Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday morning skate

The skate is back! It's time to kick off another season of college hockey in Mankato!

Minnesota State will host Michigan Tech in a matchup of last season's MacNaughton Cup winners. Going 2-0 won't give MSU the cup, coach Mike Hastings said, nor will going 0-2 end the season. Still the Mavericks want to get off to a good start to the year, while the Huskies, who are already 0-2, would like to get on track.

Minnesota State senior goaltender Cole Huggins (pictured) will be asked to carry "the ball out of the gate," and is ready for the responsibility, knowing, with his team's turnover in personnel, that he and Jason Pawloski could see a few more shots per game this season.

Huggins is one of several returning goalies in the WCHA. In fact, nine of the league's 10 teams return their primary starter in goal, if not a second regular in net. The only team that enters the season with questions in goal is Michigan Tech — although the Huskies do return plenty of talent both up front and on defense.

For more on the series, check out The Freep's college hockey gameday preview.

A couple of other things to know about the weekend:

• The WCHA's new rules of play will be in effect. If tied games can't be decided in a regular 5-minute overtime, a 5-minute 3-on-3 overtime will take place. If that doesn't decide things, the game will go to a shootout. Regulation/first-OT winners will receive 3 points for the WCHA standings. If the game goes beyond that, it will officially be a tie in the eyes of the NCAA, but, for the the league standings, the winner will get 2 points and the loser will get 1.

• It's homecoming at Minnesota State, and the school is inducting its athletic hall of fame members. The group includes David Backes, now of the Boston Bruins. Backes will be the first men's hockey player from the Mavericks' Division I era to go into the hall.

• Saturday is Hockey Night in Mankato with several activities, including live music and food vendors, taking place outside the Verizon Center between 4:30 p.m. and game time.

Going around the WCHA, several teams are in action this weekend:

• Ferris State is playing home-and-home against Western Michigan of the NCHC. The Bulldogs lost the opener in Big Rapids on Thursday night 5-3, making them 0-3 already. The rematch is tonight in Kalamazoo.

• Alabama Huntsville (2-0 after its stunning sweep at Ferris State) is on the road again playing two games at Connecticut of Hockey East.

Bemidji State will see its first action of the season, hosting short-handed Bowling Green in a WCHA series.

• There will be three games involving the Alaska schools in Anchorage with the Seawolves hosting Minnesota of the Big Ten tonight and playing rival Alaska in a nonconference game on Saturday. The Nanooks will then play the Gophers on Sunday. Gophers coach Don Lucia, by the way, inked a two-year contract extension on Friday.

• Northern Michigan will meet Wisconsin halfway and play a two-game series against the Big Ten school in Green Bay, Wis. The games will be the first regular-season ones for the Badgers' new coaching staff.

• Looking for more previews? Here is USCHO's WCHA outlook, and here is College Hockey News' preview. CHN also looks at the high bar that's been raised at Bowling Green. Also check out USCHO's weekly predictions.

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