Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mavericks 2, Seawolves 1

Freddy's three thoughts (before bedtime):

1. Surgical: The game wasn't really as close as the score indicated, as the Mavericks outshot the Seawolves 30-10. Cole Huggins was 37.5 seconds away from his second straight shutout, but, before that, it was all a big game of keep-away by Minnesota State. Sure, the Mavericks would like some more finishing power so they don't have to sweat out games that are too close on the scoreboard. But they'll take a sweep at Anchorage any time.

2. Senior salute: It was senior night at Sullivan Arena, the last home games for the Seawolves. But it was MSU's seniors who came through. Bryce Gervais and Teddy Blunger scored the Mavericks' goals. For Gervais, it was his second of the weekend, as he continued to tear up the Seawolves' defense. Gervais scored five goals in four games against Anchorage this season. For his career, he has eight goals against UAA.

3. Still in first: The Mavericks maintained their two-point lead atop the WCHA standings with the sweep, their first in league play since October at Bemidji. The MacNaughton Cup will be decided next weekend when MSU plays Bemidji State in Mankato, Michigan Tech plays home and home against Northern Michigan and Bowling Green goes to Alabama Huntsville. There will be plenty of scoreboard watching next weekend, that's for sure. Mavericks? Falcons? Huskies? Who ya got?

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 3, Alaska 2 (OT) ... Bowling Green 6, Ferris State 2 ... Northern Michigan 2, Lake Superior State 2 (OT) ... Bemidji State 6, Alabama Huntsville 2

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mavericks 3, Seawolves 0

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

1. A win on the road: Sometimes a season goes on and you don't realize a stat or a trend until it smacks you in the face. That's what happened the weekend when I figured out that the Mavericks hadn't won a WCHA road game since Nov. 7. Sure, there were those two wins against Minnesota (go figure), one in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul, but none against WCHA opponents. There was only one loss, however and seven — 7! — ties, including the two stalemate at Alabama Huntsville two weeks ago. The Mavericks ended that slump on Friday night with a fairly one-sided, taking-care-of-business victory at Alaska Anchorage.

2. Top players get it done: The Mavericks got goals from Bryce Gervais, Dylan Margonari and C.J. Franklin, and Cole Huggins had a 15-save shutout (his ninth career blanking, which ranks second in school history). Their best players were their best players, and if those top guys can keep playing at a high level, the late-season/postseason could be bright. Gervais, as Alaska Dispatch News' intrepid hockey writer Doyle Woody pointed out, has six goals in his last five games against Anchorage and seven in his last seven. "So, he likes him some Seawolves," Woody tweeted. (Read his gamer here.) Gervais has 13 goals now, and Franklin has 14.

3. Safe at home: The victory clinched a home-ice spot in the WCHA playoffs for the Mavericks. It never really seemed like there were be a doubt that would happen, but with the way the league has been scrunched together, it sure seemed open to strange occurrences. Of course, MSU is shooting for first place and the right to keep the MacNaughton Cup in one of those new trophy cases in the upgraded hockey facility at the Verizon Wireless Center. The Mavericks actually entered Friday's game in a three-way tie with Michigan Tech and Bowling Green, who also won on Friday but remained two points up after beating the Seawolves.

Read more here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 6, Alaska 5 ... Bowling Green 4, Ferris State 3 ... Lake Superior State 3, Northern Michigan 1 ... Alabama Huntsville 1, Bemidji State 1 (OT)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks return to the ice tonight after a week off when they play at Alaska Anchorage. Anchorage is the hometown of freshman Ryan Schwalbe, who has not played a game there in more than seven years. Not sure if he'll be in the lineup tonight, but he is on the trip, bringing some versatility to the team because of his ability to play both forward and defense.

Minnesota State is trying to maintain its lead atop the WCHA standings. To do that it will have to break an eight-game road winless streak agains conference opponents. Seven of those games have resulted in ties. Read about that and more in The Free Press' gameday feature.

In case you missed it, MSU captain Carter Foguth talked about the benefit of the week off going into the final four games of the regular season.

Doyle Woody of the Alaska Dispatch News also wrote about Schwalbe for today, as well as about the Seawolves' hopes of maintaining their own position in the league standings. Currently, they hold the eighth and final playoff spot.

Going around the WCHA ...

