As the season comes down to the final two weeks, the focus zeroes in on playoffs and seeding. The concern for the Minnesota State Mavericks is their Jekyll-and-Hyde play over the course of the season. Sitting at the second seed, six points behind Michigan Tech, they have a chance to make a jump to the number-two spot over two weeks after a break this weekend.
While the priority is home ice (something the Mavs have already accomplished) the difference between playing Bowling Green at number three or Alaska at number four is huge.
The Mavericks have scored 22 goals in four games against Alaska, and twice they put up seven goals. If they can achieve the second seed, they would host a team that has let their offense run wild on three of the four meetings. On the defensive side, the goaltender’s play has been a mixed bag of results. Both Cole Huggins and Jason Pawloski have seen extended playing time, and both have good performances paired with some to forget. Yet again, here is the advantage for Minnesota State, as a fresh goaltender in Aaron Nelson gives the Alaska squad a new challenge that they have not had an opportunity to feel out and learn to play against. With the X-factor possibly being a new goalie and the continued success on offense, this is who the Mavericks would ideally want to play.
If they remain at the third spot and end up playing Bowling Green, two things will be key. Firstly, they will need to net the first goal against a stout defense. Setting that momentum early will prove to be vital for MNSU. Bowling Green has let up five or more goals only four times this season, and on the other side MNSU has scored five or more six times. With strength going up against strength, scoring that first goal will be key to help the Mavericks play aggressively all game. Secondly, the upperclassmen have to step up. While this will be needed all post season, when playing against a solid defense the older players need to show up in a big way. C.J. Franklin did just that in the second game against Bowling Green earlier in the season.
Whoever they play, the Mavericks desperately need to find consistency. They are coming off a road series after losing a game in which they had 43 shots on goal, then beating the same team 5-0 on 27 shots on goal. They have had one road sweep and the last time they swept a team at home in regulation was October 15. They have explosive offensive nights, followed by scoring trouble the next. Nights when the goaltender, whoever that may be, plays like a brick wall, followed by a night that features three goals going in that honestly shouldn’t have.
With two weeks left in the season, this team will find out their true identities. They will need their best players to show up every night, with veteran leadership a must in order to make some noise in post season play. Their Rhythm also needs to run fluidly for all three consecutive periods. They also need one of these goalies to set themselves apart from the other without backtracking the best night.
If this team rallies around their stud upper-class, which would fuel the great young talent, as well as having one goalie rise to the playoff occasion on the next couple of weeks, this team will make a deep run. If not, they will have trouble with any opponent they match up against.