Friday, February 2, 2018

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks begin the home stretch of the regular season when they host Alaska Anchorage today and Saturday. Minnesota State's goal over the next month is to climb back to the top of the WCHA standings.

"Obviously, looking at the standings now, they look a bit different than they did last month," said sophomore forward Parker Tuomie, whom I featured in today's Free Press. "Every team in the WCHA is still fighting for first place and for that MacNaughton trophy and I think that’s our approach all week. We know we have to get better every week and every day. We’re just getting ready for Anchorage right now."

For more on the series, read the Freep's College Hockey Gameday preview. My College Hockey Notebook takes a look at a partnership between WCHA teams and a concussion awareness organization. And, in case you missed it, my Tuesday column opines on the Mavericks' remaining schedule.

The Seawolves have struggled to win games this season, but no one's overlooking their Hobey Baker candidate, goaltender. "Olivier Mantha is one of the best goaltenders in our league," Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said.

Going around the WCHA ...

Michigan Tech at Bowling Green: This should be a good series between the Huskies and the Falcons. Bowling Green, which has won four straight, is led by Mitch McLain, a multi-award nominee, who the Toledo Blade's John Wagner featured this week. Wagner also has a blog post previewing the series. Tech, which is 4-4-0 so far in 2018 comes into the weekend more than a bit short-handed.

Lake Superior State at Bemidji State: The Beavers lost their first WCHA game since Dec. 1 last weekend with a split at Alabama Huntsville but have put themselves in the thick of the league race. The Bemidji Pioneer features freshman Andrew Miller, who is BSU's second-leading rookie scorer this season. The Lakers have won just one of their last eight games and are on the outside looking in the race to get into the league playoffs.

Ferris State at Alaska: The Nanooks currently hold the conference's final postseason spot but are approaching the final month of the season as if it is the playoffs in hopes of making sure they're in the tournament. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are coming off a home sweep of Michigan Tech, their most impressive weekend in quite some time.

Northern Michigan at Alabama Huntsville (Saturday-Sunday): The first-place Wildcats take their six-game winning and seven-game unbeaten streaks on the road to take on the Chargers. They hope they can clinch a home ice for the first round of the playoffs this weekend. UAH isn't out of the running for an upper-division finish, and it's won three of its last five games and is home for the rest of the regular season.

In this week's USCHO column, Jack Hittinger and Sean Shapiro take a look at how MSU's return to league play after two weeks away might affect the final standings.

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