Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Flanagan, Huntebrinker turn pro

Minnesota State defenseman and Sean Flanagan and forward Michael Huntebrinker, who just wrapped up their college careers, have turned pro, both signing with the ECHL's Reading Royals.

They were part of a senior class that won 98 games at MSU as well as two WCHA regular-season titles and two league tournament championships.

Huntebrinker had 15 goals and 38 assists in 124 career games. He was an alternate captain this season and a three-time WCHA All-Academic selection.

Flanagan had 13 goals and 41 assists in 140 career games. He, too, was an alternate captain this season and a three-time All-Academic pick. He blocked 138 shots and was plus-23 for his career. He already has played in one game for Reading.

The duo will join former teammate Johnny McInnis on the Royals' roster. McInnes, who was a senior when they were freshmen, was traded to Reading earlier this season from Utah. He started the season in Orlando.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Huskies win Broadmoor in 2OT

Michigan Tech won the Broadmoor Trophy and the WCHA's auto-bid into the NCAA tournament with a double-overtime victory over Bowling Green in Houghton, Mich. Looked like a jam-packed crowd at the McInnes Arena, too. More later, but here's the game-winning goal:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hastings: Focus is on MSU's program (not Omaha)

In the days before he was hired at Minnesota State, coach Mike Hastings was asked about the potential of being Dean Blais’ eventual successor at Nebraska Omaha.

Hastings was Blais’ associate head coach before taking the Mavericks job and earlier had spent 14 years in that city as the head coach of the Omaha Lancers junior team in the United States Hockey League.

Blais stepped down as Omaha’s coach on Tuesday, and Hastings’ name again has been floated by college hockey observers as a possible candidate.

Reached via phone while recruiting on Tuesday afternoon, Hastings said he believes he has it pretty good at Minnesota State.

“I’m concerned with what we’re putting together and dealing with our program,” he said, “what we still have in the locker room with the seniors that are leaving, that we have a very, very good recruiting class.

“I’m excited about the challenges ahead of us next year. I’m looking forward to that. That hasn’t changed.”

Hastings just completed his fifth season with the Mavericks, his second under an eight-year contract he signed in the summer of 2015 that replaced his original four-year deal and pays him an annual salary of $290,000.

The Mavericks are 122-62-18 under Hastings. Their season ended on Sunday in the third game of a WCHA playoff semifinal series at Michigan Tech.

Blais spent eight seasons at Omaha and had a record of 146-133-30 there with two NCAA appearance, including a Frozen Four spot in 2015. Omaha went 17-17-5 this season. Blais also coached North Dakota for 10 years where he led that program to two national championships.

Hastings said he considers Blais a mentor.

“I consider myself incredibly fortunate to say I worked with the man,” Hastings said, “and had the opportunity to learn from him because he’s one of the best in the country.”

Brickley, Michaelis earn top honors

Minnesota State sophomore defenseman Daniel Brickley and freshman forward Marc Michaelis earned WCHA postseason individual awards on Tuesday.

Brickley was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, and Michaelis was named Rookie of the Year.

Bemidji State goaltender Michael Bitzer was named WCHA Player of the Year, while his coach, Tom Serratore, was named Coach of the Year.

Brickley finished the season with 31 points, including eight goals, in 31 games. Despite missing eight games with injury, he was the WCHA’s top-scoring defenseman and is currently second in the nation among defensemen with 1.00 points per game.

Michaelis led the Mavericks and the WCHA (overall games) in scoring with 36 points, including 13 goals. He’s currently the fourth-leading rookie scorer in the country.

Brickely, considered one of the top free agents in college hockey, appears to be staying in Mankato for another season per this tweet from TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie on Monday:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Huskies 4, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Hard ice: Just as Minnesota State shut down Michigan Tech on Saturday night, the Huskies did the same to the Mavericks on Sunday to clinch Game 3 and advance to the WCHA tournament championship. Tech held MSU to just three shots on goal in a momentum-grabbing second period and blocked 11 shots for the game to end Minnesota State's season. They made life difficult for the Mavericks for much of the second and third periods after a fairly even and very physical first period. "It was a hard-fought battle," junior forward C.J. Franklin said. "Sometimes the bounces don't go your way. They made some plays, and it was game over."

