Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mavericks 7, Wildcats 4

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Taking offense: The Mavericks once again poured in the goals against Atte Tolvanen. Who would have imagined they'd put up 12 goals on a guy who entered the weekend on a five-game shutout streak? But that's sports, right? Seven different players scored goals. Seven different players had multiple-point nights (led by Daniel Brickley's three). Players from all four lines had points. For the weekend, the Mavericks got goals from 10 different players, and all 12 forwards had at least one point. "I like that we're talking about multiple people," coach Mike Hastings said.

2. Unsung freshmen: Marc Michaelis scored MSU's seventh goal, a beauty of a shot off a nice play from C.J. Franklin. That was his 13th goal and 34th point of the season. But he's received a ton of attention. Parker Tuomie had two assists in the game and finished the weekend with four points. And the fourth line of rookies Nick Rivera, Charlie Gerard and Josh French was very good again with two goals. For the weekend that group had three goals and three assists. "I thought they were the line that kind of carried us early," Hastings said.

3. Chasing Tech: With the win, the Mavericks moved within three points of Michigan Tech for second place, which would mean a second weekend at home for the playoffs (if you win your first series, of course). The Mavericks go to Bemidji State to close the regular season, while Tech will play Northern Michigan in a home-and-home series. Minnesota State has to hope Tolvanen gets his groove back, along with its own goalies. Aaron Nelson allowed four goals on a 11 shots (three on power plays) before being pulled for Cole Huggins. "Cole came in and shut the door," Hastings said. "I thought he played really well, not a lot of rebounds, and we’re going to need that going forward."

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Ferris State 3, Alaska Anchorage 0 ... Lake Superior State at Alaska (late)

Deep thought:

Live coverage: MSU vs. Northern Michigan

The Mavericks look to sweep the Wildcats when they play at 7:07 p.m. Saturday. It's the final regular-season home game of the season for MSU, which will return to Mankato in two weeks for the WCHA playoffs. To follow along with the action, check the box below tonight's lines.

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

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson


Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Madry, Schwalbe, Vanko

10-Hanson, 11-Sooth, 15-Shine
13-Voltin, 2-Purpur, 9-Loggins
29-Payne, 24-Diamantoni, 37-Craighead
19-Starzynski, 21-Paskaruk, 8-Pierce

40-Klimek, 6-Yaremko
14-Maschmeyer, 25-Beaulieu
44-Black, 4-Frantti


Mavericks 5, Wildcats 3

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. The streak ends: Minnesota State put a quick end to Atte Tolvanen's great shutout streak, getting a goal from Zeb Knutson just 3:26 into the game. Tolvanen needed to shut out the Mavericks for two periods to get the NCAA's all-time shutout minutes record after tying the mark for most shutout games with five last week. His streak ended at 339 minutes, 5 seconds. The record was 375:01. From there, the Mavericks poured on the goals, making nifty plays and scoring five in all from five different players. Minnesota State scored three goals in the first period, playing one of its finest opening periods of the season.

2. Third line shines: The Mavericks' third line scored two goals and was all-around solid throughout the game. Jordan Nelson returned after missing five games with an injury did a lot of dirty work, killing penalties, winning faceoffs. He set up Parker Tuomie's goal by controlling the puck below the goal line and extending a shift. And although he didn't get a point on Max Coatta's goal, he buzzed through the slot just a the right time to distract Tolvanen as Coatta banged in a rebound. Each player on the line was +2. Tuomie had a goal and an assist and had six shots on goal.

3. The fourth, too: Freshman forward Nicholas Rivera scored the game-winning goal, a beauty of a play in which he batted Josh French's shot out of the air and behind the goalie. Rivera was scratched for the first time this season in the second game at Alaska Anchorage, MSU's last game, and ... message received. His short-handed goal came 58 seconds after the Wildcats made it 3-2 in the second period. "Nicky had a phenomenal week of practice," coach Mike Hastings said, adding that players called Rivera the MVP of the week. "It was great to see that roll over to his Friday game." The fourth line was an all-freshman group with Charlie Gerard on it, too.

