Hockey preview: Mavericks host Bemidji State in final regular season series

The Minnesota State Mavericks will host the Bemidji State Beavers in the final series of the regular season the weekend of Feb. 23 and 24.

The Mavericks enter the weekend ranked 4th in the country after a dominant series sweep gave the Mavericks a nine-game winning streak on the year and a 25-7 record on the season.

Bemidji State holds a 16-11-7 record, with the first meeting between the two going very much in favor of the Mavericks by a score of 13-8 over two games.

Can the Beavers upset?

Minnesota has been an elite defense all season long, posting an impressive 128 goals this season. The Beavers have two options if they intend to play the upset.

First: they can bog down the Mavericks. Granted, this is a daunting proposal when playing an offense that generates 35 shots on goal per contest.

More intimidating still is the offensive versatility of the Mavericks attack for such a scheme. MSU has four players with double-digit goals and five more players that top at least five. Beavers goaltender Michael Bitzer has a .910 save percentage, he also allowed 2.15 goals per game while in the net this season. Bogging down MSU’s assault seems to be out of the question for the Beavers defense.

Second: the Beavers can attempt to outshoot the Mavericks. While MSU is the gold standard in offense, the Beavers have accumulated 93 goals over the season.

Posting 2.7 goals per game make the Beavers no slouch but are not close to the competition of 4 goals per game. Still, Bemidji ran the shootout, run and gun mode earlier in the season in their 8-6 loss. They came close but need to sustain their offensive persistence throughout the game if they are shooting for victory. With the Beavers 31.4 shots on goal per game, they have the offensive firepower necessary to make a run at the Mavericks offense.

Offensive strength is the more likely route for the Beavers. But even here, the Mavericks can outpace the visiting squad. Jay Dickman and Charlie Combs combine for 25 goals this season, giving them a tough duo to tangle with, however, no other Beavers players top double-digits.

At the end of the day, the Mavericks need to win these games. They are the hottest team in hockey at exactly the right time. They can ride out the sustained success of veterans like C.J. Suess (20 goals) and Zeb Knutson (23 assists).

As unfair as it may sound, anything less than a sweep would be disappointing for the no. 4 Mavericks. The Beavers have scored more than two goals just once in their last six games and the Mavericks have simply two home games between them and a postseason run.

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