Friday, December 30, 2016

Ringing out 2016

PucKato is back from a holiday break ...

It's nearly 2017, and the Mavericks don't play again for another week when they go to Alabama Huntsville. Just before Christmas, I wrote about the first half of the Mavericks' and the WCHA's season and looked ahead to the second half and what's to come. You can read that here.

While Minnesota State is off, several WCHA teams have been and will be in action this week. Here's a look at that schedule:

• Northern Michigan dropped two games at the Florida College Classic, falling to Cornell 5-2 and Merrimack 4-2.

• Michigan Tech is playing in the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit. The Huskies beat Michigan 2-0 on Thursday and will play Western Michigan for the championship on Friday.

• In the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh, Ferris State lost 1-0 to Robert Morris on Thursday and will play Boston College on Friday.

• At Minnesota's Mariucci Classic, Alabama Huntsville will play UMass Friday and either the Gophers or Mercyhurst on Saturday.

• Bemidji State and Alaska Anchorage are playing a WCHA series Friday and Saturday in Anchorage. The games are afternoon ones. Tough schedule to start the second half for the Beavers who, after playing the Seawolves, will go to Bowling Green for a Thursday-Friday series.

• Lake Superior State is playing a non conference series Friday and Saturday at Nebraska Omaha.

• Bowling Green is playing a single game against RIT Friday in Toledo, Ohio.

• Alaska is playing a Saturday-Sunday nonconference series at Notre Dame.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Michaelis earns league honor

Minnesota State freshman forward Marc Michaelis was named WCHA Rookie of the Week for the second time this season on Monday.

The Mannheim, Germany, native had four points in the Mavericks' nonconference series split at Princeton on Friday and Saturday, assisting on his team's lone goal in Friday's 6-1 loss and getting a goal and two assists in Saturday's 5-4 victory.

Michaelis, the WCHA's leading scorer has 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points in 20 games. He is ninth in the country in scoring, second among freshmen.

The Mavericks were also ranked 19th in the latest USCHO poll, staying put from last week's rankings. They are off off until Jan. 6-7 when they resume WCHA play at Alabama Huntsville.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mavericks 5, Tigers 4

Freddy's three thoughts from afar:

1. Senior steps up: The Mavericks are going to need a push from their senior class over the second half of the season. Perhaps that started on Saturday night. Senior forward Michael Huntebrinker's goal early in the third period ended up as the game-winner in a wild game in which the Mavericks had two two-goal leads — 2-0 and 4-2 — but couldn't put the Tigers away. The winner, which snapped a 4-4 tie at 4:27 of the third period, was Huntebrinker's third goal of the season but his first since Oct. 29. "We need those guys (seniors) to contribute," coach Mike Hastings said. Before the game, Huntebrinker was moved from the second line to the fourth line. One of his new linemates, freshman Charlie Gerard, assisted on the play.

2. Usual suspects: The Mavericks top line, meanwhile, has been together for the vast majority of the season, and that group was good — as has been the case most of the time, too. Freshman forward Marc Michaelis had a goal and two assists, C.J. Franklin had a goal and an assist and Brad McClure finished two assists. "They had a bit of a challenge," Hastings said. "I think they were minus-2 last night. ... You need to have that group have a significant impact on the game." Through 20 games, Michaelis has 10 goals and 26 points, both of which lead the team. Nicholas Rivera and Daniel Brickley had MSU's other goals, the fourth of the year for both players.

3. Break time: The Mavericks are now off until Jan. 6-7 when they go to Alabama Huntsville. The break will be a good time to rest up. Senior defenseman Carter Foguth sat out again on Saturday, and the penalty kill and the back end could have used his stability again. Besides allowing 36 shots on goal, the Mavericks allowed two power-play goals (one a 5x3), the two goals that turned MSU's 4-2 lead into a 4-4 tie. Jason Pawloski played in goal. Coach Mike Hastings made one change to the defensive lineup, putting in Alec Vanko in place of Ryan Schwalbe. Vanko was +2. "I need to have a plan for us to come back (from break) and be consistent," Hastings said. "At times we can be a very good hockey team, and at times we make it difficult for ourselves."

Read my game story here.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Tigers 6, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts from afar ...