Deep thought: Sorry for the late post and for no video. Tonight was the annual "media game," in which media (Puckato included) and other dignitaries skate at the Verizon Center after the MSU game (and, for me, after my main story is filed). A good time was had by all, and I suspect I'll be sore in the morning.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Ferris State 2, Alaska Anchorage 1 ... Alaska 4, Lake Superior State 2

Friday, February 17, 2017

Live coverage: MSU vs. Northern Michigan

The Mavericks and the Wildcats square off at 7:07 p.m. tonight. Will history be made by goaltender Atte Tolvanen? Will the Mavericks clinch home ice for the WCHA playoffs? Will both happen? The live blog can be found below tonight's lines.

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

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson


Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Madry, Schwalbe, Vanko

10-Hanson, 11-Sooth, 15-Shine
9-Loggins, 7-Salminen, 86-Hannoun
29-Payne, 24-Diamantoni, 37-Craighead
13-Voltin, 21-Paskaruk, 8-Pierce

40-Klimek, 6-Yaremko
14-Maschmeyer, 25-Beaulieu
44-Black, 4-Frantti


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.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The night 'Slap Shot' came to Mankato

A year and a half before the movie "Slap Shot" came out, a exhibition game was played in Mankato featuring some players who would go on to fame in the move. The Carlson brothers, two of whom would join the Dave Hanson as the Hanson brothers, played with the Minnesota Fighting Saints and their farm team, the Johnstown Jets, in what amounted to an intrasquad game at what was then known as the Mankato Ice Palace. Descriptions of the event read like a deleted scene from the movie.

I wrote about it in this week's Free Press column, which can be found here.

If any Puckato readers have any memories of the game, I (and other readers, I'm sure) would love to read them. Please post comments below.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Atte's coming

Minnesota State will be back in action at home on Friday when it begins a series against Northern Michigan.

That's Northern Michigan, which comes in on a nine-game unbeaten streak. Northern Michigan, with goaltender Atte Tolvanen, who has shutouts in his last five games (including a 48-save performance against Alaska on Saturday), which has tied an NCAA men's record.

In total, his shutout streak has gone 335 minutes, 39 seconds, which ranks second in NCAA men's history. He has made 207 saves over that span.

The Wildcats were in last place in the WCHA standings at one point but are now tied for sixth. Less than three weeks until the league playoffs begin, it's fair to say that no one wants to face them. But Minnesota State, trying lock down third place and maybe slide into second, will have the task of breaking Northern's and Tolvanen's stress this weekend.

Here's what teams have left in the WCHA season (in order of standings, points in parenthesis):

1. Bemidji State (61)* — bye ... vs. Minnesota State
2. Michigan Tech (51) — bye ... at/vs. Northern Michigan
3. Minnesota State (42) — vs. Northern Michigan ... at Bemidji State
4. Bowling Green (38) — bye ... vs. Alabama Huntsville
5. Ferris State (32) — vs. Alaska Anchorage ... at Lake Superior State
6. Lake Superior State (31) — at Alaska ... vs. Ferris State
    Northern Michigan (31) — at Minnesota State ... vs./at Michigan Tech
8. Alaska (30) — vs. Lake Superior State ... at Alaska Anchorage
    Alabama Huntsville (30) — bye ... at Bowling Green
10. Alaska Anchorage (26) — at Ferris State ... vs. Alaska Anchorage

* MacNaughton Cup champion

Friday, February 10, 2017

Beavers win MacNaughton Cup

The Bemidji State men’s hockey team won the MacNaughton Cup as the WCHA’s regular-season champion on Friday night, defeating Alabama Huntsville 3-2.

It’s the first WCHA title for the Beavers.

Nate Arentz had a goal and an assist for Bemidji State. Gerry Fitzgerald and Jay Dickman had the other goals. Dickman’s goal at 6:00 of the third period gave the Beavers a 3-0 lead and stood as the game-winner, as the Chargers scored goals 38 seconds apart later in the period to make the game close. The Beavers outshot the Chargers 25-19. Michael Bitzer got the 17-save win.

Bemidji State (19-11-3, 19-4-2 in WCHA) won the title with three games remaining in its regular season and with several teams chasing them with games in hand.

