Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Morning Skate

Minnesota State has gone "North to Alaska" to take on the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves tonight and Saturday. The Mavericks hope to get out to good starts in the road games, but, lately, they have found themselves trailing after two periods and have had to find a way to get wins or ties. "Just find a way," seems to be MSU's motto.

The matchup features the WCHA's highest scoring team, MSU, vs. the league's lowest-scoring team, UAA. For more on the series, check out the Free Press' College Hockey Gameday feature.

Prior to getting swept at Northern Michigan last week, the Seawolves were 4-4-5 with two extra-point wins following a rough, 1-10-0 start to the year.

Going around the WCHA:

The big matchup of the weekend will take place in Bemidji where first-place Bemidji State is trying to hold off surging Michigan Tech. Beavers freshman defenseman Zach Whitecloud is a First Nations member from Manitoba but has an appreciation for Bemidji's Native American culture. The Huskies, meanwhile, enter the weekend fully aware that every league point counts.

Bowling Green, which trails Minnesota State by a point, will host Northern Michigan. The Falcons sound a lot like MSU when talking about their season in that they have been inconsistent. The Wildcats are coming off a sweep of Anchorage but are still in a tie for ninth place as they try to get into playoff position.

Five points separate fifth through eighth place in the WCHA, and two of those teams, seventh-place Alaska and eighth-place Alabama Huntsville will square off in Fairbanks. Not only are they trying to improve their own playoff position but they're trying to avoid falling into a spot that eliminates them from the postseason.

For more on the WCHA, read this week's USCHO column.

The big news around college hockey on Thursday was the death of Jeff Sauer, the former Wisconsin (and Colorado College coach). He was quite the figure in the sport, touching a lot of people — even those, like me, who only had a handful of dealings with him. There were several fitting tributes to "The Dean," as he was known around the WCHA, yesterday. His work after coaching the Badgers has been notable, coaching the U.S. sled hockey team in international competition, for example. But he also worked with the WCHA as an associate commissioner, watching men's and women's games and evaluating referees. The WCHA's statement about Sauer can be found here.

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