Friday, February 6, 2015

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.

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