2. Tough call #1: The game turned midway through the second period on a pair of power play goals by Tech's Gavin Gould, who finished the game with a hat trick. He put the home team up 3-1 with goals 85 seconds apart following back-to-back too-many-players penalties on Minnesota State. Those are penalties that shouldn't happen this time of year. The first was clearly an MSU mistake, as they skated with six on the ice for several seconds before getting caught. The second occurred during a line change, and coach Mike Hastings said he didn't agree with that. But, he added, they still needed to kill the penalties, and they didn't.

3. Tough call #2: For the second game in a row, the Mavericks had a goal taken off the board. On Sunday, it came with 3:05 to play in the game. A Daniel Brickley 6-on-4 power play goal would have made it a 3-2 game and undoubtedly made for a wild finish. But the officials went to the video review and determined that Franklin was in the crease making contact with goalie Angus Redmond on the play. Franklin said he didn't think he made contact. Hastings said, "No comment," and that he didn't want to take away from Tech earning the victory. I didn't get a great look at it on the TV monitors here. Would have liked the above-goal angle.

Deep thought: Sunday was the last game for senior skaters Carter Foguth (144 games), Sean Flanagan (140 games), Zach Stepan (136 games) Jordan Nelson (134 games) and Michael Huntebrinker (124 games) as well as for goalie Cole Huggins (88 games), who was the backup. That's a group that's accomplished a lot over its time at MSU, winning 98 games. "I'm going to miss them," Hastings said. "I thanked them for moving the needle for our program." Pretty classy group to deal with from a sportswriter's perspective, too, I might add.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech will host Bowling Green for the Broadmoor Trophy and the WCHA's lone bid into the NCAA tournament on Saturday in Houghton. "Whoever comes out of our league is going to be a real good representative at the national tournament," Hastings said.

Live coverage: MSU vs. Michigan Tech, Game 3

Minnesota State and Michigan Tech are playing for a spot in next week's Broadmoor Trophy championship game. The Huskies won Game 1 5-1, and the Mavericks won Game 2 1-0. The winner will host the title game against Bowling Green, which swept Bemidji State in the WCHA's other semifinal series. The loser's season will end. Follow along below tonight's lines:

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 10-Knutson
6-Tuomie, 17-Huntebrinker, 19-McClure
23-Rivera, 16-J. Nelson, 12-Coatta
25-Stepan, 26-French, 27-Schwalbe

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

39-Pawloski
34-Huggins

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Gerard, Madry, A. Nelson, Vanko

MICHIGAN TECH
10-Jackson, 25-Neville, 7-Sturos
9-Gillies, 20-Smith, 11-L'Esperance
27-Heinonen, 15-Lucchini, 19-Gerrie
14-Gould, 6-Leibinger, 13-Beretta

2-Watson, 5-Reinke
22-Hanna, 3-Roy
12-Auk, 4-Birks

37-Redmond
35-Wintjes
31-Kero

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Mavericks 1, Huskies 0

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Another night in Houghton: The Mavericks forced a Game 3 in the best-of-three series with a strong defensive performance once night after giving up five goals to the Huskies. Minnesota State came out hard and, as I wrote about in my gamer (link below), survived a disallowed goal, a sometimes-ugly power play (thanks, in part, to Tech's tough PK) and a last-minute penalty that put the home team in a 6-on-4 advantage after pulling the goalie for an extra attacker. "We talked about being even-keel," said goalie Jason Pawloski, who had a 15-save shutout. "There are parts of the game you can't control, and I think we handled those really well tonight."

2. Block party: Minnesota State was credited with 17 blocked shots in the game, two more than shots on goal. Carter Foguth had four blocks. The Mavericks had five in the third period and allowed just three pucks to get to Pawloski. “It was awesome,” Pawloski said. “Those guys did a phenomenal job in front of me tonight. They made it easy. They blocked a lot of pucks, and that’s tough to do because that’s going to hurt. I can’t say enough about what they did.” Said coach Mike Hastings: "I thought the whole team had some conviction." They sure looked like a team that wasn't ready for their season to end.

