The Skate is back ... finally!
It's been three weeks, but Minnesota State will be back in action tonight when it faces Alabama Huntsville to kick off the second half of its league schedule. These will be the fifth and sixth consecutive road games for the Mavericks. They have split every road series so far this season.
At fourth place in the WCHA and in the 28th spot in the Pairwise Rankings (but who's really counting? ... well, everybody), Minnesota State is hoping to make a strong second-half push, as they've done so often over the last four seasons under coach Mike Hastings.
In order to do that, MSU will have to become a more consistent team. They went 3-3-0 in December, but it was a roller coaster ride. Freshman forward Marc Michaelis had a fabulous month, but the Mavericks' goaltenders did not. Their .860 save percentage over that time could mean third-stringer Aaron Nelson is closer to making his long-awaited debut? Could it happen this weekend? He is on the trip.
The Mavericks, who skated on Thursday at the Predators' practice facility in Nashville (the cities are about two hours apart) are in better shape post-break than they were pre-break, especially on defense where senior Carter Foguth is expected to be back. He missed the Mavericks last two games and five of the last nine with a lower-body injury.
Read more about the series in the College Hockey Gameday.
Going around the WCHA ...
Bemidji State's road trip is off to a good start. After splitting a series last week a Alaska Anchorage, the first-place Beavers won Thursday at Bowling Green. They'll try to make it 3 out of 4 on the road tonight against the Falcons, who are facing a tough schedule to start January (they'll be in Mankato next week).
In the U.P., Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State will play each other in the first of back-to-back, home-and-home series. It's an odd schedule, one that came as a result of some adjustments to accommodate the WCHA's new playoff format. Since Nov. 5, the two teams have a combined three wins, two ties and a whole lot of losses.
In the other league series, Ferris State goes to Alaska Anchorage where the Seawolves are showing some improvement, thanks to goaltender Olivier Mantha. Bulldogs goalie Justin Kapelmaster is coming off an impressive 58-save performance in a 1-1 tie with Boston College.
Michigan Tech will try to improve on the WCHA's rough nonconference record when it plays at Notre Dame. The Huskies have lost twice since Nov. 5, once was last weekend in the finals of the Great Lakes Invitational.
Read more about the WCHA in this week's USCHO column.