In other WCHA action on Friday night, Ferris State defeated Michgan Tech 3-2, Northern Michigan blanked Alaska 3-0, and Alaska Anchorage beat Lake Superior State 3-2. Minnesota State is idle this weekend.

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks are idle this weekend, although they played against some mites and squirts from Mankato Area Hockey Association on Thursday afternoon (see photo). They likely will be doing some scoreboard watching, however, as eight other WCHA teams are in action against each other tonight and tomorrow (and one other has a single nonconference game on Saturday).

Bemidji State is at Alabama Huntsville where it has a chance to clinch the MacNaughton Cup as the league's regular-season champion for the first time. The Beavers have to win one game against the Chargers, who are trying to maintain at least their eighth-place spot in the standings and avoid falling to a non-playoff position. They have a two-point cushion currently, but the teams below them have two games in hand.

Michigan Tech hosts Ferris State on the annual Winter Carnival weekend. The Huskies all but lost their chance to defend the MacNaughton Cup (shared with MSU) when they were swept at Bemidji, but they don't want that to define their season. Meanwhile, with six games remaining in the season, Ferris State hopes to give itself a chance at home ice for the playoffs. The Bulldogs are nine points behind Bowling Green, which only has two league games remaining.

Alaska is at Northern Michigan, and the Nanooks are in a slightly better position than Ferris. They are eight games out of fourth and also have four games in hand on BG. The Wildcats are in ninth place and trying to crawl out of the WCHA cellar. They've been doing a fantastic job of late, as they're on a seven-game unbeaten streak, one that includes three straight shutouts by goalie Atte Tolvanen.

Alaska Anchorage plays at Lake Superior State where it, too, is trying to get out of the basement. The Seawolves are 10th in the league following their home split against MSU and will spend the next two weekends in Michigan (they're at Ferris State next week). They have yet to win a game outside of Alaska this season. The Lakers hope to do what Ferris and Alaska are trying to do. They're tied with the Bulldogs and also have a full slate of six games left.

Bowling Green will not play another league game until it closes out the regular season with a home series against UAH so it will definitely be doing some scoreboard watching. On Saturday, the Falcons will host Mercyhurst in a celebration of its arena's 50th year. The festivities for the nonconference game include the return of some prominent alumni, but also famed hockey announcer Mike "Doc" Emrick, who will do radio with Evan Pivnick. Emrick basically started his radio career in Bowling Green received his doctorate from BGSU in 1976.

Read more about Emrick in this week's USCHO column and more about Northern Michigan's surge from College Hockey News.

Closer to home, Gustavus' Hill Crew will host a Teddy Bear Toss benefit during Saturday night's men's game against Bethel. Fans who bring a new stuffed animal to the rink will receive free admission to the game, which will benefit Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and Partners for Affordable Housing in Mankato. After the Gusties score their first goal, fans will throw the toys on the ice where they will be collected and donated to the two Mankato organizations.

The WCHA announced its scholar-athletes for this season, and 21 MSU men's and women's players (10 men, 11 women) made the list.

The New York Times has had some good college hockey articles this season. Recently, it profiled Bemidji State's Fitzgerald triplets, and this week, it looked at former Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves' transition to Division III St. Olaf.

ICYMI: Scroll down on the blog to read my update on Minnesota State's recruits for next season.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Recruits shine in USHL

With Minnesota State idle this week and the stretch run starting next week (two more weeks in the regular season followed by up to three weeks of conference playoffs), I thought this would be a good time to check in on the team's recruits for next year. 

It's a pretty impressive class.

The group of nine players already signed with the Mavericks includes the United States Hockey League's top goaltender and top-scoring defenseman, as well as three forwards who rank among in that league's top 25 scorers.

Goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks might be the most intriguing prospect (especially considering MSU's up-and-down goalie situation this season). The Sioux City Musketeers goalie is 21-5-4 in 32 games, ranking second in the USHL in wins. He leads the league with a .937 save percentage and 1.77 goals-against average.

Defenseman Connor Mackey has 33 points in 40 games for the Green Bay Gamblers. He's the USHL's No. 1-scoring defenseman and No. 13 overall. His 33 assists rank third in the league.

