The No. 1 Minnesota State men’s hockey team had an impressive winter break from classes on campus, winning six of six games over that span. The streak of wins does not only include those wins however, as it also extends into the month of Nov. where the team defeated Lake Superior State on Nov. 27.
The Mavericks have collected nine wins in their current streak, winning every game in the month of Dec. Most notably, the team took both games in a series against previously ranked No. 6 Minnesota Duluth shortly after Christmas, and they are now on their way to extending that streak against Northern Michigan this weekend.
The two teams previously met this season on the Mavs’ home ice, where MSU took care of business against the Wildcats. The Mavericks won both games of the series, 4-2 and 7-0, and will look to continue their dominance over the Wildcats in Marquette this weekend.
Junior forward Brendan Furry had himself a weekend last time the two teams met, totalling three goals and three assists in the series. Senior goaltender Dryden McKay also collected a shutout in game two of that series, and will surely look to add another to his total this weekend.
Minnesota State still sits atop the CCHA standings going into the weekend, leading the field with 41 points on a 14-2-0 record. Northern Michigan sits far behind the top ranked Mavs at sixth in the CCHA with a conference record of 6-7-1, totaling out at 18 points.
“We really want to get off to a good start in their building… Our discipline and our start are going to be two things we want to focus on” said coach Hastings on what the team needs to do to be successful on Northern Michigan’s ice this weekend.
It is impossible to reach the top-ranked Mavs in a lone series sweep due to their massive lead in the CCHA standings, but the Wildcats can surely gain some ground on Lake Superior State and Michigan Tech if they come out on top this weekend. It is not looking probable for Northern Michigan, however, who have only won two of the last 12 meetings between the two teams since 2017.
Junior forward Nathan Smith remains the team leader in points for the Mavericks, doing so behind a team leading tie at goals with 13 to go along with his 20 assists. It is going to be hard for anyone to catch up to Smith for the team lead in points, as he leads all of NCAA Division I men’s hockey in points up to this point in the season.
On the other hand, Northern Michigan has an impressive duo of their own who sit inside the top ten in points. Junior forwards Hank Crone and AJ Vanderbeck both sit at No. 2 and No. 6 with 32 and 28 points respectively.
The two play much differently on paper, where Crone finds most of his points off assists, while Vanderbeck totals more points getting the puck in the back of the net. The two will definitely cause havoc for the Mavericks this weekend, and it could be a chance for us to see a change in the total points standings for skaters.
In net, the Mavs continuously rely on McKay to take care of business. McKay has started and played in 23 games this season, supporting a 20-3-0 record for the Mavericks.
The MSU goaltender has been impressive between the pipes once again this season, currently holding a .935 save percentage to go along with eight shutouts. McKay’s eight shutouts is tied for first in NCAA Division I hockey with Northeastern goaltender Devon Levi.
In recent news, MSU head coach Mike Hastings recently got named to the USA hockey coaching staff for the 2022 winter olympics in Beijing. Hastings will be joining fellow collegiate head coach, Brett Larson, as an assistant coach for the Olympics alongside others.
Hastings noted in a press conference on Wed., “They were very supportive and happy for myself to have the opportunity to represent our country.” when asked about how the locker room handled his USA hockey announcement.
Hastings gets the opportunity to coach under New York Rangers head coach David Quinn in the hopes of bringing home a medal for team USA in Feb. Hastings has appeared as a coach for the United States before, as he most recently served as the head coach of the 2019 World Junior team in which the team went home silver medalists.
Header photo: Nathan Smith (8) leads all NCAA Division I hockey players in points up to this point in the season. The Mavericks and Smith travel north to Marquette, Mich. to face Northern Michigan this weekend.