The Minnesota State Mavericks’ men’s hockey team heads into this weekend’s games against Lake Superior State with a 14-9-3 record and eight games left in the 2016-2017 regular season. While they are still ranked 20th in the nation, this is not the team we have become accustomed to as they have struggled to stay consistent this year.
What has been the problem for the Mavericks? What strengths can they build on? Can they make a run in the final months? Time to break down the season thus far to anticipate the home stretch.
The main factor has been the inconsistent play the Mavs have displayed, as they have had one road sweep this season and have a 6-6-1 road record. While they hold an 8-3-2 home tally, it has been a roller coaster-like performance in conference play with a 10-7-3 mark. The problem for the Mavericks has been a team that averages over three goals a game, but struggles to find consistency winning games down the stretch.
This is a squad that knocked off the Minnesota Golden Gophers 4-1, yet they were dropped a few weeks later by Princeton, 6-1. This team has had no problem standing tall for big games, but they continually drop games to teams they have no business losing to. They average 3.1 goals a game, along with 31.5 shots on goal a game. However, they have dropped nine games and been blown out three times.
While this is not a down year, this roster has more talent than 14 wins. True-freshman Marc Michaelis has 30 points on the season, junior Brad McClure and junior C.J. Franklin have 23, and sophomore Daniel Brickley has 20. Offensive consistency as a team seems to elude them during stretches this season.
Another part of the problem is momentum, as Franklin and head coach Todd Hastings mentioned after the Bowling Green games. They lack intensity from beginning to finish in some of their games. Their goaltending situation has remained an issue as well.
Coming into the year, senior Cole Huggins was the starter in the net and has had a 7-4 season in his starts. He has been supplanted as of late by junior Aaron Nelson, who helped the Mavs achieve their first road shutout. He owns a 4-3-1 record and has grinded out some close victories. The Mavericks remain stuck between a goaltender in Nelson who is hot as of late, yet has experienced cold spots in games, and a veteran in Huggins, who struggled and eventually was pulled.
The mid-way point tells us the Mavericks are a team full of talent, yet have constantly shot themselves in the feet. This team needs to keep working on keeping intensity and focus at full tilt down the stretch. If they can accomplish that, they will be a challenge for any team. As of right now, it is hard to say what to expect on a night-to-night basis. Minnesota State has eight games remaining to solidify a playoff spot.