Ferris State at Bowling Green: This might be the best series amid a bunch of good ones taking place this weekend. The visiting Bulldogs are tied for fourth place and trying to secure that spot, while the Falcons still have their eyes on a league title. Bowling Green's best player this season has been goalie Chis Nell, a Hobey Baker and Mike Richter Award candidate.

Alaska at Michigan Tech: In Houghton, the host Huskies also want to get their hands on the MacNaughton and have a chance to catch MSU by playing the ninth-place Nanooks. Alaska, however, will be playing "like our lives depend on it," as they are on the outside looking in in the playoff picture.

Northern Michigan at Lake Superior State: The visiting Wildcats are tied for fourth place and will take on their U.P. rivals to the east. The Lakers will have a hard time catching up to a home-ice spot but haven't secured a playoff spot either, so they'll be motivated as well.

Alabama Huntsville at Bemidji State: The last-place Chargers are five points out of a playoff spot so they need points this weekend against the Beavers, who are six points out of home ice. If they don't make a move this weekend, these games will be the last at home for the team's seniors.

Some developing news out of Alaska ... Proposed slashes to the University of Alaska system budget has folks in athletics worried. In the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Alaska Fairbanks athletic director Gary Gray said athletics at his school and Alaska Anchorage would not survive such cuts.  A story in the Alaska Dispatch News, however, said there is enough money for athletics. Stay tuned.

Read more about the WCHA in Jack Hittinger's and my USCHO column as well as our weekend picks.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mankato West advances to state

Darren Gibbins/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Third time's a charm: The Scarlets played Northfield twice during the Big Nine Conference schedule and lost both times, by scores of 8-3 and 5-2. If you're going to finally beat a team, it might as well be in the section championship game. The Scarlets outshot the Raiders 28-25 and controlled the action for most of the night — from the opening faceoff. Northfield, the top seed and a team trying to get to state for the first time, looked tight early on, while West seemed loose. I wasn't the only one who observed that, talking to a few people between periods and after the game.

2. Unlikely hero: When it's do-or-die time, you often see unexpected players come up big. That was the case for the Scarlets, as freshman forward Nick Wieben, a converted defenseman scored the game's only goal, the game-winner, at 8:30 of the third period. The goal is pictured above. It was set up by a nice pass chipped off the glass by Kyle Looft, and Wieben raced in from there, backhanding the shot above the goalie's shoulder. He got a little aid from the Northfield defenseman, who appeared to screen his teammate just enough to lose sight of the puck.

3. Back to state: The Scarlets are back at state for the first time since 2008. This team becomes the third Mankato team to get to the tourney, joining the '08 team as well as the '06 East/Loyola team. West has been close to getting back before. The Scarlets lost section finals in 2013 and 2014. For head coach Curtis Doell, who was an assistant coach on the '08 team, and senior Tyler Loe, Wednesday's game marked another third-time's-a-charm situation, as they've been involved in the last three section finals. West has won five games in a row, including three playoff games: 2-1 in double overtime over Albert Lea, 5-1 over Le Sueur-Henderson/St. Peter and 1-0 over Northfield.

Read my Free Press game story here.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Huskies, Falcons rebound

With four games remaining in the regular season, Minnesota State has a two-point lead atop the WCHA standings.

Michigan Tech and Bowling Green both rebounded from their Friday-night losses and won on Saturday for series splits on the road.

The Huskies, who were shut out at Bemidji State in the series opener, exploded for nine goals in the finale and won 9-2, leaving the Beavers feeling a more than a bit "sour." Tech got goals from eight different players, and Bemidji State used three goalies.

In Fairbanks, the Falcons scored the first four goals of the game and beat Alaska 4-1, recovering well after giving up a short-handed game-winner in the final 10 seconds on Friday.

Elsewhere in the WCHA, Northern Michigan beat Alabama Huntsville 3-1 for a series sweep, and  Alaska Anchorage beat visiting Lake Superior State 5-2 for a split.