3. Win and go home: Sunday's winner won't just be moving on to the Broadmoor Trophy championship game. It will be hosting it. Bowling Green defeated Bemidji State 2-1 for the upset sweep of the MacNaughton Cup winner, which means Minnesota State or Michigan Tech will be at home. Talk about even more being on the line."We kept our season alive," said Zeb Knutson, who scored the game's lone goal (and had the disallowed goal). "It was do or die tonight. It will be the same tomorrow."

Read much more in my game story here.

Live coverage: MSU at Tech, Game 2

The Mavericks look to keep their season alive when they face the Huskies in the second game of their WCHA playoff semifinal series. Michigan Tech won Friday's opener 5-1 and can close out MSU with a win tonight. If Minnesota State wins, a decisive third game will be played Sunday night. Follow the action below tonight's lines:

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 10-Knutson
6-Tuomie, 17-Huntebrinker, 19-McClure
23-Rivera, 16-Nelson, 12-Coatta
9-Gerard, 26-French, 27-Schwalbe

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

39-Pawloski
34-Huggins

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Madry, A. Nelson, Stepan, Vanko

MICHIGAN TECH
10-Jackson, 25-Neville, 7-Sturos
9-Gillies, 20-Smith, 11-L'Esperance
27-Heinonen, 15-Lucchini, 6-Leibinger
14-Gould, 16-Blacklock, 13-Beretta

2-Watson, 5-Reinke
22-Hanna, 3-Roy
12-Auk, 4-Birks

37-Redmond
35-Wintjes
31-Kero

Gusties make D3 women's Frozen Four

The Gustavus Adolphus women's hockey team upset No. 3-ranked Wisconsin River Falls on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament to advance to the Frozen Four.

Katilyn Kline's power-play goal with 3:53 remaining in the third period broke a tie game and led to the Gusties' 3-2 win. It was Gustavus' second goal of the period. River Falls, which had beaten the Gusties twice in December, had taken a 2-1 lead early in the third.

The Falcons outshot the Gusties 40-20, but goaltender Amanda DiNella, made a career-high 38 saves.

Allie Lewis and Kristen Cash had the other goals for Gustavus, which was playing in its first NCAA tournament since 2013.

Gustavus (18-6-3) will face Adrian (27-2-0) on Friday at Adrian, Mich. Plattsburgh State (26-1-1) and Norwich (23-5-1) will play in the earlier semifinal.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Huskies 5, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. First, the good news: Under the old, Final Five format, the semifinals were a one-game, single-elimination affair. But now it's a best-of-three series, so the Mavericks aren't done yet. They have a chance to get back in this thing. They'll have to win two in a row in hostile territory, though. "Our start will be important, the way we come out" defenseman Carter Foguth said. "If we can get ahead or get some momentum going, that may give us an advantage. We have to take care of our chances tomorrow."

2. Tough third period: Things snowballed on the Mavericks in the third period. It was a tight, 1-1 game up until then. Reid Sturos partial breakaway broke the stalemate, and, as coach Mike Hastings said, the Mavericks didn't really punch back. Jake Jackson made it 3-1 just 3:24 later and, "all of a sudden the hill starts to look a little steeper," Hastings said. A Gavin Gould breakaway and a length-of-the-ice penalty-kill clear into an empty net with 4:40 to play finished things off.

3. Best players, step forward: Hastings mentioned that his team's "horses" need "to run a little bit more than they did tonight. Our best players probably have to be a little bit better." Indeed, the top line of C.J. Franklin, Marc Michaelis and Zeb Knutson was -3 as a group and had just five shots on goal, four by Knutson. Brad McClure got off just two shots and was -1. Defenseman Daniel Brickley was also -3.

Read my game story here.


Meanwhile in Bemidji, Bowling Green won the first game of the series in overtime with the Falcons' Kevin Dufour completing his hat trick in OT. The Beavers now are in the same boat as the Mavericks, needing to win Saturday night to keep their season alive.

