Coming off their final bye week, the No. 4 Mavericks (24-6-2, 19-4-1 in WCHA) are making their only trip to Alaska this season where they will take on the Nanooks (9-18-3, 9-13-2). The two teams met in October at Mankato with MSU sweeping the series 4-0 and 3-1 to improve its winning streak against Alaska to five games. Since Alaska joined the WCHA in 2013, the Mavericks are 13-5-2 against the Nanooks, 3-4-1 in Fairbanks.
Five things to know about the weekend:
1. Big Mac: Minnesota State won at least a share of the MacNaughton Cup as the WCHA’s regular-season champion last weekend but still needs to gain just one point over both Bowling Green and Lake Superior State over the next two weeks to clinch the No. 1 seed for the league playoffs. Currently in seventh place in the standings, Alaska is out of the running for home ice for the first round but can still move up or down a spot in the the final standings.
2. Streak’s alive: The Mavericks enter the weekend on a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1), which is the longest active streak in the nation. Four of those games have taken place on the road. Over that stretch, MSU has outscored its opponents 25-8. Leading scorer Marc Michaelis (15-18—33), Dallas Gerads (12-7—19) and Parker Tuomie (11-20—31) each have seven points over the last six games. Freshman Julian Napravnik (7-12—19) has six.
3. Road trip: If Minnesota State does indeed clinch the top seed for the conference tournament, these will be its final games away from Mankato until the NCAA tournament. The Mavericks close out the regular season next weekend at home against Bemidji State and then would have home ice throughout the WCHA playoffs. MSU is 10-5-2 away from home, last losing on Dec. 28 to Minnesota Duluth in Arizona.
4. Feeling hot: The Mavericks can’t overlook the Nanooks, who are 5-3-1 in their last nine games, a stretch that includes a 1-2-1 record against Bowling Green, which is currently tied for second place in the WCHA. Last weekend at Bowling Green, Alaska lost 8-0 and then won in 3-on-3 overtime after a 3-3 tie. This is the final home weekend of the season for the Nanooks, who are 5-9-0 at the Carlson Center.
5. Scouting the Nanooks: Sophomore forward Steven Jandric (6-12—18) leads Alaska in scoring, followed by junior defenseman Tristan Thompson (6-11—17) and junior center Colton Leiter (6-9—15). Junior goaltender Anton Martinson (.903, 2.99) has played in 20 games this season, but freshman Gustav Grigals (.907, 3.09) started the last three games for first-year coach Erik Largen. Martinson’s lone career shutout came against Minnesota State on Jan. 12, 2018.
Around the rinks
Minnesota State women: The Mavericks (9-17-5, 3-16-3 in WCHA) will close out the regular season when they host Minnesota Duluth (13-15-2, 9-11-2) at 7:07 p.m. today and 3:07 p.m. Saturday at the Verizon Center. MSU needs two points in the series to leapfrog idle St. Cloud State for a sixth-place finish in the conference standings. These will be the final home games for seven seniors: forwards Corbin Boyd (8-12—20), Rebekah Kolstad (9-7—16), Jordan McLaughlin (3-10—13) and Emily Antony (1-9—10) and defenders Megan Hinze (1-6—7), Lena Dusterhoft and Leila Kilduff.