So here's where things stand:

WCHA Men - 2015-2016 Standings
                            Conference Only            Overall
                       Pts  GP  W  L  T Win%  GF- GA   GP  W  L  T
 1 Minnesota State      33  24 13- 4- 7 .688  71- 45   32 15-10- 7
 2 Bowling Green        31  24 13- 6- 5 .646  61- 47   34 17-11- 6
   Michigan Tech        31  24 14- 7- 3 .646  74- 47   30 17- 8- 5
 4 Ferris State         28  24 12- 8- 4 .583  63- 56   31 14-11- 6
   Northern Michigan    28  24 12- 8- 4 .583  61- 55   32 15-11- 6
 6 Bemidji State        22  24  9-11- 4 .458  57- 57   32 14-13- 5
 7 Lake Superior State  20  24  8-12- 4 .417  40- 63   34 11-19- 4
 8 Alaska Anchorage     18  24  8-14- 2 .375  58- 73   30 11-16- 3
 9 Alaska               16  24  6-14- 4 .333  52- 74   30  8-18- 4
10 Alabama Huntsville   13  24  4-15- 5 .271  51- 71   30  6-19- 5

The battle for the MacNaughton Cup is going to come down to the wire, as it has the last two years. MSU goes to Anchorage then hosts Bemidji State. Bowling Green hosts Ferris State then goes to Huntsville. Michigan Tech hosts Alaska then plays a home and home against Northern Michigan.

Ferris State and Northern Michigan remain in the hunt, five points out of first and three out of second. They're both vying for home ice, too. Bemidji State's loss on Saturday put it six points out of fourth, making home ice a tough proposition. There's also the race for the final playoff spots. Currently Alaska (two points out) and Huntsville (five) are on the outside looking in.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A good night for the Mavericks

Minnesota State is idle this weekend, but it had a good night in the WCHA on Friday.

It's closest rivals in the league standings, Michigan Tech and Bowling Green, both lost and remained four points behind the Mavericks. That ensures MSU will have at least a two-point advantage going into the final two weeks of the regular season. It could be more than that, of course, depending on what happens tonight.

Michigan Tech went to Bemidji State and lost 3-0, snapping a 10-game unbeaten streak against the Beavers. Goalie Michael Bitzer had a 29-save shutout for the home team, and Brendan Harms scored twice.

Bowling Green went to Alaska and suffered a crushing, 2-1 loss when Taylor Munson scored a short-handed goal with 8.8 seconds remaining in regulation. It was the Nanooks' first win at home since Nov. 6.

Elsewhere in the WCHA, Lake Superior State beat Alaska Anchorage 3-2 in Anchorage, Northern Michigan topped visiting Alabama Huntsville 3-0 and Ferris State fell nonconference foe Michigan 5-2.

Here's how the league standings look:

WCHA Men - 2015-2016 Standings
                            Conference Only            Overall
                       Pts  GP  W  L  T Win%  GF- GA
 1 Minnesota State      33  24 13- 4- 7 .688  71- 45   15-10- 7
 2 Bowling Green        29  23 12- 6- 5 .630  57- 46   16-11- 6
   Michigan Tech        29  23 13- 7- 3 .630  65- 45   16- 8- 5
 4 Ferris State         28  24 12- 8- 4 .583  63- 56   14-11- 6
 5 Northern Michigan    26  23 11- 8- 4 .565  58- 54   14-11- 6
 6 Bemidji State        22  23  9-10- 4 .478  55- 48   14-12- 5
 7 Lake Superior State  20  23  8-11- 4 .435  38- 58   11-18- 4
 8 Alaska               16  23  6-13- 4 .348  51- 70   8-17- 4
   Alaska Anchorage     16  23  7-14- 2 .348  53- 71   10-16- 3
10 Alabama Huntsville   13  23  4-14- 5 .283  50- 68   6-18- 5

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Morning Skate

The Maverick men's are off this weekend, and so is Puckato (for the most part).

There was some great action on Thursday night in Mankato as the East/Loyola and West hockey teams advanced (West in double-OT) in the Section 1A boys tournament. They will play in the semifinals on Saturday at the Rochester Rec Center. Read my game stories from a fun night of high school puck here and here.

If you're looking for a college fix this weekend, the MSU women will close out the regular season at home with a series against Bemidji State at the Verizon Wireless Center. They will be the last home games for the Mavericks' lone senior, Katie Johnson. That link goes to this week's college hockey notebook, which also talks about the playoff scenarios for the Gustavus Adolphus men's and women's teams, who enter their final regular-season weekend on the outside looking in.

With the MSU men on bye, where will they be by the end of the weekend? Currently they have a four-point lead atop the WCHA standings, so there could be some serious scoreboard watching. Here are the league matchups this weekend:

• Michigan Tech at Bemidji State: The Huskies have been on a roll of late, unbeaten in their last eight leading up to last weekend's bye. Two wins and they'll tie Minnesota State. The Beavers, meanwhile, are trying to improve their play at home and move up the standings.

