The Mavericks (6-15-1, 2-11-1 in WCHA) begin the second half of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association schedule tonight when they host the Badgers (9-9-2, 4-8-2). Wisconsin has won the last four meetings and leads the all-time series 22-14-4. Minnesota State’s last win over the Badgers was on Oct. 24, 2009, in Mankato. Wisconsin has never swept MSU at the Verizon Wireless Center.
Five things to know about the matchup:
1. Desperately seeking league wins: Neither Minnesota State no Wisconsin has won a WCHA game since Nov. 11. The Mavericks are 0-8-1 against conference opponents since that night, including four losses and a tie at home. The Badgers are 0-4-1 against league opponents since then. Wisconsin is also winless in six games on the road, all in league play, this season.
2. Schiller stepping up: MSU senior Joe Schiller (1 goal, 9 assists) has reached a career high for points in a season. The forward-turned-defenseman-
3. In and out: MSU coach Troy Jutting said freshman defenseman Brett Stern will return to tonight. He has missed 14 games, including the last eight, with an injury. Junior center Eli Zuck will not play tonight due to a team rules violation. Jutting said Zuck will be available to play Saturday. Austin Lee (.907 save percentage, 3.14 goals-against average) will get the start in goal.
4. Hobey candidates? Despite their 10th-place spot in the WCHA standings, the Badgers boast two of the top players in the league, if not the nation. Junior defenseman Justin Schultz (11, 21) leads the team in scoring and is tops in the nation in points among blueliners, just as he was last season when he finshed with 47 points. Sophomore forward Mark Zengerle (8, 23) ranks third in the WCHA in scoring.
5. Scouting the Badgers: Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves has given most of goaltending duties to a pair of freshmen. Joel Rumpel (.905, 2.94) has played in 12 games, and Landon Peterson (.888, 3.40) have played in nine. Sophomore forwards Tyler Barnes and Michael Mersch each have seven goals.
Around the rinks
Minnesota State women: The Mavericks (7-15-0, 3-13-0) will host St. Cloud State (3-17-2, 2-14-0) at 7:07 p.m. today and 3:07 p.m. Saturday at All Seasons Arena. The two teams split a series on Dec. 9-10 in St. Cloud. Lauren Smith and Lauren Barnes are tied for the MSU scoring lead with 14 points apiece. Alli Altmann ranks fifth in the WCHA in save percentage (.909).
Gustavus: The 15th-ranked men’s team (9-4-2, 3-3-0 in MIAC) will try for its eighth consecutive win when it heads to St. Cloud to play St. John’s (3-8-2, 1-3-0). Saturday’s game will take place at 7 p.m. in St. Peter. The two teams tied 3-3 in a nonconference game to start the season. ... The fifth-ranked Gustavus women are idle this weekend.