The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

October 14, 2013

Mavericks get knocked down a few pegs

No one said it would be easy, right?

Well, perhaps there’s been an assumption.

The Minnesota State men’s hockey team is 0-2, having opened the season with a pair of losses at Providence on Friday and Saturday.

It was a matchup of teams highly touted in the preseason. The Mavericks, the favorites to win the WCHA, entered with a No. 11 ranking. The Friars, expected to be among the top teams in a tough Hockey East conference were No. 14.

That Providence swept the series shouldn’t be a shocker. That it won the two games by a combined score of 8-1 is.

That Minnesota State spent so much time in the penalty box was a surprise, as was impotency of its power play, which went scoreless over the weekend, even with the country’s best power-play point man, Matt Leitner, back.

The Friars found ways to get the puck by the WCHA’s best goaltender from last year, Stephon Williams. The Mavericks couldn’t solve Hockey East’s best goalie, Jon Gillies.

It’s very early, of course, and perhaps the weekend might have been a perfectly timed shock to the Mavericks’ system.

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this year’s team — hype this writer certainly has contributed two over the last six months — and the players may have believed it all. One of the big questions going into the season was just how, exactly, a program that has never had so much preseason attention was going handle the rankings and accolades.

With Leitner, Williams and several other excellent players back from last season, the Mavericks were the easy choice to put at the top of new-look WCHA in the preseason guessing game. But if anyone thought that league was going to be a light skate with the Big Ten and NCHC teams gone, they better take a look at some of opening weekend’s results.

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