Both teams were idle this past weekend and will meet at 7:07 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.

The first-place Mavericks sit just one point ahead of the second-place Huskies atop the WCHA standings and can win the MacNaughton Cup with two wins on the penultimate weekend of the regular season.

The Mavericks remained No. 1 in the Pairwise Rankings, which determine the NCAA tournament field. Michigan Tech is No. 5.

Mouillierat makes NHL debut

The Associated Press
Former Mavericks Kael Mouillierat (48 above) made his NHL debut on Saturday after getting an emergency call-up by the New York Islanders.

He played 9:07 with two shots and was -1 in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals. I watched the game briefly on the NHL Network and saw him go down and block an Alex Ovechkin shot (a brave feat) on what was a pretty good shift until he lost an edge and crashed into the left post of the Caps' net.

"He's probably going to get more minutes (Sunday),'' Islanders coach Jack Capuano told Newsday. "I liked the way he played down low. He had a big block there in the third. He didn't make any hope plays with the puck. He was simple."

On Sunday, Mouillierat actually played less, 7:46 with no shots and four PIM and was -1 in a 4-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Mouillierat, 27 became the 10th former MSU player to play in the big league, joining Tim Jackman, Ryan Carter, Grant Stevenson, David Backes, Steve Wagner, Jon Kalinski, Travis Morin, Tyler Pitlick and Eriah Hayes.

Prior to his call-up, Mouillierat was leading Bridgeport of the American Hockey League with 40 points, including 18 goals, in 51 games. While playing for MSU, Mouillierat compiled 92 points, including 49 goals, which ranks 14th in the program's Division I era.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Morning Skate

A quick skate through the WCHA before taking a little time off ...

Minnesota State is idle, of course, practicing but also getting as healthy as it can before next week's games against Michigan Tech. On Wednesday, coach Mike Hastings said the team's injured forwards — Teddy Blueger, C.J. Franklin and Brett Knowles — were all progressing but "day to day." Good news on the injury front was that Dylan Margonari was back skating with the team. With Tech also idle this weekend, the Mavericks won't have to do a lot of scoreboard watching.

This is the weekend when all of the league teams catch up to each other in the games-played category, and we'll know just where everyone stands going into the final two weeks of the regular season. Here's who's in action in WCHA play this weekend:

Alaska Anchorage at Bemidji State: The Beavers finally won some road games over the weekend, which put them in position to get home ice for the league playoffs. They're tied for fifth place with Northern Michigan and hold the tiebreaker for what is currently a home-ice spot with fourth-place Alaska out of the playoffs. The Seawolves, meanwhile, hope to get out of the basement but they looked stuck there last week at home, being outscored 15-1 in a series against Tech.

Northern Michigan at Bowling Green: The host Falcons need just one point to clinch home ice for the second year in a row. Bowling Green might have the top freshman goaltender in the league in Chris Nell, but the job appears to be going back to junior Tommy Burke for the stretch run. The Wildcats, meanwhile, need to snap a four-game losing streak to stay in the home-ice race.

Ferris State at Alabama Huntsville: The Bulldogs go back on the road after a rare home weekend to play a team that not only appears to be in the postseason mix but one that beat them in Big Rapids earlier this season. No easy task for offensively challenged Ferris. The Chargers, meanwhile, have won five of their last seven home games.

Read more about Huntsville's playoff hopes and Ferris State's scoring issues in this week's USCHO column by Jack Hittinger and myself. Also, check out our weekend picks.

This is also a big weekend for the Gustavus Adolphus men's hockey team, which has set a Division III record with eight ties this season. The Gusties are down to the final weekend of the regular season to get in the league playoffs. They need to sweep Bethel and get some help elsewhere but, once in, they could be a dangerous team.

In high school hockey action, Mankato West survived an instant classic, beating Albert Lea in double -overtime Thursday night in the Section 1A quarterfinals. Read more in my game story here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mavericks need the break

Seven straight weekends of games — including trips to the U.P., lower Michigan and Alaska — alone is enough to justify a needed break for Minnesota State. But the Mavericks also need some time off to get healthy for the big showdown with Michigan Tech coming up in 10 days.

"Yeah, we need a break," coach Mike Hastings said on Monday. "Academically, we need to get things taken care of this week, and athletically, we need to take care of our bodies so we can handle what we have coming up."

