Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks will close out their regular-season home schedule when they take on Northern Michigan this weekend. This is the beginning of a four-game stretch to close out the season and a four-games stretch against two of the best goalies in the WCHA, starting with the Wildcats' Atte Tolvanen. Next week they go to Bemidji State where Michael Bitzer has led the Beavers.

Minnesota State is hoping to get its game tuned up for the postseason. If it wins tonight (and/or gets some help around the league) it will clinch a home-ice spot for the WCHA playoffs. One player who seems to be playing well right now is senior Zach Stepan, who has eight of his 10 points in the last nine games. "I’ve got a little puck luck now, and pucks are starting to go in," he said. "I’d rather it be now than at the beginning of the season because we’re coming down the stretch."

Read more about the series in The Free Press' College Hockey Gameday feature. Read more on Northern Michigan's hot goalie from The Mining Journal in Marquette.

There are only two other series in the WCHA this weekend as every team will be even (finally!) at 26 games going into the final week.

Alaska Anchorage is at Ferris State and Lake Superior State is at Alaska.

Anchorage has played well of late but still remains in last place by four points. The Seawolves will need to make some hay against the Bulldogs in order to make the playoffs. Ferris State, meanwhile, still has a shot at catching Bowling Green for home ice, trailing by six points.

As for Lake Superior State and Alaska, they are locked in a tight battle. The Lakers are tied with Northern Michigan for sixth, one point behind Ferris State but also one point ahead of the Nanooks and Alabama Huntsville, and Anchorage is surging behind them. Someone from that group isn't making the playoffs, and the next four games will figure that out.

This week's USCHO column focuses on Bemidji State's first-ever MacNaughton Cup victory. The Beavers have a week off to enjoy the championship before MSU rolls into town.

And if you're starting to get curious about where the WCHA playoff champion will go in the NCAA tournament, there are some Bracketolgy columns here and here.

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