Live coverage: MSU at Michigan Tech, WCHA semifinals

The Mavericks and the Huskies will begin the semifinal round of the WCHA playoffs at 6:07 p.m. today in Houghton, Mich. The winner of the best-of-three series will move on to next week's league championship game. Follow along with the action below tonight's lines.

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

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

39-Pawloski
34-Huggins

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Madry, A. Nelson, Schwalbe, Manko

MICHIGAN TECH
10-Jackson, 25-Neville, 7-Sturos
9-Gillies, 20-Smith, 11-L'Esperance
27-Heinonen, 15-Lucchini, 6-Leibinger
14-Gould, 16-Blacklock, 13-Beretta

2-Watson, 5-Reinke
22-Hanna, 3-Roy
12-Auk, 4-Birks

37-Redmond
35-Wintjes
31-Kero

Friday Morning Skate

It's semifinal weekend in the WCHA, and Minnesota State is in Houghton to take on Michigan Tech in the best-of-three series. The Mavericks are hoping to get through this weekend and into the Broadmoor Trophy title game for the fourth year in a row. They won two the first two they played in and then lost one, which still stings a bit, captain Carter Foguth said this week.

Minnesota State and Tech are pretty similar teams, Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said in this week's College Hockey Gameday. Hastings also said: "There are not a lot of differences from this standpoint: Their best players are playing very well. They're getting very good goaltending and special teams. ... Their depth; it's not just one guy. They've got four lines and six defensemen, and if you focus on one line or one defenseman or one pair of defensemen, you're going to lose some of the others."

One sign of the Huskies' depth is the recent emergence of senior forward Reid Sturos, who has six points in his last three games and is tied for the team's scoring lead.

It is strange — and yet another reminder of what once was — that there's not a Final Five this weekend. The winner of the Minnesota State-Michigan Tech series will face the winner of the Bemidji State-Bowling Green taking place in Bemidji.

The Beavers are known for their defense, which starts with All-WCHA goaltender Michael Bitzer. But the players in front of him are impressive, too. One of the unheralded pairs of defensemen on the team is that of Dan Billett and Tommy Muck.

As for the Falcons, they have a special defenseman in Sean Walker. Also, their special teams are playing well right now.

Staying on the subject of special teams, USCHO's preview of the semifinal weekend focuses on them. College Hockey News also previews the weekend.

Outside of the WCHA, the Gustavus Adolphus women's team is in the NCAA tournament, something it was hoping for after getting upset in the semifinals of the MIAC tournament. The Gusties practiced for a week, not knowing if it was preparing for anything. It was, and they'll play at No. 3 Wisconsin-River Falls tonight.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Five Mavericks make All-WCHA

Minnesota State players were selected for the 2016-17 All-WCHA teams, including forward Marc Michaelis and defenseman Daniel Brickley, who were First Team picks.

Michaelis, a freshman, is the WCHA’s top overall scorer with 36 points and was second in conference play with 28 this season. He was also chosen for the WCHA's Rookie Team. Brickely, a sophomore, leads all league defensemen in scoring with 30 points.

Mavericks junior forwards C.J. Franklin and Brad McClure earned spots on the Second Team and Third Team, respectively. They have 31 and 28 points, respectively, which rank sixth and 10th in the conference. Ian Scheid, the top-scoring freshman defenseman in the WCHA with 23 points, joined Michaelis on the Rookie Team.

Here are the All-WCHA teams:

First Team: Forwards—Gerald Mayhew, Ferris State; Mitch McLain, Bowling Green; Marc Michaelis, Minnesota State. Defensemen—Daniel Brickley, Minnesota State; Matt Roy, Michigan Tech. Goaltender—Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State.

Second Team: Forwards—C.J. Franklin, Minnesota State; Mitch Hults, Lake Superior State; Phillip Marinaccio, Bemidji State; Corey Mackin, Ferris State. Defensemen—Shane Hanna, Michigan Tech; Sean Walker, Bowling Green. Goaltender—Atte Tolvanen, Northern Michigan.