• Bowling Green at Alaska: The Falcons, who are also hot on MSU's heels, fell out of the rankings this week and are trying to find some consistency as the season winds down. The Nanooks, meanwhile, are still sitting outside playoff position, so there's some urgency on their part right now.

• Lake Superior State at Alaska Anchorage: The Lakers and the Seawolves are in playoff position but trying to keep their heads above water. Lake Superior broke a six-game losing streak last Saturday at home against Bemidji State. The Seawolves are happy to be in a position to control their own destiny.

• Alabama Huntsville at Northern Michigan: The Chargers, fresh off their two-point weekend against MSU, are trying to get out of the WCHA cellar, while the Wildcats still have a shot at home ice, currently sitting in fifth place, four points behind Ferris State.

• Ferris State at Michigan: The Bulldogs are out of WCHA play for the final time and will take on No. 6 Michigan, its in-state and old CCHA rival in a single game tonight. They're hoping they'll still be alone in fourth place come late Saturday night.

My and Jack Hittinger's USCHO column gives Huntsville a little love this week, not only for its two ties against Minnesota State but for getting points in every league series so far in 2016? Can they get more this weekend? Check out our weekend picks.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Upsets happen (but what happens next?)

There was a time when Minnesota State was the spoiler. A bottom-half team in the WCHA for most of its first dozen or so years as a league member, the Mavericks were often competitive and sometimes even pulled off an impressive — sometimes shocking — victory over a superior opponent even in their leanest years.

Now that the Mavericks are at the top of the heap in the league, they're the ones with the target on their back, often getting a conference rival's best effort or a scheme aimed at slowing down a deeper team.

That happen this past weekend in Huntsville where an improving UAH team tied Minnesota State twice in a matchup between the first- and 10th-place teams in the WCHA.

The Mavericks are idle this weekend and then will close out the regular season with a series at Alaska Anchorage and another at home against Bemidji State before beginning the all-important conference playoffs.

How will they respond to a disappointing weekend? Stay tuned.

Meantime, my column in today's Freep takes a little stroll down memory lane from when MSU sent a better opponent home more than a little embarrassed.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mavericks 1, Chargers 1 (OT)

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

1. Oof: All due respect to Alabama Huntsville, but what a dreadful weekend for the Mavericks. They probably could have swallowed Friday's tie, especially with the flukey goal and all, but Saturday's stung badly. Not only did Minnesota State put 50 shots on goal, only to come up with just one (a power-play goal by C.J. Franklin), but it gave up the game-tying goal on a short-handed breakaway with 63 seconds left in regulation. The Chargers couldn't even get their outstanding goalie, Matt Larose, pulled for an extra attacker, and they took a penalty, prompting the UAH play-by-play man to all but concede the game to MSU. "That's one where you gotta figure out a way to win a hockey game," coach Mike Hastings said.

2. Coffee's for closers: The Mavericks did themselves no favors late in the game as they tried and failed to increase their lead to 2-0 over the Chargers. With just under six minutes remaining in regulation, Bryce Gervais was called for hooking. A minute later, Franklin was called for holding the stick. The Mavericks fended off the minute-long 5x3 and killed the penalties but lost precious offensive-zone time. When they got their own late power play with 87 seconds to go, they not only gave up the short-handed goal to Matt Salhany, who inexplicably got behind the MSU defense, but then Gervais went back to the box for boarding (his fifth penalty of the series), negating the penalty and even giving Huntsville some power-play time in OT.

3. Looking ahead: The Mavericks will get a much-needed break next weekend before going off to Alaska Anchorage. "We have an awful lot of work to do between now and when we get on that flight to Alaska," Hastings said. So where will MSU be in the standings before that trip? They're currently four points ahead of Michigan Tech (idle this weekend) and Bowling Green (out of conference), instead of having the six-point edge they expected, and those teams will play league series at Bemidji State and at Alaska, respectively, while the Mavericks are on bye. Will either team sweep or will Minnesota State maintain a slight edge going into the final two weeks of the regular season? Stay tuned.

