Minnesota State’s 12-day Alaska trip began a stretch for the Mavericks in which just two of 10 games would be played in Mankato.
Four games in Alaska, followed by two home games this weekend, followed by the North Star College Cup tournament in St. Paul, followed by a jaunt to Northern Michigan.
Throughout the season, Mavericks coach Mike Hastings has talked about getting his team to find more success away from southern Minnesota.
It didn’t happen in Alaska where MSU took just two of a possible eight points. They struggled to score goals in three of the four games, and they were swept by Alaska Anchorage for the first time as WCHA foes.
The Mavericks are 7-1-0 at the Verizon Wireless Center but 5-9-0 away from home.
It’s not easy to win on the road in college hockey, although the best teams find a way to get it done with some regularity.
Currently, there are just four teams that have won three-fourths of their road games and just three others that have won two-thirds of their road games. Of course, all of those teams reside in the national top 10.
Minnesota State’s next opponent is No. 2-ranked Ferris State. The Bulldogs have yet to lose a WCHA game this season and they have an impressive 9-2-2 record away from Big Rapids, Mich.
Just two other teams in the conference have winning road records. Bemidji State moved to 4-3-3 with a pair of impressive wins at Lake Superior State over the weekend. The sweep all but saved the Beavers’ season, coach Tom Serratore said in a radio interview afterward.
Lake Superior is 5-4-1 away from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., a record that includes three conference splits.
Meanwhile, all but two WCHA teams have .500 or better home records. Besides MSU, Ferris State is 8-1-1 after sweeping Michigan Tech in front of a pair of sold-out crowds over the weekend, and Alaska Anchorage is now 9-2-1 after its sweep of the Mavericks.
For the Seawolves, their turnaround under new coach Matt Thomas clearly has started at Sullivan Arena, their home rink.
The expectation for all teams is to win in their own buildings. Sweep at home and split on the road is often the standard.
Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings made that clear from the moment he arrived and began working on his own turnaround project. Remember that Denver series early last year? The one in which the Mavericks played well, were competitive against the nation’s third-ranked team but lost two games?
“At the end of the day, tonight’s not acceptable because we’re playing at home, in front of our crowds, on our ice,” Hastings said following the second game of that series. “We have to put points in the bank when we’re in our building.”
That’s the mantra again this weekend in Mankato, and after that, it’s back to road work.
Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter @puckato.