Third Team: Forwards—Brad McClure, Minnesota State; Dominik Shine, Northern Michigan; Gerry Fitzgerald, Bemidji State. Defensemen—Mark Friedman, Bowling Green; Kurt Gosselin, Alabama Huntsville. Goaltender: Justin Kapelmaster, Ferris State.

Rookie Team: Forwards—Marc Michaelis, Minnesota State; Darien Craighead, Northern Michigan; Max Humitz, Lake Superior State. Defensemen: Ian Scheid, Minnesota State; Alec Rauhauser, Bowling Green; Mitch Reinke, Michigan Tech; Zach Whitecloud, Bemidji State. Goaltender—Angus Redmond, Michigan Tech.

The WCHA’s individual award winners will be announced next week.

Mavericks get two commitments

Minnesota State recently received two verbal commitments from recruits, including a native of Germany who eventually will join his fellow countrymen and former teammates Marc Michaelis and Tuomie, with the Mavericks.

Julian Napravnik is a skilled forward with the Des Moines Buccaneers from Bad Nauheim, Germany who played with Michaelis and Tuomie with Jungadler Mannheim.

“(The Mavericks) have dynamic players already, and they’re getting another one in (Napravnik),” Buccaneers coach Nate Weossner said in a press release. “He’s the type of kid that can be a game changer at any time; he’s the kind of guy that you gotta watch out for because he’ll make a play at any second. I think he’s just going to be a good fit for them.”

The 5-foot-11 Napravnik has 16 goals and 31 points in 42 games for Des Moines this season. The 19-year-old is in his first year in the USHL.

The Mavericks also received a commitment from 17-year-old defenseman Tony Malinowski of the Oakland Junior Grizzlies AAA team in Michigan. The 6-3, 185-pounder, has 18 points in 32 games this season. He is a native of Clarkston, Michigan.

Meanwhile, Mankato native Tyler Jutting, the son on former Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting, has committed to play hockey at Air Force, he tweeted last week.

Tyler Jutting played two seasons at Mankato West until moving to Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault. Currently, the 6-4, 203-pound defenseman plays junior hockey for the West Kelowna Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Pawloski, Tuomie recognized

Minnesota State sophomore goaltender Jason Pawloski and freshman forward Parker Tuomie received WCHA weekly awards this week for their play in the Mavericks' quarterfinal series win over Alaska.

Pawloski was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week, and Tuomie received WCHA Rookie of the Week honors.

Pawloski, an Omaha native, stopped 52 of 53 shots (.981 save percentage), including a 23-save shutout on Friday, to beat the Nanooks twice. He improved his season record to 7-3-2 with a .926 save percentage and 2.03 goals-against average.

Tuomie, a native of Bremerhaven, Germany, had four points in the series, including two goals on Friday and two assists on Saturday. He was plus-3 for the series. He now has eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points in 36 games.

Monday, March 6, 2017

WCHA semifinals set

Well, the Mavericks will be on the road for the semifinals of the WCHA playoffs. They'll travel to Houghton, Mich., this week to take on Michigan Tech in the best-of-three series.

Minnesota State didn't get the help it needed from Northern Michigan so it could host this week. Bemidji State beat NMU on Sunday night in Game 3 of their series. The top-seeded Beavers will host Bowling Green in the other semifinal.

The Mavericks could still host one more game, though. If they knock out the Huskies, and the Falcons pull off an upset at Bemidji, MSU would host the Broadmoor Trophy championship game. But that's getting ahead of things.

Minnesota State went 2-1-1 against Michigan Tech this season. The two wins took place way back on  opening weekend last October in Mankato. On Jan. 20-21, MSU tied and lost in the U.P. They did get the extra point in the tie with a shootout win but were shut out the next night. Since then, MSU is 7-2-1 (2-2-0 on the road) and Tech is 5-4-1 (3-2-0 at home).

Bemidji State went 3-1-0 against Bowling Green this season, sweeping the Falcons at home to start the season and splitting a series in Ohio on Jan. 5-6. In their last 10 games, Bemidji State is 6-4-0 (5-2-0 at home) and Bowling Green is 7-3-0 (1-1 on the road).

