The Mavericks (14-10-0) will play in the inaugural tournament featuring Minnesota’s Division I teams, starting today against Minnesota Duluth (9-9-2). No. 1 Minnesota (17-2-3) and No 5 St. Cloud State (12-4-4) will play in the nightcap, with the two winners and two losers squaring off on Saturday. These are the final nonconference games for Minnesota State. The Mavericks have yet to win a game at Xcel Energy Center, going 0-5, including a loss in last year’s Final Five.
Five things to know about the matchup:
1. Center of attention: Moving Dylan Margonari (5 goals-6 assists—11 points) “up the gut” to center last weekend against Ferris State turned out to be a good move for Mavericks coach Mike Hastings. The sophomore had a goal and assists on two of three goals by Johnny McInnis (10-9—19) in the series. Chase Grant (3-6—9) is the line’s other winger. “Me and Chase and Johnny complement each other well,” Margonari said. “I think we have similar styles. Johnny commented before that my speed makes him play faster.”
2. Sitting one out: Minnesota State will have to play without forwards Teddy Blueger and Zach Stepan, both of whom were assessed fighting majors on Saturday. That means some line shuffling and a chance for freshman Michael Huntebrinker, who has played in just four games. Taylor Herndon is the Mavericks’ other forward, and defenseman Blake Thompson also got some work up front this week. Thompson practiced at forward earlier in the season when he was still ineligible.
3. Leading the way: Jean-Paul LaFontaine (13-12—25) sits atop MSU’s scoring list and has 21 points in his last 14 games. LaFontaine, Zach Lehrke (5-11—16) and Matt Leitner (7-15—22) are all averaging better than a point per game. Zach Palmquist (2-11—13) is the Mavericks’ top-scoring defenseman. Freshman Cole Huggins (.919 save percentage, 2.05 goals-against average) has played 18 games in goal and recorded his 10th victory on Saturday.