Minnesota State vs. Northern Michigan
The Mavericks (7-7-0, 5-3-0 in WCHA) will play the Wildcats (6-6-2, 4-3-1) for the first time. Minnesota State essentially replaced Northern Michigan in the WCHA back in 1999 after the Wildcats moved to the CCHA. Now they are conference cohorts separated by just one point in the standings. Minnesota State has won three games in a row. Northern Michigan has lost just once in its last seven games, although it garnered just one point last weekend at home against Ferris State.
Five things to know about the matchup:
1. Give him an ‘A’: Mavericks junior forward Chase Grant (1-3—4) was bumped up to alternate captain last week, joining captain Johnny McInnis alternate Brett Stern. The team’s other alternate, defenseman Josh Nelson, has been out of the lineup with an injury since Oct. 19. “As a staff we’ve asked guys to step into different roles,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said, “and I think (Grant’s) done a very good job of picking up leadership responsibilities on and off the rink.”
2. Spread out: Minnesota State has become balanced in its goal scoring, led by Jean-Paul LaFontaine (6-5—11) and followed by McInnis (5-4—9) and Bryce Gervais (5-1—6). Teddy Blueger, Zach Stepan and Sean Flanagan each have 3 goals. Flanagan, a freshman defenseman, scored his first game-winning goal last Friday against Alaska Anchorage. Another rookie defenseman, Casey Nelson will miss today’s game with an upper body injury.
3. Between the pipes: The Mavericks hope they have a good thing going in goal where freshman Cole Huggins (.931, 2.02) and Stephon Williams (.868, 3.47) both earned wins a week ago. Huggins has made nine appearances and is 4-3-0. Williams has played in eight games and is 3-4-0. Hastings said Thursday that he will make a final decision on tonight’s starting goaltender following this morning’s pregame skate.
4. Big loss: Wildcats senior defenseman and captain C.J. Ludwig suffered a right knee injury last Friday and has been lost for the season. Ludwig ranked second on the team in scoring with 12 points (5-7, 4 power-play goals) and was also the second-leading point scorer among WCHA defensemen. “To me, Ludwig was playing like an all-league guy,” Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle told The Mining Journal of Marquette, Mich. “He was having a great year.”
5. Scouting the Wildcats: Starting this weekend, Northern Michigan is playing its next six games on the road where it is 2-4-1 this season. Senior forward Stephan Vigier (10-5—15) leads the team in scoring. He leads the WCHA in goals and power-play goals (6). Four players have seven points each, including senior forward Erik Higby (3-4). In goal, freshman Mathias Dahlstrom (.925, 2.05) has played in 12 games, earning three shutouts. “They’re probably as fundamentally sound a team as we’ve seen on tape,” Hastings said.
Around the rinks
Minnesota State women: The Mavericks (5-9-0, 2-8-0 in WCHA) are back in action after a week off and play at St. Cloud State (2-11-3, 1-7-2) at 7:07 p.m. today and 3:07 p.m. Saturday. MSU has won two games in a row, and the Huskies are coming off a pair of home losses. Minnesota State has lost three straight against St. Cloud and has won just one of the last seven meetings.
Gustavus Adolphus: Both Gustavus teams will play St. Olaf this weekend, with the fifth-ranked women (5-1-1, 4-0-0 in MIAC) hosting the Oles at 7 p.m. tonight and the the men (6-3-1, 3-1-0) playing at home at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. The women will play Wisconsin-River Falls next Wednesday and Friday before breaking for the holidays. After this weekend, the men are off until Jan. 10.
This weekend's series 7:37 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 chat: mankatofreepress.blogspot.com Twitter: @puckato