The Mankato Free Press
---- — The Mavericks (12-10-0, 10-6-0 in WCHA) return home after two weekends in Alaska and will face the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs (17-3-3, 12-0-2). The two new conference mates have met 10 times but not since the 1998-99 season. The Mavericks lead the all-time series 5-3-2. This series features MSU’s only two home games over a 10-game stretch to start the second half of the season.
Five things to know about the matchup:
1. Giving chase: Minnesota State sits six points behind first-place Ferris State in the WCHA standings, and the Bulldogs have played two fewer games in league play. MSU is in third place, one point behind Bowling Green but have played two fewer games. Besides having the chance to cut into Ferris’ lead, this series could have important implications for the Pairwise Rankings.
2. League leaders: Mavericks junior forward Jean-Paul LaFontaine (10-10—20) leads the WCHA in conference scoring with 18 points, overall power-play points with 12 and overall power-play goals with eight. He’s tied for eighth in overall scoring. Freshman goaltender Cole Huggins (.917, 1.98) has the conference’s lowest goals-against average. Huggins has started six of the last eight games.
3. Still scoring: Senior forward Zach Lehrke (4-8—12) had the NCAA’s No. 1 play of the week, scoring a between-the-legs shot against Alaska Anchorage on Saturday. “It was just instinct,” he said of the shot. Lehrke had at least one point in 10 of the 12 games he’s played and is riding a three-game scoring streak. He skated on a line this week with Matt Leitner (5-12—17) and Bryce Gervais (5-2—7).
4. Among the best: Ferris State leads the nation in wins and is second in winning percentage (.804). From Oct. 19 to Jan. 3, the Bulldogs went on a 16-game unbeaten streak in which they went 13-0-3. That streak was snapped by Colgate on Jan. 4, a 3-0 loss. Coach Bob Daniels’ team is less than two years removed from an appearance in the national title game. Daniels is in his 22nd season at Ferris State.
5. Scouting the Bulldogs: Ferris State’s C.J. Mott (.932, 2.07) is the WCHA’s top goalie. He’s lost just one game. “Most good teams start with one thing, goaltending,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said, “and they have the best one.” Senior Garrett Thompson (11-12—23) ranks second in the league in scoring, and junior Justin Buzzeo (10-12—22) is fourth. Scott Czarnowczan and Jason Binkley are tied for third in scoring among league defensemen with 16 points each.
Around the rinks
Minnesota State women: The Mavericks (9-15-0, 4-14-0) will go outside today to play No. 1-ranked Minnesota (20-1-1, 14-1-1) in the Hockey City Classic at 4:37 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The two teams will return to Mankato for a 1:07 p.m. game on Sunday. MSU is 3-59-3 in the all-time series, including a pair of losses earlier this season.
Gustavus Adolphus: The Gustie men (7-4-3, 4-1-1 in MIAC) and women (8-3-2, 6-0-0) return to conference play, taking on Augsburg in a pair of home-and-home series. The men are at home at 7:05 p.m. today, and the seventh-ranked women play in St. Peter at 2 p.m. Saturday. The teams’ top scorers are Corey Leivermann (8-6—14) and Allison Eder-Zdechlik (10-6—16), respectively.
This weekend's series 7:37 p.m. today and 7:07 p.m. Saturday Verizon Wireless Center TV: Charter cable channel 226, 826 (HD) Radio: KTOE 1420 AM, 102.7 FM Streaming: www.americaonesports.com Live blog: mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com Twitter: @puckato