Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks are back home for an important series against Lake Superior State. Minnesota State dropped out of the USCHO top 20 this week and into fourth place in the WCHA standings. It's time to make a late-season surge. If they're to do that, they'll need some improved scoring depth. One player who's capable of helping that is Zeb Knutson, who had a strong start to the season, tapered off a bit and now seems to have found his groove again. Minnesota State is 9-1-1 when he has a point this season.

An aside that didn't make the final edit of that story:

When he was 15 years old, Knutson attended the Sioux City Musketeers' futures camp. The head coach/GM at Sioux City was Todd Knott. Knott met with him afterward and told him he had a chance to play junior and college hockey but would probably have to leave home to develop. Knott hooked him up with coaches in Kansas City, and Knutson played for the Russell Stover program there for three years. After that, Knutson landed a spot with the Sioux Falls Stampede, and who was recruiting him for college? Todd Knott, assistant coach at Minnesota State. "Hasn’t changed a bit," Knutson said. "It’s pretty funny. Knotter's been a supporter since basically Day 1. He’s been a big part of why I’m here and why I’ve gotten to the place I’ve gotten to."

Knutson, next season, will get a chance to play with his cousin, Walker Duehr, an MSU recruit currently with the USHL's Chicago Steel, an opportunity he's excited about. "We lived right next door to each other," Knutson said. "Growing up, knowing him, he's basically like a brother."

Back to this weekend's series, and the skate:

Lake Superior State is unbeaten in five of its last six games, including a home sweep over Alabama Huntsville last weekend and an earlier 3-on-3 win at Northern Michigan. For more on the the Mavericks vs. the Lakers, check out the Free Press' College Hockey Gameday.

Going around the WCHA:

Bemidji State in North Star Cup: The Beavers will take on St. Cloud State today as the sun sets on this tournament, which is too bad. There have been a lot of obituaries about the North Star Cup this week, stories about why it didn't work and why it never really became Minnesota's version of the Beanpot (here's mine, in case you missed it). The St. Cloud Times' Mick Hatten suggests a new tournament that rotates between Mankato, Bemidji, St. Cloud and Duluth each year. Seems doable, but will it happen? Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth will play tonight's game, and the two losers and two winners will play on Saturday.

Michigan Tech at Alabama Huntsville: After taking four of six points from Minnesota State, the Huskies travel south to play the Chargers. One player who has emerged for Michigan Tech since the holiday break is sophomore defenseman Dane Birks. With a sweep, Tech could really make a race for the MacNaughton Cup, closing within three points of Bemidji State. The Chargers in the bottom-half logjam and would like to get back in contention for home ice.

Bowling Green at Ferris State: Nine points separate the third-place Falcons from the seventh-place Bulldogs, and MSU, Lake Superior State and Alaska sit between them. Bowling Green, which has split its last four league series, is quite aware of its position, coach Chris Bergeron said. What will things look like after the weekend? Ferris State has one win in its last nine games.

Here is this week's WCHA column from USCHO.

Finally, here's a great story from WTRF-TV out of Wheeling, West Virginia, on former Minnesota State player Brett Stern and the special bond he's formed with a young fan of his team, the Wheeling Nailers.

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