The No. 5 Minnesota State men’s hockey team (8-3-0, 6-2-0) will face a familiar opponent in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this weekend. The Bowling Green State Falcons (5-3-3, 4-1-3) will be at the Verizon Wireless Center Friday and Saturday night.
The Mavericks are coming off a tremendous showing on offense against the Bemidji State Beavers, scoring 13 goals in the two games to complete the sweep. As for the Falcons, they have not lost since Oct. 20, when they defeated Minnesota State 5-2. This series looks to be competitive, as the two teams have already split a series earlier this season. The Mavericks hold the all-time series against BGSU with a 9-6-3 record.
It is difficult to judge how this series has gone, as the first two games were won decisively by each team. The Mavericks won the first game 4-1, with sophomore Parker Tuomie, senior Zeb Knutson, freshman Connor Mackey and senior C.J. Suess scoring the goals for the Mavericks. Knutson ended up with two goals against the Falcons that weekend. MSU was also 3-for-6 on power play opportunities during the first game, and were 2-for-7 the following game.
As a team, Minnesota State has scored the most goals (40) and are averaging a WCHA-leading 3.64 goals a game. Bowling Green’s defense will be the key to the game against a high-scoring Mavericks team, as they have allowed a conference-best 2.09 goals a game. MSU has the third-best penalty kill in the WCHA, while Bowling Green has struggled in scoring power play goals, as they sit 7th out of 10 teams for that statistical category.
Senior forward Captain C.J. Suess is not only leading the Mavericks in points per game, but he holds the number one spot in all of the WCHA. The combination of Suess, Knutson and sophomore Marc Michaelis is what makes the pot boil on offense for MSU. Between the three, they have scored 17 goals, 28 assists and 41 points scored. Junior defenseman Daniel Brickley has produced a solid season thus far, recording three goals, seven assists and 10 points total. The Mavericks are undefeated this season when Suess, Michaelis or Knutson record an assist in a game.
As for the Falcons, scoring has not come as much as their defense playing terrific night-in-and-night-out. Freshman forward Cameron Wright has been the scoring piece for the Falcons, recording five goals, six assists and 11 total points through 11 games.
The games will likely come down to each team’s goaltending, as four of the top five spots in the WCHA are either Bowling Green or Minnesota State players. Freshman Eric Dop of BGSU is leading the WCHA in goals allowed per game at a minuscule 1.77. Right behind him in the second spot is MSU’s senior Connor LaCouvee (2.03). BGSU sophomore Ryan Bednard is third (2.12), and Minnesota State’s Jason Pawloski is fifth (2.74), despite giving up five last weekend in Minnesota State’s bizarre 8-6 victory over Bemidji State.
The Mavericks will have to have their offense at full speed against some of the best goaltending in the WCHA this weekend. The puck will drop at the Verizon Wireless Center at 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday night.