The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

November 22, 2012

Mavs hope solid week of practice will help tip Wisconsin

— Jean-Paul LaFontaine had no problem with his coach's decision to hold practice nearly every day last week, despite the Minnesota State men's hockey team's bye weekend.

"We didn't deserve an off day by any means," LaFontaine said. "You have to win, and we were swept at home. But it was a good week for us. We got a lot better."

After getting just about two weeks to prepare, the Mavericks are in Madison, Wis., today and Saturday for a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series against Wisconsin.

After losing twice to now-second-ranked Denver on Nov. 9-10 in Mankato to fall to 1-5-0 in conference play, getting points against another one-win team, the Badgers, is pretty much a must, even in the always-tough confines of the Kohl Center. So coach Mike Hastings took advantage of the extra practice time.

"It's a huge weekend for the WCHA," LaFontaine said. "Any game is huge. But the position we're in, we can't afford to lose."

The Mavericks skated Tuesday through Saturday last week and went through their normal routine this week before leaving Thanksgiving morning for Wisconsin.

"We didn't beat them up physically," Hastings said. "We wanted to keep them fresh. ... We're going on the road to a difficult place to play."

Hastings hopes he handled the time wisely.

"We need to worry about us," he said. "That needs to be our focus. ... An off-week is an important week. You can go too hard, or you can be too soft. We have to make sure we're in the right frame of mind."

In some ways, the first-year coach and his staff had more time with the players over the last 10 days than they did before playing their first games of the season.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, is coming off a tie and a loss at Minnesota.

"We cleaned up some things that are going to win us hockey games," LaFontaine said, "things we need to do in the third period."

LaFontaine, the Mavericks' second-leading scorer a year ago, is back in that spot with three goals and five assists, after scoring seven points in his last four games.

"It's nice to get those first couple of goals," said LaFontaine, who had just a single assist in MSU's first six games. "But I just want to win. That's all that matters."

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