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Mavericks 4, Nanooks 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Moving on: The Mavericks avoided some lessons of the past and won Saturday night to advance to the WCHA semifinal round. Twice this season, Minnesota State defeated Alaska handily on Friday only to struggle against the Nanooks the next night, losing at Fairbanks and tying (and dropping the shootout) in Mankato. After winning 3-0 on Friday, MSU withstood a strong push and got the job done to sweep and avoid having to play a decisive third game as it did a year ago against Lake Superior State. "Now, we can take a day off an relax," said Jordan Nelson, whose line was fantastic on Saturday and, really, the whole weekend. "Last year, we had to play on Sunday and grind through it. Now, we can regroup and get our rest."

2. Who's next? Minnesota State will also spend Sunday waiting to see who they'll play next and where that will take place. With Northern Michigan winning at Bemidji State on Saturday and forcing a third game, the Mavericks could be home or away for the best-of-three semifinals. A Wildcats upset win will keep MSU at home against Bowling Green, which finished off a sweep of Ferris State, 5-3. If the top-seeded Beavers win, the Mavericks will go on the road to Michigan Tech, which swept Lake Superior State with an 8-0 victory. Certainly a lot of MSU fans will be rooting for Northern Michigan. If MSU is at home, will it be able to break the 3,000 attendance mark, something — partially due to the students being on spring break — it was unable to do this weekend?

3. Best for last: Every team says it wants to be playing its best hockey at the end of the year, and it would be hard to deny that the Mavericks are doing that. The win, MSU's 21st of the season, was the team's sixth in its last seven games. Since returning from Houghton, Mich., in Jan. 21 with a tie and a shutout loss, the Mavericks are 7-2-1. Goaltender Jason Pawloski started and won his third game in a row on Saturday and stopped 79 of 81 shots (.975) in those games. Nelson's line with Max Coatta and Parker Tuomie had three goals and three assists on Saturday and five goals and four assists for the weekend. "I like the direction we're going in right now," coach Mike Hastings said.

Read my game story here.

Live coverage: MSU vs. Alaska

The Mavericks will go for the series sweep and a spot in next week's WCHA semifinals when they play Alaska at 7:07 p.m. Minnesota State won Friday's game 3-0. Follow along with the action below tonight's lines.

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 10-Knutson
25-Stepan, 17-Huntebrinker, 19-McClure
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

ALASKA
26-Cline, 16-Munson, 22-Staley
14-Morley, 15-Van Tetering, 9-Basara
23-Leer, 7-Erickson, 13-Vieth
39-Heidt, 18-Mullally, 28-Hope

6-Frye, 32-Thompson
8-Woods, 24-LaDouce
12-Hinz, 5-Kobertsein

30-Jones
29-Jenks


Friday, March 3, 2017

Mavericks 3, Nanooks 0

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Complete game: Minnesota State played a solid, solid game to open the WCHA playoffs. An early goal, good goaltending, a power play goal, an excellent penalty kill ... that's the recipe for a playoff victory. Sean Flanagan had a three-point game, including a goal just 2:05 in. Parker Tuomie, who has been heating up (six points in his last five games) scored twice. And Jason Pawloski carried over his excellent performance in goal last Saturday in Bemidji to get his second career shutout (23 saves). The most impressive stretch of the game came midway through the second period when MSU killed off an 89-second 5-on-3 to preserve a 2-0 lead. "Just a commitment," coach Mike Hastings said. "(C.J. Franklin), I thought, really showed his true colors as a far as a leader, and our defensive corps blocking shots, getting complete clears all the way down to the other end. And ... it’s a 5-on-3 in the second period where you’ve got the long changes and you can get caught."

2. Senior moment: The Mavericks' seniors were solid throughout the game, starting with the first goal. Flanagan scored it, getting assists from Carter Foguth and Zach Stepan. Michael Huntebrinker got a lot of the credit for screening goalie Davis Jones on the play. Huntebrinker later assisted on Tuomie's first goal, and Jordan Nelson assisted on Tuomie's second goal. Foguth finished the game with five blocked shots. Flanagan now has five goals and 16 points for the season.

