Men’s hockey looks to continue their magical run into the playoffs versus Alaska this weekend at the Verizon Center
The Minnesota State Mavericks men’s hockey team holds the WCHA crown after burning through their conference with 22 wins.
Now the Mavericks have not only reached the no. 3 ranking in the country, but also take on the Alaska Nanooks at home for the first round of the postseason.
The Nanooks, who currently hold an 11-20-7 record on the season, looks to play the role of spoiler versus the Mavs this weekend. The series will be in the hands of the Mavericks with everything to lose this weekend.
The Mavs come into this matchup as favorites to sweep the series versus the Nanooks. The MSU offense has been ridiculous this season. There are no ifs, ands or buts. They’ve blown the competition out of the water by leading their conference with 132 goals this season (21 more goals than the second best team Bowling Green in the conference).
Their offense has been a constant onslaught for the Mavericks, which has been spearheaded by C.J. Suess and Zeb Knutson coming in at 1st and 2nd in the points for the WCHA (40 and 38 respectively).
But it is not just these two players, this roster has made an emphasis on scoring and playmaking for elite scoring.
Marc Michaelis is 4th in points (37), and Jake Jaremko (35) and Daniel Brickley (30) are 6th and 13th, repectively. The Mavericks attack breeds success for everyone, producing a mind-numbing amount of goals and assists.
While for some teams the offense is meant to cover the flaws of the defense, this is not the case for MSU.
Connor LaCouvee has come into his own over the course of the season and is responsible for 19 of the team’s 26 wins. LaCouvee posted a .917 save percentage this season, which leads the WCHA for goaltenders that have played at least 33 percent of their squad’s minutes. The Mavericks have complemented their offense by only allowing 70 goals on the year, and you guessed it, that leads the WCHA for the fewest goals allowed.
And into the buzzsaw of an offense, walks the Nanooks. The problem for the heavy underdogs is they have far too little offense to keep up. The Nanooks have 92 goals as a team this year, which is not a terrible mark, but south of the Mavericks capabilities by a large margin. Matters are only made worse by the 100 goals that are allowed by Alaska, which marks out to three per outing.
This is the playoffs, which means usually it should be assumed that most things are possible and that no one should underestimate an opponent, even with home ice as an advantage.
However, in this case, the question of victory should not be a question. The Mavericks can overpower the Nanooks with their offense and in a best of three series, there simply is not enough time for Alaska to possibly scheme around the top scorers on MSU. While Bemidji State may have had some success bogging down the offense, the first round of the playoffs in their home building is not the time the Mavericks will be deviating from their season status quo.
All respect to Alaska, who have made the first round of the playoffs, but this series ends in two games. Game one: 6-3. Game two: 4-2.
Photo: (Aditiya Dhapare/MSU Reporter)