Deep thought: As I said earlier, all due respect to Huntsville. Coach Mike Corbett's program is improving, even as it sits in last place in the WCHA. The Chargers play hard, and they've been rewarded for that over the second half of the season. They've gotten points in each of their last four league series. They started 2016 with a 1-0 loss at North Dakota, and they've lost just twice in their last seven games. Ultimately, the WCHA wants strong, improving, competitive programs top to bottom. Is this a sign of that happening? Maybe, maybe not. But in the old days of the league a first-place team going to a last-place team and coming home disappointed wasn't unheard of.

Around the WCHA: Northern Michigan 3, Ferris State 2 ... Lake Superior State 3, Bemidji State 0

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mavericks 3, Chargers 3 (OT)

Freddy's three thoughts (from afar):

1. Bad bounce: Take a look at the video above and you'll see the key play in Friday's surprising tie between the first-place Mavericks and the last-place Chargers. That bizarre goal during a delayed penalty gave UAH a 3-2 lead midway through the game. The Mavericks eventually tied things up midway through the third period to get one point out of the game, but getting just one point stung a bit. “That's one you don't plan on,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said of the weird goal. “I don't know what to say, other than that's kind of the way our night went.” Hastings said he had never seen a play like that in person but stressed that senior Jimmy Mullin didn't err on the play. “I back Jimmy Mullin 100 percent for trying to make a play,” he said. “Jimmy is trying to do things the right way, and it didn't work out.” (As an aside, I recall a similar goal being "scored" by Minnesota in a game against St. Cloud State 18-19 years ago.)

2. What else went wrong? The Mavericks took eight penalties, including three by senior Bryce Gervais. That's certainly an area in which they want to clean things up. Gervais also scored two goals, including the game-tying goal. I was surprised to see him on the ice to get that considering his hat trick of infractions, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call in the third and another penalty in the second that negated an MSU power play. Minnesota State also gave up a short-handed goal 28 seconds into the second period. Casey Nelson also negated a power play in the final minutes of regulation, although it was on a short-handed scoring chance for the Chargers. "We got a point on the road, but there are some things we need to clean up and clean up in a hurry," Hastings said. "Tonight was one where we all need to be held accountable, me included.”

3. What went right? Mavericks senior Teddy Blueger finished the game with two assists, the first of which gave him 100 points for his college career. Blueger has 20 assists this season and 28 points, both of which lead Minnesota State and the WCHA. Meanwhile, Gervais' two goals put him back in a tie for the team lead with C.J. Franklin with 12. Gervais has 93 career points. Mullin also had two assists in the game, and Zach Stepan scored the Mavericks' other goal. Goalie Cole Huggins stopped 15 shots, including a penalty shot early in the second period. The point did extend MSU's lead atop the WCHA standings to three points, although the Mavericks certainly would have like to have that other point in its pocket. They have to find a way to get two on Saturday.

Around the WCHA: Ferris State 5, Northern Michigan 1 ... Bemidji State 2, Lake Superior State 1 ... Miami 4, Bowling Green 1

Friday Morning Skate

Minnesota State begins a three-week stretch of no games in Mankato (two road series, one idle weekend) tonight when it plays at Alabama Huntsville. The series gives MSU a chance to increase its lead in the WCHA standings to as much as six points with Bowling Green playing out of conference and Michigan Tech on bye.

Mavericks coach Mike Hastings says this is the stretch run for his team, which is playing for another conference championship but, more importantly, trying to get itself to peak come playoffs where the WCHA's NCAA tournament representative will come from, barring something unforeseen happens in the Pairwise Rankings between now and then.

Looking at the the matchup with the Chargers, MSU's getting great production from players such as Teddy Blueger and C.J. Franklin, and its once-struggling power play is suddenly red hot. Don't expect to see too many changes from last week's series against Bowling Green. Huntsville, of course, has its outstanding goaltenders. Matt Larose has been the guy of late, and both he and Carmine Guerriero are more than capable of stealing a game or two.

More information on the series from MSU and UAH.

Going around the WCHA ...

• The big series is in Big Rapids where Ferris State hosts Northern Michigan in a matchup of the fourth- and fifth-place teams in the league. Both teams scored their first series sweeps of the season a week ago. There should be plenty of good goaltending in this series so expect some low-scoring games.

• Bemidji State, which won a nonconference game at Minnesota Duluth on Tuesday, travels to Lake Superior State in a battle of two teams trying to get home ice for the playoffs. The Beavers hope they can continue their upward trend and get points on the road, while the Lakers look to break a five-game losing streak.

