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

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