After a rough-and-tumble weekend at Alaska, Hastings said Teddy Blueger (lower body) and C.J. Franklin (upper body) are being evaluated for their injuries this week — "I hope to have an idea of exactly where they're at (midweek)," Hastings said, while Brett Knowles (concussion) is day to day after being checked from behind. All of those injuries occurred Friday night, and all three players were unavailable Saturday.

Here's a Vine of the hit on Knowles:

There was a suspension from that game, but it wasn't on Nolan Kaiser, who hit Knowles, it was on Josh Erickson, for a major contact-to-the-head penalty in overtime. But I was wrong in my description of that penalty in earlier posts and tweets. Erickson's hit was on Matt Leitner. Another hit to the back of Chase Grant's head moments later (by a different Alaska player) was not penalized.

Hastings said Dylan Margonari, who missed the Alaska trip as well as the Mavericks' previous two games after being checked from behind against Ferris State on Jan. 31, is getting better but "is not full-go yet." Zeb Knutson, who missed the Alaska trip due to an illness, is healthy.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mavericks slip a bit

Minnesota State men’s hockey team is no longer No. 1.

After three weeks atop the charts, the Mavericks slipped to No. 2 in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll and No. 3 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll on Monday, following their tie and loss at Alaska over the weekend.

In the USCHO poll, Minnesota State (23-6-2) received 10 first-place votes and 909 points. North Dakota is No. 1 with 980 points, including 35 first-place votes.

Boston University is third, followed by MSU’s next opponent, Michigan Tech, at No. 4. Tech moved up a spot from No. 5 and received four first-place votes.

Bowling Green remained the only other WCHA team in the rankings, staying at No. 8.

In the USA Hockey rankings, North Dakota is first with 25 first-place votes and 500 points, followed by Boston University (1, 448), MSU (3, 423), Michigan Tech (5, 414). Bowling Green is eighth.

The Mavericks remained first in the Pairwise rankings, followed by North Dakota, BU and Minnesota Duluth.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Nanooks 3, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts (from afar) ...

1. Thread bare: The Mavericks were thin up front on Saturday night, playing without Brett Knowles, Teddy Blueger and C.J. Franklin, who were knocked out of Friday's game with injuries, as well as without Dylan Margonari and Zeb Knutson, who were back in Mankato with their own ailments. That's a collection of some of the team's tougher players. Not only was their bench shortened (defensemen Blake Thompson and Jaden Schmeisser were listed as the fourth line on chart), but the game ended up being a special-teams fest, too. MSU killed all eight (!) Alaska power plays but was just 1 for 7 on its own while also giving up a short-handed goal.

2. Top-line guys: Tyler Morley scored two Nanooks goals, including the empty-netter, and had three of his team's four in the series. He's up near the top of the WCHA scoring charts, along with Matt Leitner and Bryce Gervais of MSU and Michigan Tech's top guys. But the Mavericks' best scorers were kept off the board all weekend long. They needed those guys to play like the best players in the conference, to be the difference makers they can be. Another stud for Alaska is defenseman Colton Parayko, maybe the best in the WCHA.

3. Rest up: The results of the weekend kept the Mavericks No. 1 in the Pairwise as well as in first place in the WCHA. However, they now lead Michigan Tech by just one point in the league standings, which sets up quite the showdown in two weeks in Mankato. The good news for MSU is that the upcoming bye week couldn't come at a better time with the team's injury situation. The Mavericks have played seven consecutive weekends with eight games on the road. They went 10-2-2 in that entire stretch, 4-2-2 away from home.

Read more here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 10, Alaska Anchorage 0 ... Bemidji State 5, Northern Michigan 1 ... Ferris State 3, Bowling Green 2 (OT) ... Alabama Huntsville 3, Lake Superior State 1

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Mavericks 1, Nanooks 1 (OT)

Freddy's three thoughts from afar ...

1. Safe at home: The Mavericks needed Stephon Williams to be good in his hometown on Friday night. The junior goaltender stopped 29 of 30 shots as the Mavericks' own offense sputtered (just 18 shots). Williams did not play in Fairbanks when the Mavericks were there last season and last played a meaningful game there when he was a high school junior. He stopped all 14 shots he faced in the third period and turned away a couple of breakaways. The only goal he gave up was a power-play redirect by Tyler Morley. In fact, four of the last five goals he's allowed have been power-play goals.

