The Minnesota State Mavericks had yet another twist in a continually interesting season this year, with a somewhat more relaxed weekend playing an exhibition game against the USA National Team Development Program, winning 5-3.
The No. 8 Mavericks (according to the USA Today poll) was able to flex in front of a home crowd against the USA team, routing them in shots on goal 32-20 while leaping out to a 2-1 lead. Team USA did manage to find the back of the net in every period, however, the second period yielded three goals for the Mavericks and was far too much for the visiting team to contend with.
Following the exhibition match, the Mavericks will play three of their next four series at home to finish the season. The squad is ranked at either 7th or 8th, depending on what poll you check, the next few weeks are crucial if they want to jump into the top five. Every game is also a WCHA, conference clash, which also would help the team hop into the top five spots.
The first task: Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. The Seawolves are an abysmal 2-20-4 this season, allowing a conference leading 74 WCHA goals (96 to all opponents) this season while only averaging 1.85 goals per game themselves against conference opponents. Anchorage does not have the offense to keep up with the Mavericks, nor do they have the defense to hang with the team.
Next up, the Mavericks play the Alabama Huntsville Chargers, who are a far better 9-17-2, but still a bottom four team in the conference. The upside for the Chargers here is this is the one road series that Mavericks have left in the regular season, which gives them maybe their only advantage in the game. While the Chargers defense has only allowed 66 WCHA goals this season (less than say, Anchorage) they still rank 8th in WCHA goals allowed.
Yet again a team with not enough defense takes on an MSU squad with 97 total goals, which is first in the conference.
On Feb. 16 and 17, the Ferris State Bulldogs enter the Verizon Wireless Center. Currently at 12-17-1, the Mavericks opponents steadily get better as the season expires, but that does not make the Bulldogs a particularly threatening team. While the Ferris State offense that has produced 70 goals is far better than both the Chargers and Seawolves, they also have given up a staggering 93 goals, which means that a shootout game is their only chance to win, but can also be a surefire way to lose. It is quite the predicament that the Bulldogs have battled all season.
Finally, the Mavericks end their regular season with the 14-8-6 Bemidji State Beavers, which are the fourth best team in the conference and make for a tantalizing finish for MSU. A pair of wins against the Beavers, combined with a near perfect run to the season conclusion would put the Mavericks over 25 wins and quite possibly in the top three in the country.