Friday, February 27, 2015

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.

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