Students by the hundreds lined up near the Taylor Center Wednesday for tickets in anticipation for one of the biggest games and series of the year for the Minnesota State Mavericks.
Every game of the season is important in hockey. Coaches and players will tell you the same thing, but there’s something about playing the Minnesota Golden Gophers that brings out the best from players and fans. It is the series every opposing team marks on their calendar and it is the game everyone wants tickets to attend.
The history between the No. 15 Mavericks, and the No. 7 Gophers is a long and storied one, but it hasn’t been in favor of Minnesota State. In the 56 games played against each other, Minnesota has dominated the all-time series 36-13-7. In an interview with Minnesota State’s head coach Mike Hastings, he commented on the importance of coming out on top in a huge non-conference series such as this one.
“The goal is to try and win every game, but now with us tying a game and losing a game in overtime at home, if you want to put together a good resume at the end of the year, non-conference scheduling is important. So we want to try and be as successful as we can in non-conference games,” Hastings said.
The Gophers have been playing fairly well as of late, going 2-0-2 in their last four games, according to gophersports.com. Minnesota has also come off of a fresh 2-0 victory over No. 8 North Dakota on November 8. With two weeks between games and fresh legs, Minnesota is expected to come out fast and aggressive.
“They’re coming off of a very productive stretch where they played some high-end competition and were pretty successful, and they’re coming off of an off-week so I’m sure they’ll be fresh and excited to come out and play,” Hastings said. “We have enough on our plate right now.”
Even though the Mavericks have struggled as of late, confidence is still high and coaches and players are preparing like it’s any other series. Minnesota State is 1-3-1 in their last five games, and this is the perfect opportunity for them to flip the switch and turn things around from the misfortune of late. Hastings commented on the facets of the game where he wants to see his players improve on from last week’s disappointing series.
“We want to get into a position where we can be more productive five-on-five. We got to be better at getting second and third opportunities and we have to be harder from the tops of the circles to the net,” Hastings said. “As you saw this last weekend, if you don’t get second [or] third opportunities and there’s quality goaltending and defense, it’s hard to score goals.”
Some players to look out for on the Gophers will be guys like sophomore forward Tyler Sheehy and junior Mike Szmatula. At this point in the season, Sheehy and Szmatula are in a three-way tie for the lead in goals with four each. Sheehy also leads the team in assists with six on the season, tied with senior defensemen Jack Bischoff. Minnesota has a lot of good skates like usual so this should be another good test for the Mavericks.
The Gophers will be traveling to Mankato Friday night for the first game at the Verizon Wireless Center. Puck drops at 7:07 p.m. On Saturday, the Mavericks will be traveling up to Minneapolis to play the Gophers at Mariucci Arena at a time to be determined later. This should be an exciting matchup coming up this weekend and hopefully the Mavericks can turn their recent luck around and take a game at home and on the road.