Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday morning skate

The ninth-ranked Mavericks are in Alaska, set to start a two-game, WCHA series against the Nanooks and hoping to keep their unblemished record intact. It's amazing what a difference a season makes. A year ago, MSU was 0-4 and heading out on the road with a lot of questions. Now, it's 4-0 and going on the road feeling pretty good. Every season has to be treated differently, coach Mike Hastings says.

Don't expect too many changes to Minnesota State's lineup compared to last week. If anything, Zach Stepan could see some action. Hastings said the senior forward has been cleared to play, but the coach, on Wednesday, made no guarantees about what his Friday-night line chart would look like.

More on the series on my College Hockey Gameday preview.

ICYMI earlier in the week: my College Hockey Notebook and my Tuesday column on the importance of nonconference wins in the WCHA.

As for the Nanooks, they're hoping to bounce back from a pair of losses in their own tournament last weekend. It was the first time Alaska went winless in the Goal Rush. Sophomore forward Chad Staley is optimistic, however, and sees a team that has good depth and a balanced attack.

Going around the WCHA ...

Bemidji State at North Dakota: The undefeated Beavers face their toughest task of the season as they go to Grand Forks to take the No. 1 Fighting Hawks. Bemidji State, now ranked No. 18, always seems to play UND tough. Star goalie Michael Bitzer stunned them two years ago in his first collegiate start. Indeed, the Fighting Hawks are aware of the pest the Beavers can be.

Bowling Green vs./at Ohio State: The Falcons face an in-state foe when they take on the No. 19 Buckeyes in a home-and-home series. Surprisingly winless, Bowling Green has a number of issues and areas in need of improvement, including goaltending and team intensity.

Northern Michigan at Ferris State: The Wildcats go below the bridge to take on the Bulldogs in a WCHA series. Each team is 0-2 in league play. Northern Michigan is 1-3, but there might be bigger concerns in Big Rapids where Ferris State is 0-5 to start the season.

Michigan Tech at Michigan: The Huskies step out of conference play for a series below the bridge (is that how the Michigan folks say it?) against the Wolverines. They can help themselves out (and their league-mates) big-time with a win or two against the nation's 11th-ranked team.

Lake Superior State at Alabama Huntsville: The Chargers are finally hope after an up-and-down road swing, one that started with a pair of wins at Ferris State but continued with three losses and a tie/3-on-3 loss. They will face a Lakers team that scored 13 goals during its opening weekend.

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