• Bowling Green will stop out of WCHA play for a single game tonight against in-state rival Miami. The Falcons, fresh off their split at MSU, hope to avenge an earlier loss to the RedHawks. More Bowling Green coverage from the good folks at right there on the link.

• Alaska, Alaska Anchorage and Michigan Tech are idle this weekend.

Read more about the WCHA in Jack Hittinger's and my USCHO column and read our weekly picks here.

More good college hockey news and notes from College Hockey News' Adam Wodon here.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Falcons 3, Mavericks 1

Trevor Cokley/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. The race is on: Minnesota State was unable to extend its lead in the WCHA standings as the Falcons cooled the Mavericks' jets on Saturday night. Now the top of the league is stacked, with MSU holding a two-point lead over Bowling Green and Michigan Tech, which swept Lake Superior State. Each of those teams has six league series remaining with MSU going to Huntsville and Anchorage before hosting Bemidji; BGSU going to Alaska and Huntsville with Ferris at home in between; and Tech going to Bemidji, hosting Alaska and playing Northern home and home. Anything can happen. "We just had to move on and know we can be a top team in our league, even though the score didn’t show that last night," said Falcons senior Mark Cooper, who scored two goals. "Tonight, we showed we can play with the best in the WCHA."

2. Back to beginning: While the game was fast and physical with both teams pushing the pace, there were times when the Mavericks carried play and, perhaps, reverted back to earlier in the season when they simply couldn't score despite some lopsided in-zone time and shot totals. Credit Bowling Green goalie Chris Nell, who has the best numbers in the WCHA (currently .933 SV%, 1.74 GAA), and stopped 31 of 32 shots, including 14 in the third period on Saturday. But MSU also had 83 shot attempts, 34 in the third period, but missed the net 24 times and had 27 shots blocked. Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said his team did a good job moving Nell around and "taking away his eyes" on Friday. "I didn't think we were as consistent with that tonight," he said.

3. Regression to the mean: We probably shouldn't have expected the Mavericks to keep up the scoring pace of the last five games when they averaged five goals per. So which team are they? The one that can score at least three when it needs to or the one that might get stuck with one against a good team, as it did tonight and at Michigan Tech three weeks ago? Hastings said there was less panic in his team's play compared to when it was having some offensive troubles during the beginning of the season, so that's encouraging. If the top teams end up in Grand Rapids, though, MSU will need to find a way to score to win the Final Five and get back to the NCAA tournament. The loss, couple with some other results, including Minnesota's loss to Penn State, dropped the Mavericks from 15th to 23rd in the Pairwise Rankings.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 3, Lake Superior State 1 ... Northern Michigan 5, Alaska Anchorage 4 ... Ferris State at Alaska (late)

MSU vs. Bowling Green — Game 2 live blog

The Mavericks will go for the series sweep against the Falcons tonight at the Verizon Wireless Center. The live blog can be found below tonight's lines.

26-Margonari, 23-Blueger, 10-Knutson
25-Stepan, 15-Franklin, 19-McClure
9-Gervais, 17-Huntebrinker, 12-Coatta
7-Cooper, 16-J. Nelson, 14-Mullin

28-Jutzi, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 6-C. Nelson
11-Flanagan, 27-Schwalbe

29-A. Nelson

Scratches: Knowles, Lewis, Madry, Pawloski, Schmeisser, Vanko

6-McLain, 7-Spezia, 26-Cooper
13-Baylis, 2-Mercier, 20-M. Pohlkamp
27-McKeown, 18-D'Andrea, 16-Hawkins
23-Tate, 11-Bednard, 29-Schilling

5-Smith, 28-Walker
3-Ernst, 4-McDonald
14-Friedman, 12-C. Pohlkamp


Friday, February 5, 2016

Mavericks 5, Falcons 1

Trevor Cokley, The Free Press

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Call him Shorty: Bryce Gervais scored two goals short-handed goals in the same penalty on Friday night, a feat that put away the game for the Mavericks just as the Falcons started to make a push. Gervais now has nine short-handed goals for his MSU career, and that now stands as the school record. More importantly, perhaps, it may be a sign that he's getting out of the goal-scoring funk he's been in for much of the season, at least in the last 12 games when he's scored just one. Gervais now has 10 goals for this season, but had 27 last year. His career total is now 61, which puts him fourth on the Mavericks' Division I-era list behind Shane Joseph (68), Jesse Rooney (67) and Tim Wolfe (65). "Once he gets going, he's hard to stop," said Teddy Blueger, who assisted on both shorties. "He showed that last year."