2. Roster thins out: Brett Knowles was checked from behind in the first period in what looked like a scary moment for the Mavs. While the Alaska broadcast via didn't show a replay nor Knowles lying on the ice, he was down for awhile before exiting the rink. Coach Mike Hastings even went out to check on the junior forward. Knowles did not return to the game. Also, it appeared C.J. Franklin did not play the second half of the game. Wasn't feeling well, according to the radio broadcast, and Zeb Knutson (sick) and Dylan Margonari (upper body injury) were left back in Mankato. Chase Grant appeared to skate back to the bench slowly in overtime after getting hit illegally (Alaska's second major), but he returned to the game.

3. All things considered: Not a bad point on the road, against a good team (you have to believe me on that point, folks ... Morley and Colton Parayko could play for anybody), when taken out of your game. However, it's a good point if you get one or two on Saturday night. The Mavericks have to be a little grittier on the road against a physical team, which Alaska appeared to be. They also have to be smarter. Zach Palmquist, a senior and captain who should know better, got a retaliation roughing penalty with 5:27 left in the third, just after his team killed off another late penalty. Can't do that.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 5, Alaska Anchorage 1 ... Bemidji State 1, Northern Michigan 0 ... Bowling Green 4, Ferris State 1 ... Alabama Huntsville 1, Lake Superior State 1 (OT)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks are on the road in Fairbanks, Alaska, this weekend for what ought to be a challenging series against the Alaska Nanooks. Recall that Alaska upset MSU 5-4 in overtime on Dec. 5. The Mavericks have lost just once since that night, which is why they're ranked No. 1 in the country.

Alaska may be ineligible for postseason play, but that doesn't mean it a team not to be taken seriously.   The Mavericks need to be aware that they're playing a potential spoiler. This weekend marks the Nanooks' final home games of the season, and they still have a shot to finish in the upper division of the WCHA. And that "home-ice" position remains a goal, coach Dallas Ferguson said in this week's USCHO column.

For more on the series, check out The Free Press' College Hockey Gameday feature, and read Tim O'Donnell's preview in Fairbanks' News Miner.

O'Donnell this week also writes about MSU goalie Stephon Williams, a Fairbanks native who is expected to play in his hometown for the first time since his junior year in high school (Cole Huggins played in both games at Alaska last season).

Going around the WCHA ...

Bowling Green at Ferris State: The visiting Falcons are expecting a physical series in Big Rapids, and why not? This weekend makes it four consecutive games between the two teams. Last week, Bowling Green won a pair of one-goal games. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are at home for only the second time since mid-December, and they've won just two games over that stretch.

Bemidji State at Northern Michigan: This is a big series, as the visiting Beavers are trying to get into a home-ice spot and the host Wildcats are trying to hold onto fourth place in the league standings. Just four points separate the teams currently.

Alabama Huntsville at Lake Superior State: This is another series that could have postseason implications. The teams are tied for eighth place in the standings, two points ahead of last-place Alaska Anchorage. Two of those three teams will make the league playoffs (due to Alaska's playoff ban), and a sweep by either team would go a long way in helping secure a spot. Both of those teams sat out the postseason a year ago.

Michigan Tech at Alaska Anchorage: The Huskies have been rolling, keeping pace with Minnesota State, which sits four points ahead of them atop the league standings. They've also played nine straight home games. Tech is on the road for the first time since Jan. 9 and out of the U.P. for the first time since Jan. 3. The Seawolves, meanwhile, are desperate to get out of the WCHA's basement.

Looking at the the docket of WCHA games this weekend, I ended up picking splits across the board in my and Jack Hittinger's weekly prediction blog. Someone's going to sweep, though, right? Maybe MSU?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

While I was out ...

Here are a few hockey notes from Monday ...

Minnesota State remained No. 1 in both national polls, getting 33 of 50 first-place votes in the USCHO rankings and 17 of 34 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings. In the former, which I vote on an is used by The Associated Press, North Dakota is 2, Boston University is 3, Nebraska Omaha is 4 and Michigan Tech is 5. Bowling Green is the other WCHA team, besides MSU and Tech, in the top 20, coming in at No. 8. The Mavericks, who travel to Alaska (Fairbanks) this week, are No. 1 for the fourth time in five weeks.

Mavericks freshman forward Brad McClure was named WCHA Rookie of the Week for his performance in MSU's sweep of Alaska Anchorage over the weekend. McClure had three assists, including helpers on both game-winners, along with seven shots on goal and was +3 in the series. McClure now has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points, which puts him 19th in the country in freshman scoring (teammate C.J. Franklin, with 23 points is ninth).

Saturday night's sellout at the Verizon Wireless Center got me thinking about the popularity of Minnesota State hockey right now. It just might be at an all-time high. Sure, there have been bigger crowds, but now the people are coming out in droves to see the home team. The Mavericks are a hot ticket, and the rink should be rockin' in 2 1/2 weeks when Michigan Tech comes to town.

