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February 4, 2013

Frederick: Mav hockey in a good position

— The Minnesota State men's hockey team was idle over the weekend, but that doesn't mean it didn't have a good couple of days.

Those folks who were upset to see the Mavericks slip a spot in the national rankings a week ago following a split with No. 1 Minnesota ought to be pleased (and, possibly equally perplexed) that MSU jumped up four spots to No. 11 on Monday.

More importantly, Minnesota State moved off the Pairwise Rankings bubble a bit, rising to a more comfortable No. 13 spot on the list that ultimately decides the NCAA tournament field after results came in from around the rest of the country.

Heading into the regular season's stretch run, the Mavericks are in the best position Pairwise-wise in at least five years. Of course, 2008 was the year those rankings ultimately failed Minnesota State, as quirks in the formula caused two teams to jump ahead of MSU on the final list.

The Pairwise watch has become a part of many college hockey fans' weekend routine. Their index fingers must cramp up from clicking the refresh button on their web browsers so many times.

At least one website, collegehockeynews.com, gives users a chance to change results to see where teams would be if not for that blown third period, that last-second score or that disallowed goal. (Yes, I've used the tool, and, yes, the Mavericks could be a little higher right now.)

But where is the drama in watching a list of team names change following a few mouse clicks, when there is real action on the ice?

For Minnesota State, the rankings are real, as are the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings, where it's trying to land a spot in the upper half. (Currently, the Mavericks are in seventh place in the 12-team league, one point out of sixth place but just three out of third.)

However, the drama is in the games themselves, and the Mavericks have eight of those left before the postseason begins, starting Friday night at Minnesota Duluth, the team that sits just two points behind them in the standings but is not a Team Under Consideration in the Pairwise.

From there, Minnesota State has home series against Michigan Tech and North Dakota sandwiched around another bye and a trip to Colorado College.

Play well, and the standings and rankings should take care of themselves. Struggle down the stretch and then there will be time for some serious clicking.

Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter @puckato.

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