The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

February 28, 2014

Minnesota State at Lake Superior State

The 19th-ranked Mavericks (19-13-0, 17-7-0 in WCHA) head to the east end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and will meet the Lakers (16-15-1, 12-12-0) for the first time in program history. Minnesota State was idle last week following a sweep of Alabama Huntsville at Mankato. Lake Superior swept the Chargers at Huntsville last weekend.

The 5-hole

Five things to know about the matchup:

1. Hit the road, Mavs: This is Minnesota State’s final road series of the regular season. MSU, which is on a five-game winning streak, is 6-12-0 away from Mankato, including a 1-5-0 mark in the last six road games. Asked if he likes the idea of a late-season road test for his team after playing four games in a row at home, Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said, “I like playing at home.”

2. Power grab: The Mavericks continue to boast the nation’s third-best power play (27.6 percent). Led by Jean-Paul LaFontaine (20 goals-18 assists—38 points), who has 14 power-play goals, MSU has outscored opponents 44-17 with the man advantage. The Mavericks have been outscored 58-52 in even-strength situations. The Mavericks have the WCHA’s top four power-play scorers: LaFontaine (25 power-play points), Matt Leitner (22), Johnny McInnis (17) and Zach Lehrke (15).

3. Boxed in: Minnesota State leads the nation in penalty minutes per game, averaging 17.7 minutes in the box. Fortunately for the Mavericks, they have the country’s fourth-best penalty kill (87.7 percent). Chase Grant (6-6—12) leads the team with 21 penalties for 72 minutes. Teddy Blueger has 17 penalties for 53 minutes. The Mavericks have four short-handed goals, including one by Grant and two by Bryce Gervais (9-6—15).

4. Familiar face: Lakers senior goaltender Kevin Murdock (.891, 3.81) began his college career at Minnesota State. As a freshman, he played just five games over the first half of the season before falling out of favor. After that season, he returned to junior hockey before transferring to LSSU. Fellow senior Kevin Kapalka (.931, 2.39) may be the Lakers’s top goalie, however, and returned from injury last week.

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