Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Morning Skate

It's the final weekend of the regular season, and there is much on the line throughout the WCHA. Here in Mankato, No. 16 Minnesota State, which hosts Bemidji State, has a chance to retain the MacNaughton Cup as league champion. With a two-point lead atop the standings, the Mavericks control their own destiny. Two points will give them at least a share of the title (but not necessarily the top seed in for the conference tournament) and three or more will it to them outright. They could also get some assistance from other teams playing this weekend, too.

This weekend marks the final regular-season home games for six MSU seniors, five of whom have been here for four years. The group is led by Teddy Blueger, who is having a rock-solid final season. Sure he leads the Mavericks in scoring and is tied for the WCHA lead in points (overall games). But he's done so many other things right this season, too, such as in the defensive zone and the faceoff circle. "Who's more valuable on our team?" coach Mike Hastings said.

Hastings said all of the team's seniors have contributed in different ways, really since the joined the team in 2012, Hastings' first season with the team. Here's a quick look at their stats

• Teddy Blueger, F: 148 games, 29 goals, 74 assists, 103 points, +20, 148 PIM
• Bryce Gervais, F: 156 games, 65 goals, 31 assists, 91 points, +35, 145 PIM
• Dylan Margonari, F: 136 games, 36 goals, 26 assists, 62 points, +1, 118 PIM
• Brett Knowles, F: 139 games, 17 goals, 19 assists, 36 points, +1, 126 PIM
• Jon Jutzi, D: 137 games, 8 goals, 31 assists, 39 points, +24, 56 PIM

Jimmy Mullin, F, is also a senior. The transfer from Miami is in his only season with MSU. He has one goal and eight assists this season, with the eight helpers coming in the team's last 10 games.

For more on Bemidji State, check out Jack Hittinger's coverage on the Beavers in today's Bemidji Pioneer.

Going around the WCHA ...

• Michigan Tech vs. Northern Michigan (home and home): These rivals square off starting tonight in Houghton. The Huskies, of course, are hoping to get at least a share of the WCHA title for the first time since 1976, while the Wildcats are trying to hold on to a home-ice spot in for next week's playoffs.

• Bowling Green at Alabama Huntsville: The Falcons are also hoping to get in on the MacNaughton action this weekend (could we see a three-way tie?) and go to Huntsville, which will miss out on the league playoffs this year. Can the Chargers play spoiler? Plenty more coverage of Bowling Green can be found here.

• Lake Superior State at Ferris State: The Lakers can't get home ice but they've sure made life difficult for their opponents the last three weeks. Will they do the same to the Bulldogs, who are trying to leapfrog Northern Michigan for a top-four finish? And does anyone who does finish in the upper division really want to face either of these teams in the first round?

• Alaska Anchorage at Alaska: There's a lot more than the Governor's Cup on the line in this series. This is essentially a playoff. The Seawolves have a two-point edge on their in-state rivals for the final spot in the playoffs, so it will be a reward or regret weekend for them. One thing that may give the Nanooks a boost is the return of their best player, Tyler Morley, from injury. He's missed the team's last six games, a stretch in which Alaska has won just once.

Read my and Jack Hittinger's USCHO column here.

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