The Minnesota State Mavericks head out to Alabama Huntsville to play the Mustangs. The WCHA matchup will be the last regular season road series for the Mavericks, who are also on a five-game winning streak.
Huntsville has been a mixed bag as far as offensive production this season and has a record reflecting just that at 10-18-2.
Over the last four games, the sample size is indicative of the complete season: losses to Bemidji State and no.19 Northern Michigan with a combined scoring mark of 9-4. they also have beat each of those teams, scoring a combined 9-3.
“I don’t fucking know how to stop them,” said Mustangs head coach, Mike Corbett, when asked what the game plan was for the no.5 MSU team entering his building. His blunt, but exceptionally honest, speaks volumes to the turnaround of the MSU squad this season. They have regained the status as one of Division I’s top hockey programs, despite the rocky start.
“When you’re playing a team like that it is easy for the team like us below them to ‘ask how to stop them’, said Corbett, expounding on his opening remark. “There are solid players on every line it is easy to get production from every line because they are very deep and they do not have a lot of chinks in their armor. Be strong defending and take advantage of opportunities, that is the way we stay in this game. There are too many things to work on if we are trying to stop this or that, they can execute all their opportunities so we have to focus on what we do to combat what they do.”
The bipolar nature of the offense could lure the Mavericks into a false sense of security or le MSU rest easy knowing they need only outlast a sporadic team. Huntsville is also a team that has not strung wins together since the beginning of January, giving the no. 5 MSU squad plenty of reasons to be confident headed into the weekend.
Alabama allows a punishing 3.1 goals per game, which is a hard mark for the best teams to overcome and impossible for the Mustangs to top when averaging 2.4 goals per game. What drives the Mustangs offense is forward Josh Kestner; who has amassed 20 goals this season and 83 shots on goal. When Kestner is feeling it, the Mustangs offense is explosive and opposing defenses struggle. Plenty of players feed Kestner and produce the Mustangs offense, made evident by the three athletes with double-digit assists this season but no other player on the roster with more than nine goals. The focus now is to get the rest of the roster involved in the offensive attack.
“For a team that is middle of the pack, you have to focus on what makes you good. We have to move the puck to Josh and have him move the puck,” said Corbett on his team’s star scorer. “He has learned to move without the puck and has found a way get his shot without the puck on his stick.”
As for the defensive side, the Mustangs have had trouble playing disciplined hockey. The problem has been exacerbated when the team struggles to get shots on the opposing goaltender and offering little relief for their own.
“Playing fundamentally strong one on one and being able to pressure them defensively. They protect the puck so well that we have to be focused not letting them get passed us with speed, everyone has to stay with their man,” said Corbett. “The goal is to hammer home the details against this top-level offense.”