1. Princeton's for real: Minnesota State ran into one of the hottest teams in men’s college hockey on Friday night and couldn’t do much of anything to cool it off. The Tigers dominated the 19th-ranked Mavericks for their fifth consecutive victory and seventh win in eight games. They outshot the Mavericks 37-27 and hung more goals on MSU than any team has this season. Prior to their current run, the Tigers started the season 0-6-1. Minnesota State’s season has gone the opposite way. After starting the year with five consecutive wins and 6-1-0, the Mavericks have gone 4-6-2.

2. Where are the goals: Sean Flanagan at 12:29 of the third period prevented the Mavericks from getting shut out for the third time in six games and the second time in three games. Flanagan, whose goal made it 6-1, was one of four players with three shots on goal, which led the team. Princeton goalie Colton Phinney stopped 26 shots in goal for the win. Two years ago, he lost 5-0 to the Mavericks in Mankato. Minnesota State was 0 for 4 on the power play. Freshmen Marc Michaelis and Josh French assisted on Flanagan's goal.

3. Goalie questions: Usually at this time of the season, the Mavericks are pretty well set in goal. Right now, coach Mike Hastings hasn't found one who's carrying the ball. Cole Huggins started after a solid performance last week at Ferris State (one night after replacing Jason Pawloski in a loss) but lasted half the game. He left with 20 saves and a 4-0 deficit. Pawloski went the rest of the way and stopped 11 of 13 shots. Minnesota State's defense was hampered with senior captain Carter Foguth not in the lineup, likely to a lingering injury.

Read my game story with some comments from coach Mike Hastings here.

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks' road swing continues this week with a nonconference series at Princeton. It's No. 19 Minnesota State's final series of 2016 and last before a break for the holidays. However, it's also the first series of the second half of MSU's schedule. Time for reflecting on the first half will take place after the weekend, though.

The Mavericks don't take a lot of trips east, but coach Mike Hastings says it's part of his and the school's job to give the players experiences like these. The women's hockey team is also eastbound this weekend with a series at Union.

Princeton, meanwhile, is red-hot, having won six of seven after a winless start to the season. That includes sweeps at Bemidji State and home and home against Quinnipiac. For more on the weekend, check out the Freep's College Hockey Gameday package.

The Tigers' Max Veronneau was named one of the NCAA's stars of the week for the second week in a row.

Here is a Q&A with Mavericks goaltender Cole Huggins.

Going around the WCHA ...

It's a light week, schedule-wise, in the conference, but there is one heavyweight fight, with the league's top team, Bemidji State going to and then hosting No. 1-ranked Minnesota Duluth in a nonconference series. The teams play for the Blue Ox Trophy, by the way.

The lone WCHA series will take place in Fairbanks with Bowling Green traveling to Alaska. The Falcons are hoping to bounce back, especially offensively, after getting swept by Michigan Tech a week ago. The Fairbanks Daily News Miner features Nanooks player Josh Erickson, one of the ... uh ... edgier players in the league. Even his coach described him as "an interesting player," one whose style can be good and bad.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mavericks 3, Bulldogs 2

The Minnesota State men’s hockey team scored three unanswered goals on Saturday night, to pull off a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Ferris State and get a series split on the road.

Junior forward C.J. Franklin’s power-play goal with 6:58 remaining in the third period was the game-winner, capping the Mavericks’ rally in Big Rapids, Mich.

One night after getting shut out by the Bulldogs, the Mavericks fell behind 2-0 in the first period.

Their scoreless streak nearly extended to five periods, but Max Coatta made it a 2-1 game with 5:12 remaining in the second period, getting assists from Brad McClure and Ryan Schwalbe.

The Mavericks (10-6-2, 7-5-2 in WCHA) cashed in on two power plays in the third period of the penalty-filled game.

Zeb Knutson tied the game at 3:57 firing a shot between the pads of goalie Darren Smith. Franklin and freshman defenseman Ian Scheid assisted.

Franklin’s winner came on a scramble in front of the goal. Freshman forward Marc Michaelis got his team-leading 13th assist and 22nd point on the play, and defenseman Daniel Brickley also assisted.

The Bulldogs’ goals came from Jared VanWormer and Joe Rutkowski, with the latter coming on the power play.

