Mavericks to host WCHA Championship weekend in Mankato

After sweeping the Ferris State Bulldogs in a hard fought best of three quarterfinals, the Mavericks will take on Northern Michigan University in a single elimination semifinal in an attempt to play for their second straight Jeff Sauer Trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the WCHA Championship.

The last time the two teams met, the Mavericks shut out the Wildcats both nights, winning by scores of 5-0, and 4-0.

But it won’t come that easy this time around.

“You can take what happened earlier in the year and kind of throw it out the window,” head coach Mike Hastings said about their last visit to Marquette, Mich. “One, when we played them, it seemed like a year ago. Two, we were fortunate we had gone through a bit unscathed at that time through this pandemic from a COVID standpoint, they hadn’t.”

The Wildcats advanced to the semifinals by taking down No. 13 Bowling Green two games to one, winning the first game 4-3, dropping the next 5-0, and winning the final game of the series 5-1.

“They’re playing good hockey right now, not many teams go into Bowling Green and take two of three,” Hastings said.

Going into this weekend, the Mavericks have won the last 11 of 12 matchups, with lone loss coming against the Bemidji State Beavers in a tight 4-3 overtime loss.

The team is led by the WCHA Offensive Player of the Year, Julian Napravnik. Napravnik leads the Mavericks in goals and points with a stat line of 10-15-25. In the Mavericks first win against Ferris State last weekend, Napravnik scored his sixth game-winning goal of the season, putting the Mavs up early in the series 1-0. Napravnik also leads the Mavs in powerplay goals with 5and is tied for second in +/- with +14.

Team Captain Riese Zmolek leads the team in +/- with +17, and is excited to be playing at home. “[We’re] pretty pumped to be in our own building,” Zmolek said. Having the home-ice advantage will be a major factor this weekend. “Having, you know, not as many fans allowed, but still having our home fans [is] a little bit of an advantage for us.

The winner of Friday’s game will advance to play the winner of the Lake Superior State and Bemidji State in the Championship game Saturday night in Mankato.

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