It’s that time of year yet again: Minnesota high schoolers are gearing up for state hockey, the Minnesota Wild are on a roll, and of course your very own Minnesota State Mavericks begin playoff hockey.
This weekend will feature an intriguing matchup as Minnesota State welcomes the University of Alaska Fairbanks to the Verizon Wireless Center for a best-of-three series. Coming off a split last weekend against the top-ranked team in the WCHA (Bemidji), the Mavericks are feeling good and playing even better. Peaking at the right time, the Mavericks have won six of their last eight games. While the defense has stepped it up as of late, the offense has been a scoring juggernaut, averaging nearly four goals per game.
The weekend series will likely be good for its fair share of fireworks. In the four games the two teams have faced off against one another, the Mavericks hold a 2-1-1 edge over the Nanooks (1-0-1 at home). Over those four games however, MNSU has outscored Alaska 21-13, showing the potential for a lot of goals is definitely there. Minnesota State leads the conference in goals scored with 109 goals on the season. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Nanooks have allowed the second-most goals in the conference meaning the Mavericks could be finding the net early and often. Don’t count out Alaska, as they have played the Mavs competitively this year.
In order to be a high-scoring team, a team must have multiple players who can put the puck in the net consistently. The Mavericks have a high number of players who account for a high volume of points. Junior forward Zeb Knutson is currently third on the team in goals (13) and fifth on the team in points (23). Junior forward C.J. Franklin is second on the team in points (30). Franklin is in his first season as a team captain and leads the Mavericks with 341 face-off wins. Two-time SCHA Rookie of the Week award winner Marc Michaelis is having a year to remember for the Mavericks. Michaelis, a freshman, leads the team in points with 36, which is good enough for third best among all freshman in NCAA Division-I. This team also has a high-scoring defender in sophomore Daniel Bradley. Bradley is tied for third in scoring for MNSU and led defensemen in scoring throughout the WCHA.
Although neither team is ranked, this weekend is very important for possible NCAA tournament implications. As of now, the Mavericks are on the outside looking in and will likely need to make a run in the WCHA tournament in the coming weeks to make a stronger case as to why they deserve to be in. If MNSU wins this series and moves on, it will help their chances for an NCAA tournament berth.
Playoff hockey will be played Friday, Saturday and if needed Sunday at the Verizon Wireless Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:07 p.m.