2. Scoring sensation: Minnesota State has been scoring goals at a breakneck pace over the last five games, potting 25 pucks over that span, including 18 in three home games. Michael Huntebrinker, Max Coatta and C.J. Franklin scored MSU's first three goals, with Coatta (who also assisted on Huntebrinker's goal) and Franklin (power play) keeping some hot streaks going. Franklin has nine points over a five-game point streak. "We’ve had more guys making plays lately and they’re not easy ones," coach Mike Hastings said. "In our league right now, in college hockey, you have to work so hard to score goals. We did them in different ways tonight, and if we can continue that we’ll be OK. If we don’t, you make the game harder on yourself."

3. Tight at the top: Minnesota State increased its lead over Bowling Green atop the WCHA standings to four points with the win. The 5-1 score doesn't much look like most of the games played against these two teams, who tied twice in Ohio in December and who have played five overtime games in their 10 meetings over the last three years. However, both Hastings and Falcons coach Chris Bergeron said the game was more closely played than the score indicated. Hastings said Cole Huggins (18 saves) was "outstanding," and the goalie allowed only a short-handed breakaway goal in the third period. Bergeron said MSU's veteran players got the job done when his team's didn't. "In a game like that, you’re on the edge of making a mistake and they’re going to capitalize, and that’s what happened," Bergeron said. "The shots were 21-19. It was a fairly even game at times. But they were way more opportunistic than we were."

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Northern Michigan 3, Alaska Anchorage 2 ... Michigan Tech 3, Lake Superior State 0 ... Ferris State at Alaska (late)

MSU vs. Bowling Green, Game 1 live chat

The Mavericks and the Falcons face off in a key conference matchup starting at 7:07 p.m. on Friday at the Verizon Wireless Center. Join the conversation or follow along with the action below tonight's lines.

26-Margonari, 23-Blueger, 10-Knutson
25-Stepan, 15-Franklin, 19-McClure
24-Knowles, 17-Huntebrinker, 9-Gervais
14-Mullin, 16-J. Nelson, 12-Coatta

28-Jutzi, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 6-C. Nelson
11-Flanagan, 27-Schwalbe

29-A. Nelson

Scratches: Cooper, Lewis, Madry, Pawloski, Schmeisser, Vanko

10-Dufour, 2-Mercier, 20-M. Pohlkamp
27-McKeown, 18-D'Andrea, 16-Hawkins
23-Tate, 11-Bednard, 29-Schilling
13-Baylis, 6-McLain, 26-Cooper

5-Smith, 28-Walker
14-Friedman, 12-C. Pohlkamp
3-Ernst, 4-McDonald


Friday Morning Skate

After playing Saturday and Sunday at the North Star College Cup, it's a quick turnaround for the Mavericks for one of the biggest series of the season — Bowling Green coming to Mankato with first place in the WCHA on the line.

Minnesota State has been playing well the last few weeks, and its goal-scoring output is most encouraging. The lineup tweaks that took place two weeks ago have continued to work, it appears. Last week, I wrote about the impact C.J. Franklin was having. When he was moved to the middle, Dylan Margonari was moved to the wing on Teddy Blueger's line, and that, plus the confidence that comes from Margonari being fully healthy, has been a real boost, too.

One thing the changes have done, it appears, is provide some real balance and depth in the lines, and the grouping of Franklin, Zach Stepan and Brad McClure has been particularly effective. See their stats as part of The Free Press's College Hockey Gameday preview.

As for Bowling Green, it is approaching this weekend with the idea that the Mavericks are better than their record says they are and are hoping their can fair better against another of the top teams in the league than they did last week when they tied and lost at home to Michigan Tech. More coverage of the Falcons can be found here.

In case you missed it in the Freep this week ... Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said in this week's College Hockey Notebook that series such as the Bowling Green games are ones players want to be in. Also, I wrote about how, on the ice, the North Star College Cup was a true celebration of college hockey in Minnesota.

In other WCHA action this week ... Lake Superior State is at Michigan Tech for Winter Carnival, Alaska Anchorage is at Northern Michigan and Ferris State is at Alaska.

In Jack Hittinger's and my USCHO column this week, I talk to WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson about how he wants to see the conference grow. Read Jack's and my weekend picks here.