Here's some more information on Bryce Gervais joining the 20-goal club, as well as some other notes from last weekend's games. Gervais is the 11th player to join the club, and it's the 12th time it's happened (Shane Joseph hit the mark twice). Gervais is nine goals from Joseph's D1-era high mark, and the Mavericks have at least nine games remaining in the season, likely more.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mavericks 4, Seawolves 0

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Outcome in doubt: For nearly two periods, the Mavericks could not solve UAA goaltender Olivier Mantha. The freshman, who just might be handed the title of the WCHA's best rookie goalie (one held by MSU's Cole Huggins and Stephon Williams the last two seasons), stopped 49 of 53 shots and kept the Mavericks off the board until 4:55 remained in the second period. He stopped 20 shots in the first period. That goal was a greasy put-back by Teddy Blueger after a Brad McClure steal and shot. "The way the first goal was scored was the way I thought they'd have to be scored," MSU coach Mike Hastings said.

2. Closing time: Blueger's goal gave the Mavericks a slim 1-0 lead to start the third period. But they hardly gave the Seawolves a sniff the rest of the way, outshooting UAA 17-2 in the third period (33-5 in the second and third combined) and building up their lead with power-play goals by Bryce Gervais and Zach Palmquist and a 4-on-4 tally by Zach Stepan. Gervais now has 20 goals; he's the fourth player in Hastings' three seasons to score 20. The others were Johnny McInnis (21) and Jean-Paul Lafontaine (20) last year and Eriah Hayes (20) two years ago. With the pace Gervais is on, it seems like matching Shane Joseph's D1-era high of 29 is a possibility.

3. Packing them in: Really nice crowd of 4,870, just shy of a sellout, I'm told. Hastings applauded them as he left the rink after the game and raved about the full arena during postgame. Good night for autograph night (and thanks to Williams for taking a couple minutes to talk before going out to sign). If my late-night math is correct, the Mavericks are averaging 3,857 per game this season with two hugely anticipated games against Michigan Tech coming in three weeks. That average is the best at the Verizon Wireless Center since MSU had 3,880 per game in 2009-10. The all-time best was 4,552 in '08-09.

Read my game story, which features a quiet but well-deserved shutout by Williams, here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 2, Bemidji State 1 ... Bowling Green 3, Ferris State 2 ... Minnesota Duluth 6, Northern Michigan 3 ... Lake Superior at Alaska (late)

MSU vs. Alaska Anchorage — Game 2 live blog

Follow the action or join the conversation during tonight's game between the Mavericks and the Seawolves. Click the blog post title above or go here for more.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Mavericks 5, Seawolves 2

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Alive for five: For the third time in three games, all home games, Minnesota State has scored five goals. They're second in the nation in scoring average with 3.79 per game. Only Michigan (4.22) has scored more. Five different players scored goals, and, as I point out in my gamer (link below), nine different players have accounted for the last 15 goals. Bryce Gervais, who had the first goal on Friday, has four in that span and 19 for the season. Matt Leitner, Michael Huntebrinker and Brett Knowles each have two of those. The most impressive goal against the Seawolves might have been defenseman Casey Nelson's cannon shot from the right point, a one-timer of a Brad McClure pass, that gave MSU a 3-1 lead early in the second period.

2. Special teams play: Each team scored a pair of power-play goals, with MSU finishing 2 for 4 and UAA going 2 for 6. Each team also had some 5x3 time to work with. Mavericks coach Mike Hastings admitted that he was a little nervous when his team didn't take advantage of the situation and extend a 3-1 lead to 4-1 early in the second period. That kept a Seawolves team desperate for league points hanging around. Later in the second, MSU had to kill off a minute of its own two-man disadvantage and did so successfully. Anchorage put 10 of its 25 shots on goalie Stephon Williams when it was on the power play.

3. Holding their own: The Mavericks' win kept them four points ahead of Michigan Tech atop the league standings. Tech won again on Friday, beating Bemidji State at home. There's no shaking the Huskies, it seems, and all signs still point to quite the showdown later this month. Each team has three games between now and then, of course, including Saturday night. The fans aren't waiting, though, as 3,955 came out to see Friday's game. And why not? With this team averaging 4.38 goals per game at home, it's giving folks in Mankato quite a show.

Deep thought: Made these quick tonight so I can get to the annual media game (wish me luck).

