The Free Press
The 10th-ranked Mavericks (21-10-3, 15-10-1 in WCHA) will close out the regular season against No. 5 UND (19-8-7, 13-6-7). Both teams remain in the hunt for the MacNaughton Cup. North Dakota has clinched a home-ice spot for next weekend’s playoffs, but MSU has not. Minnesota State has lost the series’ last nine games with its last win coming Oct. 17, 2008 at Mankato.
Five things to know about the matchup:
1. Leiting the lamp: Mavericks center Matt Leitner (15-25—40) is the highest-scoring sophomore in the nation. He is the sixth MSU player to score at least 40 points in a season in the WCHA era, a milestone reached just eight times since 1999-2000. Leitner, who leads the conference and is second in the country with 23 power-play points, has 10 points in his last five games.
2. Injury report: Senior Eli Zuck (lower body) remains out of the lineup this weekend, while freshman winger Dylan Margonari (9-8—17) will return after missing Saturday’s game at Colorado College. Margonari ranks fourth on the team in goals and is second in points among MSU’s freshmen, behind Teddy Blueger (5-13—18).
3. Top of the line: Leitner continues to center Johnny McInnis (13-9—22) and Chase Grant (6-10—16), while Blueger centers Eriah Hayes (18-13—31) and Margonari. On the blue line, sophomore defenseman Zach Palmquist (5-16—21) is the top scorer and is plus-12. Freshman goaltender Stephon Williams (.930, 1.82) has started 25 consecutive games.
4. Late-season surge: As usual, North Dakota has been coming on strong. It has lost just once in its last nine games, going 5-1-3, including a win and a tie at home against Bemidji State last weekend. North Dakota has not been swept this season, collecting at least one point in every league series. UND has played in nine overtime games.
5. Scouting UND: North Dakota seniors Danny Kristo (20-24—44) and Corban Knight (14-30—44) are two of the best forwards in the WCHA, and redshirt freshman Rocco Grimaldi (12-17—29) has been impressive. Alabama Huntsville transfer Clarke Saunders (.915, 2.30) has played most of the minutes in goal, although freshman Zane Gothberg (.914, 2.53) has been getting more time.
AROUND THE RINKS
Gustavus: The No. 2 women’s team (26-0-1) will begin NCAA tournament play at 2 p.m. Saturday when it hosts No. 6 Wisconsin-River Falls (21-6-2) at the Don Roberts Ice Rink. Gustavus leads the series 19-4-3, including two wins this season and a 3-1 record in postseason play. The Gusties have reached the national semifinals the last three seasons.
— Shane Frederick