Smith stopped 35 shots in the loss, including all 16 he faced in the first period. Mavericks goalie Cole Huggins stopped 17 shots.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Bulldogs 3, Mavericks 0

For the first time in more than a month, the Minnesota State men's hockey team lost on a Friday night.

Ferris State goaltender Darren Smith spoiled their run, stopping 36 shots to shut out the 16th-ranked Mavericks 3-0 in the first game of a WCHA series.

The Bulldogs scored all three of their goals in the second period.

After a scoreless first period in which Minnesota State outshot Ferris State 13-6, the Bulldogs came out of the first intermission charging hard.

Corey Mackin put them up 1-0 just 34 seconds into middle frame, and at 2:28, Chad McDonald made it 2-0 on the power play. Gerald Mayhew added a power-play goal with 4:54 remaining in the period.

Ferris State finished 2 for 6 on the power play. Minnesota State was 0 for 5.

Mayhew's goal prompted an MSU goalie change, as starter Jason Pawloski was pulled after making just 11 saves. Cole Huggins finished the game and stopped all nine shots he faced.

Mayhew also had an assist for a two-point game. Jared VanWormer had two assists.

MSU's C.J. Franklin and Michael Huntebrinker were each turned away five times by Smith.

The shutout loss was the second in four games for the Mavericks (9-6-2, 6-5-2 in WCHA), who also lost 1-0 at Minnesota on Nov. 19. In between, Minnesota State scored 12 goals in two home games against Alaska.

Ferris State and Alabama Huntsville, which won 4-1 at Northern Michigan, moved into a three-way tie with Minnesota State for fourth place in the WCHA standings. They are three points behind Bowling Green, which lost 3-1 at home to second-place Michigan Tech. First-place Bemidji State tied Lake Superior 1-1 and got the extra point with a shootout win.

Friday Morning Skate

The No. 16 Mavericks are on the road to Michigan, set to play WCHA-rival Ferris State on Friday and Saturday. The key is Friday and Saturday, as MSU is looking to put together a full weekend, something it hasn't done — in terms of sweeping a series — since the first weeks of the season.

Some good news for Minnesota State is that senior defenseman and team leader Carter Foguth is expected to be back in the lineup. He was missed on the back end in last week's win and tie with Alaska. If he's in, along with Daniel Brickley, who returned from injury last week, the Mavericks appear to be fully healthy on the blue line for the first time since the third weekend of the season. For more, read the Freep's College Hockey Gameday.

The Bulldogs are coming off a split at Alabama Huntsville but also split at Mankato in late October. They trail MSU by three points in the WCHA standings, while the Mavericks trail Bowling Green by three as well.

In an occurrence seemingly as rare as the planets aligning, all 10 WCHA teams are in action against each other this weekend (although it still won't even out the games-played column in the standings).

Michigan Tech at Bowling Green: This is a matchup of the league's second- and third-place teams and should be a good one. Even Falcons coach Chris Bergeron is putting a little extra emphasis on the importance of the series. The games will take place at the BGSU Ice Arena, which will soon get a name change and with it, an influx of cash. For the Huskies, after a slow start to the season, they appear to be back on track, thanks to a freshman goaltender.

Alabama Huntsville at Northern Michigan: The Chargers have moved up to the middle of the pack in the WCHA and have made themselves a team to be reckoned with. Three of their four wins have come against Ferris State. Meanwhile, the Wildcats have had a rocky first half and are still looking for their first home victory.

Lake Superior State at Bemidji State: The Beavers finally lost a WCHA game last week but still sit comfortably atop the WCHA standings. As well as they have played over the first half of the season, they still believe there's room for improvement, namely with their offense. They will host the Lakers, who split at home with Bowling Green last weekend and did the same at Michigan a week earlier.

Alaska Anchorage at Alaska: The Governor's Cup battle begins this weekend in Fairbanks as the two Alaska teams square off. The host Nanooks, coming off a two-point weekend in Mankato, would like to create some separation between themselves and the bottom of the league. No matter how the games come out, they're going to look good doing it. The Seawolves haven't won the Governor's Cup since 2009.

