The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

January 3, 2014

Minnesota State at Alaska

College Hockey Game Day

Minnesota Stateat Alaska

The Mavericks (11-7-0, 9-3-0 in WCHA) begin a 12-day road trip to Alaska in Fairbanks with a series against the Nanooks (7-8-3, 4-7-1) one of the league’s newcomers. The teams have met 10 times but never as Division I programs. Alaska has won all 10 meetings, with the last one coming during the 1994-95 season. The Mavericks will remain in Alaska after the series and take on Alaska Anchorage on Jan. 10-11.

The 5-hole

Five things to know about the matchup:

1. Streaking into 2014: The Mavericks begin the second half of their season on a seven-game winning streak and playing like many expected in the preseason. Matt Leitner (4 goals-10 assists—14 points) has eight points in his last five games. Jean-Paul LaFontaine (8-8—16) has seven power-play goals. Johnny McInnis (6-7—13) and Teddy Blueger (3-8—11) are MSU’s other double-digit scorers.

2. No place like home: Fairbanks is the hometown of Minnesota State sophomore goaltender Stephon Williams (.875 save percentage, 3.15 goals-against average), although freshman Cole Huggins (.934, 1.73) has seen most of the action this season. Senior defenseman Josh Nelson played two seasons of junior hockey for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League.

3. No Stepan: Minnesota State went to Fairbanks without freshman forward Zach Stepan, who played for Team USA in the World Junior Championships in Sweden. The U.S. was eliminated by Russia in the quarterfinals on Thursday morning. MSU coach Mike Hastings said Stepan is scheduled to meet up with the Mavericks on Monday in Anchorage.

4. Scouting the Nanooks: Alaska has one of the top forwards in the WCHA in senior Cody Kunyk (11-8—19). Kunyk has 109 points in 129 career games. Sophomore Tyler Morley (7-9—16) and senior Colton Beck (5-8—13) are off to good starts. Sophomore defenseman Colton Parayko (2-11—13) is a St. Louis Blues draft pick.

5. Seeking a stopper: Nanooks coach Dallas Ferguson hasn’t just played three goaltenders this season but in his team’s last four games. Freshman Davis Jones (.901, 2.80) played in the last outing, a win at Bemidji State. Jones and sophomore John Keeney (.873, 2.96) each have played in seven games, and junior Sean Cahill (.881, 2.97) has played in four.

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