The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 17, 2013

MSU hockey game day

The Mankato Free Press

---- — The 18th-ranked Mavericks (0-2-0) will open their home schedule against the Huskies (0-0-0). The teams met in the championship game of the UConn Holiday Classic last December, with MSU winning 3-1. The also met in Mankato in 1998-99 with the Mavericks sweeping the series. Minnesota State will try to bounce back from a pair of losses at Providence, while this is the season-opener for Connecticut, which went 19-14-4 a year ago.

The 5-hole

Five things to know about the matchup:

1. More goals needed: The Mavericks scored just one goal on the opening weekend, as Providence swept 5-1 and 3-0. While it's a new season, going back to last year's WCHA and NCAA playoffs, Minnesota State has lost four games in a row, while scoring just three goals in those games. Sophomore forward Bryce Gervais scored the team's lone goal a week ago, getting an assist from sophomore defenseman Jon Jutzi. The goal gave the Mavericks a 1-0 lead. Gervais had eight goals and five assists as a rookie. Jutzi had one goal and eight assists last year.

2. Start talkin': A point of emphasis in the Mavericks' practice this week was better communication, something, coach Mike Hastings said, teams deal with early in almost every season. "We need to continue to reinforce things," Hastings said. "Things go better when you're talking." That's especially true on the power play where MSU went scoreless in 16 chances a week ago. Junior forward Matt Leitner was the nation's top point producer on the power play last season, but there's some rebuilding going on with Eriah Hayes (13 power-play goals) and Zach Lehrke no longer around.

3. Home cooking: The Mavericks are 169-119-43 (.576) all-time at the Verizon Wireless Center. That includes a 13-7-1 record last season. Tonight is Southern Minnesota Youth Hockey Night, and Saturday is Hockey Night in Mankato with pregame festivities in City Center and Skate with the Mavericks after the game. Minnesota State is 1-2-3 in their last three home-opening series, going 0-1-2 on Fridays over that stretch.

4. Making their move: Connecticut is going through a transitional phase, starting with a new coach. Mike Cavanaugh had been a longtime assistant at Boston College, helping that team build four national-championship teams. The Huskies are definitely trying to move up in the college-hockey world. This is UConn’s final season as an Atlantic Hockey member. It will join Hockey East next season and be fully funded at the NCAA's scholarship limit of 18 by 2016.

5. Scouting the Huskies: Picked to finish sixth in Atlantic Hockey in the preseason polls, UConn lost its top point scorer from a season ago but returns four key players, including senior goaltender Matt Grogan (.937 save percentage, 1.93 goals-against average). The Huskies’ top returning scorers include seniors Brant Harris (15-16—31), who led the team in goals last season, and Jordan Sims (10-21—31) and junior Trevor Gerling (12-13—25). Freshman Ryan Segalla was drafted in the fourth round by the Penguins this summer.

Around the rinks

The Minnesota State women are idle this weekend and will host Minnesota Duluth Oct. 25-26.

Shane Frederick

This weekend's series7:37 p.m. today and 7:07 p.m. Saturday Verizon Wireless Center TV: Charter cable channels 226, 826 (HD) Radio: KTOE 1420 AM, 102.7 FM Live blog: Twitter: @puckato