Drop the puck! No. 18 MNSU to kick off season Saturday

The men’s team is looking for better success after a somewhat letdown last season

Minnesota State, Mankato Men’s Hockey returns to the ice, eager to find the back of the opposing net many times this season. The men’s team had its season ended last year by the Michigan Tech Huskies in a three-game home series for the Huskies. The Mavericks missed the Division-I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship tournament in Chicago with the loss to the Huskies. Despite the underwhelming outcome of the postseason, the Mavericks were able to perform well in the regular season, finishing with a record of 22-13-4.

Entering the 2017-2018 season, the Mavericks are the No. 18 ranked team in Division-I Men’s Hockey according to the poll. Minnesota teams control a lot of the territory in the rankings. The Mavericks are currently the lowest-ranked Minnesota team in the poll with the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities leading the way in the third spot. Last year’s national championship runner-up UMD Bulldogs are ranked sixth. St. Cloud State slips in three spots behind the Bulldogs at nine, followed by the No. 18 Mavericks.

The Mavericks will be in great shape for another attempt at the postseason if they can replicate or improve upon last year’s regular season. The disappointing end to the season didn’t reflect what the team accomplished in the regular season.

If Sunday’s exhibition game against University of Regina of Saskatoon is any indication of what to expect this year, MNSU fans will be in for a treat. The 8-0 shutout of the Cougars at home gives a glimpse into why the Mavericks were able to secure an impressive 13-3-3 home record last year.

Minnesota State’s home-ice advantage will be put to the test this homecoming weekend when the No. 9 St. Cloud State Huskies pay a visit to the Verizon Center. The Mavericks handled the Huskies well in the only two meetings last season. St. Cloud State lost both games to Minnesota State at the Verizon Center, producing 10 goals in that series to the Huskies’ five. This weekend’s opener will be just one game rather than a series; the Mavericks will travel to St. Cloud later this season for the two teams’ second game against each other.

Head coach Mike Hastings enters his sixth season as the head coach of the Mavericks and hopes to reach at least 20 wins again this season, which would be the sixth-straight year MNSU has accomplished this feat. The team has several key returning players to help Hastings reach that benchmark 20 wins in the regular season.

Senior defenseman Clint Lewis is in position to hold down the fort against attacking teams in the defensive zone. Posting a plus/minus rating of +12 in 39 games played last year, the team can look to Lewis to provide security on the ice again this year in a leadership role for the Mavericks.

Junior goalie and Omaha, Nebraska native Jason Pawloski also returns to give the team consistency in net. Pawloski played in 17 games last season and started 14 of them, splitting time with Cole Huggins, who will not be on the roster this season for the Mavericks. The goalie made 353 of the 877 saves Minnesota State recorded last year.

Brad McClure is a senior for the Mavs, returning to build on his 28-point season in 2016-2017. The forward split his stat line evenly down the middle with 14 goals and 14 assists for the Mavericks in the previous year.

Playing in the “State of Hockey” can be challenging sometimes for the Mavericks but the team has shown it can handle adversity well in the past. Minnesota State pulled off wins against top-ranked teams like the Minnesota Gophers and St. Cloud State last season, proving they can have a game plan for these tough teams.

That game plan will have to be used several times this year, following the homecoming game against the Huskies; the Mavericks will go to the east coast to take on the current No. 2 ranked Boston University in a two-game series.

Under Hastings’ coaching leadership in addition to that of returning players’, the Mavericks will put forth their best effort to make the NCAA tournament this year with the Frozen Four waiting for them at the end of the season.

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