The No. 2 Mavericks (5-0-1, 2-0-0 in WCHA) return to Mankato to face the No. 18 Falcons (4-3-0. 1-1-0). The teams are meeting for the first time since last year’s league playoff championship game, in which Minnesota State came from behind to win 3-2 in overtime.
The Mavericks hold a 10-9-2 edge in the series since the two became league foes in 2013. That includes a pair of 4-1 regular-season losses at Bowling Green last December.
“The series is always one that I think both teams look forward to because: 1. You know you’re going to have to earn anything that you get, and 2, by the end of the series you’re going to be better, whether you’re on the good end or the bad end,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said.
Last weekend MSU won twice at Alabama Huntsville, 5-1 and 4-1, while Bowling Green split at home against Michigan Tech, winning 3-1 and losing 4-2.
Five things to know about the matchup:
1. Fast start: With no losses through six games, Minnesota State is off to one of its best starts in a generation. A win tonight would equal the start to the Mavericks’ 1998-99 season when they went 6-0-1 before losing. The team record for an unbeaten streak to start the season is 14 games (13-0-1) set in 1981-82. This year’s team has outscored opponents 24-8. Marc Michaelis (4-2—6) is the top goal scorer, followed by Charlie Gerard (3-2—5), who netted all three of his goals last weekend.
2. Look at the rooks: First-year forwards Lucas Sowder (2-7—9) and Nathan Smith (2-5—7) continue to sit atop the Mavericks’ point-scoring list. Sowder has had a point in every game and leads the nation’s freshmen in scoring. Rookie forwards Ryan Sandelin (1-1—2) and Cade Borchardt have also seen action, as has goalie Jaxson Stauber (.933, 1.00), who got his first collegiate start on Saturday at Huntsville, spelling sophomore Dryden McKay (.940, 1.38).
3. Injury report: Junior forward Dallas Gerads returned to Minnesota State’s practice this week and should be available to play after missing four games following the high hit he suffered against Arizona State on Oct. 12. Senior Nick Rivera, who has played three of MSU’s six games, should also be good to go after getting a precautionary night off on Saturday at Huntsville. Junior center Jake Jaremko, who has missed four games with an illness, is improving but won’t play against the Falcons.
4. Meet the new boss: Bowling Green has a new coach with Ty Eigner taking over for Chris Bergeron, who left for Miami in the offseason. Eigner, who played for the Falcons from 1988 to 1993, spent nine years as an assistant for Bergeron, so it’s been a smooth transition. “They haven’t changed much,” Hastings said of the Falcons’ style of play. Eigner played high school hockey at Rosemount and coached high school hockey at Rosemount and Brainerd before returning to Ohio.
5. Scouting the Falcons: Although its coach is different, Bowling Green has many familiar faces on its roster. Senior Alec Rauhauser (2-5—7) is one of the WCHA’s top defensemen. Junior forwards Brandon Kruse (0-4—4) and Max Johnson (2-3—5) each have 78 career points, while Connor Ford (3-4—7) and Cameron Wright (5-0—5) also rank among the early season’s top scorers. Junior goaltender Eric Dop (.905, 2.34) has started six games, taking over after the early departure of Ryan Bednard.
Around the rinks
Minnesota State women: The Mavericks (4-4-2) will step out of WCHA play and try to extend their four-game unbeaten streak when they play Merrimack (2-5-2) at 2:07 p.m. today and Saturday at the Mankato Civic Center. This will be the first meeting between the teams. Junior Mariah Gardner (3-3—6) and freshman Kelsey King (0-6—6) lead MSU in scoring, followed by sophomore Claire Butorac (3-2—5). Sophomore Abigail Levy (.937, 1.96) and freshman Calla Frank (.910, 2.95) continue to split time in goal. The Warriors are led by two seniors, forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis (6-3—9) and goalie Lea-Kristine Demers (.892, 3.43).
Gustavus Adolphus: The Division III hockey season begins this weekend, and both Gusties teams will open with nonconference games on the road. The men will play a series against Lawrence today and Saturday at Appleton, Wisconsin, while the women will play a single game today against St. Scholastica at Duluth. The women went 16-6-5 last season, while the men are coming off a 7-17-1 campaign.