The men’s hockey team returns to the Verizon Center after back-to-back road series to exact revenge on the team that ended the Mavericks season last year. Minnesota State went 3-1 on their road trip the last two weekends; sweeping formerly-ranked No. 2 Boston University and splitting the series with WCHA rival Bowling Green.
Minnesota State jumped up a couple of places in this week’s USCHO.com poll, currently sitting as the No. 12 team in the nation. Minnesota State’s opponent this weekend is the Michigan Tech Huskies; the Huskies dropped from No. 15 to No. 16 in the poll after finishing last weekend with a 4-2 loss to Alabama-Huntsville.
Michigan Tech holds onto the first-place slot in the WCHA standings with eight points and a 2-1-1 record in conference play. The Mavericks have three points in the WCHA with only one series played in-conference (against Bowling Green), one less series than the Huskies.
MNSU’s season was ended last year at the hands of the Huskies, losing two games in a three-game series in the WCHA postseason, missing the opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament. Even though Michigan Tech had the final victory of last year’s season against the Mavericks, Minnesota State controlled the regular season vs. the Huskies.
Last season’s regular season record against Michigan Tech for the Mavericks was 2-1-1. MNSU actually won the “tie” in a shootout but it nonetheless is still counted as a tie in the record books. The Huskies were able to strengthen their team as the 2016-2017 season went on, storming their way through the WCHA playoffs to defeat the Bowling Green Falcons in a double-overtime WCHA championship game. The team’s success didn’t last long in the NCAA Tournament as they were knocked out in the first round by Denver in the game played in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Minnesota State outscored Michigan tech with 20 goals to their 18 in the seven games played between the two teams last year. The Mavericks couldn’t get a favorable matchup on the scoreboard when it mattered most. MNSU was able to win the low-scoring games late in the season but the Huskies’ defense was too much of a brick wall for Minnesota State. The Mavericks were unable to score more than one goal in any of the three road games at Michigan Tech in the 2016-2017 postseason.
The Mavericks will be the first ranked team that the Michigan Tech Huskies will be facing this season. The Huskies’ previous two series pitted them against fellow Michigan team Lake Superior State University, which they beat in one game then tied during overtime in the second game of that series. Michigan Tech’s matchup last weekend against another WCHA team (Alabama-Huntsville) was split 1-1 with a 5-4 win on Friday night and the previously mentioned 4-2 loss on Saturday.
This will be the Mavericks’ second WCHA matchup of the season and the second consecutive series following the split against Bowling Green in Ohio. The team enters this weekend against Michigan Tech with a goals for/against ratio of 15:13. Senior forward Zeb Knutson currently is tied for the team lead in points with junior defenseman Daniel Brickley with six. Knutson has split his points evenly with three goals and three assists whereas Brickley has scored just one goal but has been making plays and is credited with five assists. Brickley’s contributions have not gone unnoticed as he was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week last week for his efforts in the team’s sweep against Boston University.
Minnesota State can climb up the WCHA standings and hopefully boost their rankings in the national field after this weekend’s home series against Michigan Tech. It will be a physical and mental test to get some sort of redemption after the results of last year’s final meeting with the Huskies.