This week's USCHO column focuses on Lake Superior State.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mavericks 5, Nanooks 5 (Alaska wins in SO)

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Are you not entertained? After the Mavericks won 7-3 on Friday, they and Alaska combined for 10 more goals on Saturday in a wild games that saw the Nanooks go up 3-0 after one period, the Mavericks score four times to take a 4-3 lead after two and Alaska score two quick ones early in the second to jump back ahead 5-4. C.J. Franklin tied the game at 9:33 of the third period, and the Mavericks got a point out of the night and four for the weekend. Franklin's line with Brad McClure and Marc Michaelis finished with three goals and six points. The group had 15 points for the series with the freshman Michaelis getting seven (four goals, three assists).

2. Defense struggles: Coach Mike Hastings admitted that it was a rough night for some of his defensemen, as Alaska's first three goals came on a partial breakaway, a wide-open player in front and a short-handed breakaway. They were chasing early in the third period, too, when the Nanooks scored took back the lead. Sean Flanagan and Ryan Schwalbe were minus-2. As good as it was to have Daniel Brickley (1G, 1A) back in the lineup, it clearly hurt that Carter Foguth was out again with his injury. He is the Mavericks' rock back there.

3. Introducing the shootout: After an entertaining, but scoreless, 3-on-3 overtime in which Mavs goalie Jason Pawloski made good saves early and Nanooks netminder Davis Jones robbed McClure and Michael Huntebrinker in the final minute, Mankato saw the shootout tiebreaker for the first time. It's a sudden-death situation, so it can end after one shooter for each team. Each team's first four shooters missed or were stopped. That included the surprise choice of freshman defenseman Edwin Hookenson as MSU's second shooter. Hastings said "he's been lights out in practice," and gave him a shot to win it. Later, Parker Tuomie matched Tyler Cline in the fifth round, but Zach Stepan was unable to do the same after Ross Heidt scored.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 2, Bemidji State 1 ... Bowling Green 5, Lake Superior State 2 .. Alabama Huntsville 5, Ferris State 3 ... Northern Michigan at Alaska Anchorage (late)

Live coverage: MSU vs. Alaska, Game 2

The Mavericks will go for the series sweep against the Nanooks at 7:07 p.m. Saturday at the Verizon Center. The live chat can be found below tonight's lines.

20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 19-McClure
6-Tuomie, 17-Huntebrinker, 10-Knutson
23-Rivera, 16-Nelson, 12-Coatta
25-Stepan, 26-French, 9-Gerard

8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
11-Flanagan, 27-Schwalbe
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson


Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Foguth, Madry, Vanko

14-Morley, 27-Leiter, 22-Staley
26-Cline, 15-Van Tetering, 9-Basara
18-Mullally, 7-Erickson, 13-Vieth
23-Leer, 39-Heidt

6-Frye, 24-Ladouce
12-Hinz, 32-Thompson
2-Weiss, 10-Kiraly


Friday, December 2, 2016

Mavericks 7, Nanooks 3

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Rookie sensation: Marc Michaelis was the star of the show on Friday night, scoring four points, including his first collegiate hat trick, in the win over Alaska. His third goal was the prettiest, as I describe in the gamer (link below), but it was also very important as it gave MSU a 5-3 lead midway through the third period. The floodgates opened after that, and the final score was a rout. "We definitely talked about (extending the lead) in the locker room," Michaelis said. "The next goal would decide the game."

2. Brickley's back: Sophomore defenseman Daniel Brickley (pictured) picked up right where he left off, despite being out for eight games with an injury. He had a goal and an assist and made the Mavericks' power play look like a whole different unit. The Mavericks were 2 for 3 with the man advantage. His goal came on one, and he was running things on the second despite not getting an assist. "He didn’t come back and force the game," coach Mike Hastings said. I think he took what was there — made simple plays, smart plays. … Thought he played a real heady game, didn’t put himself in bad spots. And that’s what you want a good player to do."

