The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 3, 2014

Mavs happy to be home after long road swing

Sophomore Gervais starting to come on

By Shane Frederick sfrederick@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — MARQUETTE, MICH. — Since the first weekend in December, the Minnesota State men’s hockey team has played just two games in Mankato.

Over that time, the Mavericks played 10 games on the road, including this past weekend’s WCHA series at Northern Michigan, which resulted in a series split.

Starting Friday and Saturday against Bemidji State, the Mavericks will play three of their final four series at the Verizon Wireless Center where they are 9-1-0.

Saturday’s win over Northern Michigan gave MSU a 4-6 road record over that stretch, including a 2-6 mark in the new year. Overall, the Mavericks are 6-12-0 away from Mankato.

“It’s been a long two months,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said on Saturday. “Other than the Ferris (State) weekend … We’ve had two (home) games since Dec. 6-7. Now we’re going to go back, and it’s Feb. 7-8. It’s been a long road, and I know it isn’t perfect. I just thought tonight was a really important game.”

The Mavericks’ win on Saturday broke a three-game losing streak.

“It was an opportunity for the guys to look in the mirror a little bit,” Hastings said, “and I liked what I saw tonight.”

Gervais gets going

Sophomore forward Bryce Gervais made a big impact on Saturday’s game, scoring a short-handed goal and playing well all around on the penalty kill.

Hastings said Gervais has shown great improvement in recent weeks.

“I think he’s starting to really hit his stride,” the coach said. “You’ve seen his numbers start to come up. I feel real comfortable playing him on our first unit. He’s getting some power-play time/ I think his confidence is increasing weekly.”

Gervais has seven goals and four assists this season. The short-handed goal was the second of his career.

Injury report

Freshman forward Jordan Nelson missed Saturday’s game with an upper body injury. He was hit in the head with a puck during his first shift on Friday and did not return to that game. He said he received four stitches to close the cut.

Senior defenseman Josh Nelson also missed Saturday’s game. He was replaced in the lineup by sophomore Blake Thompson.

Brett Knowles, who missed Friday’s game with an illness, played Saturday with Jordan Nelson out.

Penalty shots

According to Minnesota State’s game notes, Erik Higby’s successful penalty shot against on Saturday was the first allowed by the Mavericks since Minnesota’s Phil Kessel scored in 2005. It was first college goal for Kessel, who now plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

After that, the Mavericks stopped the next three penalty shots they faced: Mike Zacharias against Minnesota Duluth (2006), Austin Lee against UMass-Lowell (2010) and Stephon Williams against Michigan Tech (2013).

Around the WCHA

Over the weekend, Michigan Tech swept Bowling Green in Ohio, coming from behind to tie Saturday’s game and win it in overtime. Also, Alaska swept visiting Alabama Huntsville.

Minnesota State pulled within two points of first-place Ferris State in the WCHA standings (28 points to 26) and has a three-point lead (as well as two games in hand) over third-place Bowling Green (23).

Alaska Anchorage is in fourth place with 21 points, and there’s a three-way tie for fifth place with Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Alaska (all with 20).

Loose pucks

Minnesota State improved it’s Saturday-night record to 10-4-0 with it’s win. … With 15 goals and 25 points, Johnny McInnis has set career highs in both categories. … MSU’s power play now ranks fourth in the nation at 24.1 percent.