Read my Free Press gamer here.

Around the WCHA: Bowling Green 2, Ferris State 1 ... Michigan Tech 3, Bemidji State 1 ... Minnesota Duluth 3, Northern Michigan 1 ... Alaska 3, Lake Superior State 1

MSU vs. Alaska Anchorage, Game 1 live blog

To join the conversation during tonight's Minnesota State-Alaska Anchorage game, click the blog post title above or go here.

Friday Morning Skate

For the first time in its D1 history, Minnesota State will play homes games as the nation's No. 1 team (MSU was ranked third last week and No. 1 for a pair of road series before that). The Mavericks will take on Alaska Anchorage, and both teams believe there are important points on the line.

For MSU, it is trying to stay atop the WCHA standings with a four-point cushion over Michigan Tech. For UAA, it is trying to get out of the league basement and to a spot where it can secure a spot in the conference playoffs (this year, with Alaska Fairbanks' NCAA sanctions, the league's last-place team is out of the postseason).

For more on what's at stake this weekend, including an injury update, read the Freep's College Hockey Gameday here.

Minnesota State's depth has been well-documented this season, but that depth goes beyond scoring. There has been a lot of praise for the "leadership group," a collection of players, Mike Hastings said, that goes beyond one player and goes beyond just the players "with the badges."

One of those players with a letter on his sweater is Chase Grant. The Oklahoma City native likely wouldn't be in his current position if not for the happy accident of a certain person living in his family's neighborhood 20 years ago.

A player who is not officially a captain continues to lead the way on the scoring charts. Check out my column in praise of Matt Leitner, who recorded his 150th career point last weekend.

Going around the WCHA ...

Ferris State at Bowling Green: Two teams that know each other well are trying to get back on track a bit when they meet for the first of four games against each other. The Bulldogs have lost four in a row to Minnesota State and eight of their last 10, while the Falcons have won just two of their last seven.

Bemidji State at Michigan Tech: It's Winter Carnival weekend in Houghton. Always a fun time. And this should be a fun series with the fifth-ranked Huskies hosting the red-hot Beavers, who have four straight non-losses against top-10 teams.

Lake Superior State at Alaska: I keep calling the postseason-ineligible Nanooks the most dangerous team in the WCHA, a talented team that could play spoiler down the stretch. But Alaska is in a six-game winless streak that includes four-straight losses. Could the Lakers cure what ails them?

Northern Michigan at Minnesota Duluth: This is the final nonconference series of the weekend for the WCHA, and it's a tough one for the Wildcats, who have to play the nation's seventh-ranked team. Northern Michigan is, however, coming off its first series sweep since mid-October.

Read Jack Hittinger's and my USCHO column on the WCHA and compare your weekend predictions to ours.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Palmquist gets league honor

Mavericks senior defenseman Zach Palmquist was named the WCHA's defensive player of the week for his play in MSU's swep over Ferris State over the weekend. Palmquist had three assists and was +1 in the 5-1 victories.

The Minnesota State women's team, meanwhile, won its first WCHA game of the season on Monday, beating St. Cloud State 5-1. Nicole Schammel had a hat trick and an assist and was named the women's league's rookie of the week.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Back on top

Minnesota State men’s returned to the top of the U.S. College Hockey Online rankings on Monday, following its weekend sweep of Ferris State.

It’s the third time in four weeks that the Mavericks are ranked No. 1.

Minnesota State (21-5-1, 17-2-1 in WCHA), which was ranked third in the country last week, has won seven of its last eight games and is unbeaten in 11 of its last 12.

North Dakota slipped from No. 1 to No. 2, and the top five was rounded out with Boston University, Nebraska Omaha and Michigan Tech. Here are the rankings:

1. Minnesota State (20 first-place votes)
2. North Dakota (14)
3. Boston University (16)
4. Nebraska Omaha
5. Michigan Tech
6. Harvard
7. Minnesota Duluth
8. T-Bowling Green
8. T-Miami
10. Denver
11. Boston College
12. UMass-Lowell
13. Providence
14. Michigan
15. Yale
16. Quinnipiac
17. Vermont
18. Merrimack
19. Robert Morris
20. Colgate
Others receiving votes: Penn State, St. Lawrence, Minnesota, Dartmouth, Bemidji State, St. Cloud State, Western Michigan, Canisius.

Michigan Tech and Bowling Green are the other WCHA teams in the rankings. Bemidji State also received votes.

The Mavericks will host a WCHA series against Alaska Anchorage on Friday and Saturday.