3. It's not over: If the Mavericks learned anything this season, it's that the Nanooks don't go away easily. A 7-1 victory on Oct. 21 in Fairbanks was answered with a 4-2 Alaska win. Then a 7-3 win in Mankato was answered with a 5-5 tie and a Nanoooks shootout win. "Oh, there're not going away," Hastings said. The Mavericks will have to put together a similar effort on Saturday as they did in the opener to prevent a Game 3 on Sunday. "Everybody knows they're going to come hard," Flanagan said. "They've done it to use a couple of times. We'll have to weather that storm and get on them and play with speed."

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Bemidji State 3, Northern Michigan 0 ... Michigan Tech 6, Lake Superior State 4 ... Bowling Green 6, Ferris State 1

Live coverage: MSU vs. Alaska

Minnesota State opens WCHA postseason play at 7:07 p.m. tonight against Alaska. The Mavericks are the third seed, and the Nanooks are sixth. The winner of the best-of-three series will advance to the league semifinals, another best-of-three series at the home of the higher seed. Follow along with the action below tonight's lines.

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 10-Knutson
25-Stepan, 17-Huntebrinker, 19-McClure
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

ALASKA
26-Cline, 16-Munson, 22-Staley
39-Heidt, 27-Leiter, 28-Hope
14-Morley, 15-Van Tetering, 9-Basara
18-Mullally, 7-Erickson, 13-Vieth

6-Frye, 24-LaDouce
8-Woods, 10-Kiraly
12-Hinz, 32-Thompson

30-Jones
29-Jenks



Friday Morning Skate

It's playoff time in the WCHA!

Yes, it seems just a bit early for it, but that's because of the new, Final Five-less format that will take place over the next three weekends.

In Mankato, Minnesota State will take on Alaska in the first round. The Mavericks are the third seed, but have had some of the best individual performances of the season at a couple of places, notably defenseman Daniel Brickley, the pride of Utah, who might have become the third D-man ever to lead the WCHA in scoring if not for an injury that caused him to miss eight games early in the season.

For more on the matchup with the sixth-seeded Nanooks, read the Freep's College Hockey Gameday.

Based on the teams' games this past season, no one should be surprised if the series is decided in a third game on Sunday night, the Fairbanks Daily News Miner writes. They split in Fairbanks, and, in Mankato, MSU won the first game and, following a tie in the second, Alaska won in a shootout. The Nanooks are coming off a sweep of rival Alaska Anchorage, winning the Governor's Cup between the two teams for the fifth time in a row.

Here's a look at the other playoff matchups:

1-Bemidji State vs. 8-Northern Michigan: The Beavers won the MacNaughton Cup and what's their reward? A matchup with the Wildcats and their record-setting goalie Atte Tolvanen. Expect a defensive battle between these two teams. "I don't think anyone was doing cartwheels having to play Northern Michigan," BSU coach Tom Serratore told the Bemidji Pioneer. The Wildcats squeaked into the eighth spot, but now it's a whole new season for them.

2-Michigan Tech vs. 7-Lake Superior State: The Huskies, like many team are looking for some secondary scoring, to get through this matchup between Upper Peninsula teams. It was something Tech started to see in their final games of the regular season. The Lakers are 0-4-4 in their last eight games, but three tiebreaker wins, including one Saturday, gave them the seventh seed.

4-Bowling Green vs. 5-Ferris State: The Falcons got the home-ice edge on the Bulldogs on the final weekend of the season, but Ferris will come to town hot, having lost just once in its last seven games. BGSUhockey.com has a good feature on Bowling Green's Pohlkamp brothers from Baxter, Minn. The Falcons were the WCHA-favorite before the season started. They didn't win the MacNaughton Cup but they still have goals in sight.

Read WCHA playoff previews from USCHO and College Hockey News. And learn more about the playoffs on the Inside the WCHA show.

Wondering what I think will happen this weekend? I made some bold predictions in my Tuesday column.