MANKATO — Eight seniors will be playing their final home games for the Minnesota State women’s hockey team on Friday and Saturday, and the group seems to be saving its best for last.
The Mavericks have a tough test with No. 2-ranked Wisconsin in town, but they are on a four-game unbeaten streak, going 3-0-1 over the last two weekends.
“It’s nice to see them finally get rewarded,” coach Eric Means said of the team’s two wins at then-No. 4-ranked North Dakota on Friday and Saturday. It was Minnesota State’s first sweep of UND since Jan. 6-7, 2007.
“We’ve asked a lot out of them this year, and they’ve always responded,” Means said. “If they’re not scoring, it make it it very difficult for us to win. If (goaltender Danielle) Butters is not playing well, we don’t win.”
Butters stopped 85 of 88 shots against North Dakota. Her 45 saves on Saturday were three shy of a career high. She was named WCHA defensive player of the week for her efforts.
“I can’t think of a another weekend where she’s played better back to back and we won,” Means said.
Senior forward Nicole Germaine, who scored both game-winning goals in the series was named WCHA offensive player of the week. The other seniors in the group are: Lauren Barnes, Melissa Klippenstein, Kari Lundberg, Tracy McCann, Danielle Scholzen and Kelsie Scott.
Germaine leads the team in scoring with 11 goals and 13 assists. Barnes, who has 21 points, set MSU’s single-season record for points by a defenseman. Four of the team’s top five scorers are seniors.
“It’s going to be a group that we’re going to really miss,” Means said.
The Mavericks’ 12 victories are the most in Means’ five years as coach.
Building on that might be tough, as Minnesota State is 1-58-3 all-time against the Badgers. Mostly likely, the Mavericks will have to play at Wisconsin the following weekend for the first round of the WCHA tournament.
“We just have to focus on preparing for the playoffs,” Means said, “and just try to make another step up.”
The Mavericks and the Badgers will play at 7 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday at All Seasons Arena.
MIAC winds down
The Gustavus men and women will close out their regular seasons with home-and-home series against Bethel. The 15th-ranked men will play at home at 7:05 p.m. Friday, and the seventh-ranked women will play at 2 p.m. Saturday in St. Peter.
The men have clinched a playoffs spot and need just one point to lock up second place in the MIAC standings. The women are tied for first place with St. Thomas, the team they split with last weekend and hold a two-point lead over Bethel. The women’s playoff field is set, but the seeding is not.
For both the men and women, the MIAC tournament will begin Friday, Feb. 28 with the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds squaring off. Those winners game will play at the top seed (St. Thomas, in the case of the men) on Saturday, March 1, and the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds will also play a semifinal game that day. Championship games will be held Saturday, March 8.
The Minnesota State men recently received a verbal commitment from Hill-Murray senior forward and captain Josh French, according to multiple reports. French had 24 goals and 19 assists in 25 regular-season games for the Pioneers. … The MSU men are idle this weekend and will return to action Feb. 28-March 1 at Lake Superior State. ... Red Wing High School forward Nicole Schammel, a Minnesota State women’s recruit, is one of five finalists for the Ms. Hockey Award, which will go to to the top senior girls hockey player in Minnesota this weekend. ... This week’s WCHA players of the week are Alaska forward Nolan Huysmans (offensive), Alaska goaltender Sean Cahill (defensive) and Lake Superior State forward Gus Gorreale (rookie).