3. Foguth's out: The Mavericks gave up three goals, two on the power play, and could have used their captain, senior defenseman Carter Foguth, to calm things down on the back end. He's out with a lower-body injury. Hastings said he's day-to-day but "has made significant strides in the last 48 hours." It's unlikely he'll play in Saturday's rematch with Alaska, though. With Foguth out, freshman Edwin  Hookenson got his first collegiate action. He was +1 with no shots on goal. His defensive partner, Clint Lewis, had a goal and an assist.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Bemidji State 3, Michigan Tech 1 ... Lake Superior State 4, Bowling Green 2 ... Northern Michigan at Alaska Anchorage (late)

Live coverage: MSU vs. Alaska

Minnesota State is back home to start a WCHA series against Alaska. Live coverage and chat below tonight's lines ...

20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 19-McClure
6-Tuomie, 17-Huntebrinker, 10-Knutson
23-Rivera, 16-Nelson, 12-Coatta
25-Stepan, 26-French, 9-Gerard

8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
11-Flanagan, 27-Schwalbe
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson


Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Foguth, Madry, Vanko

14-Morley, 16-Munson, 22-Staley
26-Cline, 15-Van Tetering, 39-Heidt
25-Herdt, 27-Leiter, 9-Basara
18-Mullally, 7-Erickson, 13-Vieth

6-Frye, 24-Ladouce
12-Hinz, 32-Thompson
10-Kiraly, 5-Koberstein


Friday Morning Skate

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Good morning! The No. 15 Mavericks will be hosting the Alaska Nanooks tonight at the Verizon Center. It's their first rematch of the season, having played in Fairbanks Oct. 21-22. Then-leading scorer Daniel Brickley got hurt in the second game of that series but will be back for the first time since then tonight, as was reported Thursday.

Minnesota State is led in scoring by freshman forward Marc Michaelis (pictured). In some ways, his path from Germany to college hockey actually started in Mankato, although he didn't really know it at the time. Once the recruiting process started, he signed on very quickly.

A few more nuggets about Michaelis that didn't make the story:

• He was surprised early on that he was able to score so much (although his coaches weren't) but not any more, mainly because of who he's playing with. If you play a lot, you should expect a lot, he said. "You get used to playing with C.J. and Luresy," he said about skating on a line with juniors C.J. Franklin and Brad McClure. "They make plays where you don't even expect to make plays. ... I'd call it a little bit lucky, playing with those guys, getting some bounces that went in my favor."

• Michaelis recognizes that nine of his points have come on the power play. That can be good and bad. "We need to score a 5-on-5 goal," he said.

• Coach Mike Hastings said Michaelis made a good impression on him in the preseason and has kept that up. Others have taken notice, too. "I think he's a really good hockey player," Hastings said. "I think if you ask the other 13 forwards who they'd like to play with, I think he'd be at the top of the list, maybe top two."

• One player who stood out to Michaelis in that game he watched in 2012 was Matt Leitner, who was a sophomore at the time. "He was one of those guys I remember watching," he said. With his rink vision and history of being a good puck distributor who can also score, could Michaelis be the next Leitner for MSU? "I hope so," he said.

For more about the weekend series, see The Free Press' College Hockey Gameday feature.

Read more about the Nanooks in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Going around the WCHA ...

Bemidji State at Michigan Tech: This is the league's marquee matchup of the weekend as the first-place Beavers travel to the U.P. Bemidji State still hasn't lost in WCHA play but may be reeling a bit after getting swept at home by previously winless Princeton last weekend. The Huskies, meanwhile, are on a seven-game unbeaten streak, including a sweep last weekend at Alaska.

Bowling Green at Lake Superior State: The Falcons are rolling, too, with a six-game unbeaten streak and only one loss in their last nine. They will play the Lakers, who have just one win in their last seven following their 6-1 start. Bowling Green has the WCHA's leading scorer in junior forward Mitch McLain, who has 17 points.

Northern Michigan at Alaska Anchorage: The Seawolves host the Wildcats with the hope of leapfrogging them in the standings. Anchorage is last in the WCHA and on a 10-game winless streak and sits one point behind Northern Michigan, which is winless in its last seven, although it did tie Omaha and win the 3-on-3 overtime session last Friday. The Wildcats, too, hope this is a weekend in which they can make a move in the standings.

Ferris State at Alabama Huntsville: The Bulldogs travel to the Hockey Capital of the South for a Saturday-Sunday series. They are tied with the Chargers for fifth place in the WCHA. Ferris State has won four of five games. Huntsville has dropped three in a row, four with a 3-on-3 OT loss.