The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

December 31, 2012

Frederick: Mavericks have learned to win

Less than two months ago, the Minnesota State men’s hockey team was still trying to learn how to win hockey games.

The Mavericks had some early success, including a nice home win over Minneota, but a pair of close home losses to Denver made folks wonder if the Mavericks, — even with a new head coach — would ever become a team that knew how to win those tough, one-goal games that often define play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association weekend after weekend on a regular basis.

After getting swept by the Pioneers, though, the Mavericks began to taste the thrill of victory, and they savored it. The Mavericks went on to win nine of 10 games, a stretch that included an impressive seven-game winning streak.

After seeing their streak end at Nebraska Omaha on Dec. 15 and going on a short Christmas break, the Mavericks returned and immediately started a new streak. This past weekend, they defeated Brown and Connecticut to win the UConn Hockey Classic in Storrs, Conn.

Two years ago, Minnesota State went to suburban Chicago and won a holiday tournament. They surprised the college hockey world by upsetting Notre Dame and then defeated Brown to steal the Irish’s Shillelagh Tournament championship.

The difference between that New Year’s weekend and this one was that Minnesota State was the tournament favorite this time around.

The Mavericks got the job done out east, a perfect bounce-back from the loss at Omaha two weeks earlier.

On Monday afternoon, the U.S. College Hockey Online rankings came out, and Minnesota State moved up four spots to No. 14 in the poll.

While polls are mostly meaningless (I say that as one of USCHO’s weekly voters), they are indicitive of the current sentiment surrounding a team.

The Mavericks are considered one of the hottest teams in the country, and at the halfway point of the conference schedule, they sit in fourth place in the WCHA standings, just two points out of first.

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