Mackey's teammate, Jared Spooner, ranks 10th in USHL scoring with 34 points in 36 games. He has 14 goals.

The Chicago Steel have three MSU forwrd recruits, and they play together on the team's "Mankato Line." Reggie Lutz is 10th in the USHL in goals with 33 and 11th in points with 33, playing 39 games. Jake Jaremko has 30 points in 39 games, which ranks 21st in scoring. His 21 assists rank 11th. Walker Duehr has 27 points, including 12 goals, in 36 games, which ranks 30th in the league.

Forward Dallas Gerads of the Dubuque Fighting Saints has 24 points, including eight goals, in 38 games.

Back on defense, Riese Zmolek of the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders has 10 points in 26 games, and Jack McNeely of the Muskegon Lumberjacks has five points in 35 games.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Mavericks 5, Seawolves 0

Minnesota State bounced back on Saturday night, defeating Alaska Anchorage 4-0 for a WCHA series split.

Junior forward Zeb Knutson scored two goals for the Mavericks.

Aaron Nelson got the start in goal after sitting out the last three games and faced just 13 shots for the shutout, his second of the season. The Mavericks put 27 shots on goal.

Michael Huntebrinker finished with a goal and two assists. Brad McClure and C.J. Franklin scored MSU’s other goals.

The Mavericks got off to a strong start, something they hadn’t done in their previous four games, and scored two goals.

Knutson got things started at 6:45, getting assists from Huntebrinker and Zach Stepan. McClure made it 2-0 at 15:34 on assists from Marc Michaelis and Ian Scheid.

Knutson extended the lead to three goals at 11:33 of the second period with Huntebrinker assisting.

Anchorage, desperate to get on the board, pulled goalie Olivier Mantha during a power play with 7:20 remaining in the game. However, Franklin scored a short-handed goal into the empty net to all but ice the MSU win.

Max Coatta and Sean Flanagan had assists. Huntebrinker added a power-play goal from Carter Fought and Clint Lewis with 2:22 to play.

The victory firmed up Minnesota State’s third-place position in the WCHA standings. The Mavericks (16-10-4, 12-8-4 in WCHA) are four points ahead of Bowling Green, which was swept at home by Northern Michigan over the weekend, and have two games in hand on the Falcons. They are six points behind Michigan Tech, which was swept in a series at first-place Bemidji State.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Seawolves 4, Mavericks 3

There was no third-period comeback for the Minnesota State men’s hockey team on Friday night in Anchorage.

The Mavericks fell to Alaska Anchorage 4-3 in their WCHA series opener, losing to the Seawolves for the first time in seven games.

Minnesota State outshot Anchorage 43-17 but couldn’t solve goaltender Olivier Mantha for much of the game.

The Seawolves led 2-0 until 31 seconds remained in the second period. Daniel Brickley finally got MSU on the board with help from C.J. Franklin.

That wasn’t enough to spark a big final period as they had in four of their last five games.

Midway through the third, the Seawolves got the Mavericks chasing in their defensive zone, and Mason Mitchell finished off a tic-tac-toe play for a 3-1 lead.

Fifty seconds later, MSU’s Sean Flanagan got the goal right back. Ian Scheid assisted, but the Mavericks were still playing from behind.

With two minutes remaining in the third period and an offensive faceoff coming up, coach Mike Hastings called timeout and pulled goalie Cole Huggins (13 saves) for an extra attacker. The Mavericks got a scoring chance, but couldn’t get it to goal. Quickly, Anchorage’s Tad Kozen cleared the puck from deep in his own end, putting it right down the middle of the ice and into the empty net for the 4-2 lead.

Minnesota State made another push with a power play and an extra attacker but didn’t score until Marc Michaelis’ goal with 6.9 remaining.

The goal was the team-leading 32nd point of the season for Michaelis, a freshman forward. Brickley assisted on the goal for a two-point game.

With the loss, the third-place Mavericks  (15-10-4, 11-8-4) failed to pick up ground on second-place Michigan Tech, which lost at Bemidji State, or create space from Bowling Green, which lost at home to Northern Michigan.

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.