This weekend marks the first time in a while where the No.1 Minnesota State men’s hockey team will be without their head coach Mike Hastings. Hastings and fellow Maverick hockey player Nathan Smith are headed to the Winter Olympics this week and have plans to leave Los Angeles and land in Beijing on Feb. 3.
Despite the Mavs being without their head coach and star junior center, MSU still has games to play until they return. First up is this weekend’s series against Bowling Green on the Falcons’ home ice.
History has been kind to the Mavericks when playing the Falcons, with the Mavs taking home the past seven games between the two since 2019. The two teams recently played each other earlier in the season on Minnesota State’s home ice, where the Mavericks took care of business defeating Bowling Green 9-2 and 5-3.
BGSU comes into the series with a 13-10-3 overall record, while being 10-7-1 in CCHA play. Outside of playing the Mavs earlier in the season, the Falcons have also played previously ranked No. 16 Providence, No. 17 Ohio State, No. 17 Bemidji State, and No. 3 Michigan.
Bowling Green did not fare well in those matchups, going 1-7 against teams who were ranked inside of the top 20 of the USCHO Men’s Ice Hockey Poll.
The Falcons are not to be looked over however, and present two top forwards in the CCHA on their roster. Forwards Taylor Schneider and Austen Swankler lead the charge in scoring for BGSU, currently sitting at 25 and 24 points respectively.
Both forwards find themselves in the assists column regularly, while their teammate and senior forward Nathan Burke helps the team find the back of the net with his team-leading 13 goals. In goal the Falcons use a fairly balanced approach, starting goaltenders Zach Rose and Christian Stoever in 13 and 17 games respectively.
The freshman goaltender, Stoever, has been the favorite recently in part due to his .911 save percentage and 2.67 goals allowed average. The netminder will have a tough task this weekend against the Mavericks, who average just over four goals per game while only allowing an average of one.
No .1 Minnesota State comes into the series this weekend with a 25-5-0 overall record while holding the best record in CCHA play at 17-3-0. The Mavs lead the CCHA standings with 50 points, followed by Michigan Tech at 38 and Bemidji State at 34.
Junior center Smith still leads the charge for the Mavericks in scoring, and not only that, he also remains atop all of NCAA hockey in points. Shortly behind him follows senior Julian Napravnik, and juniors Cade Borchardt and Brendan Furry.
The three forwards have been great for the Mavs this season and have all surpassed the 30-point mark. Napravnik leads the group with 33, but not far behind are Borchardt and Furry at 30.
With the month of January most recently ending, Napravnik was named the CCHA Forward of the Month for the month of January. The Bad Nauheim, Germany native earned six goals and nine assists for 14 points in nine games during the month of January.
Rounding out the top five scorers on the Mavericks is the team-leading goal scorer and junior winger Ryan Sandelin. Sandelin’s 17 goals is tied for fourth in NCAA Division I hockey with Michigan’s Brendan Brisson.
Senior goaltender Dryden McKay remains MSU’s backbone in the blue paint, stopping .927 percent of shots while only allowing 1.33 goals per game. McKay most recently broke the century barrier for career wins as a net minder, and will look to push his mark closer to the leaders with two wins this weekend.
Header Photo: Senior forward Julian Napravnik (15) earned CCHA Forward of the Month honors for the month of January for scoring 14 points in nine games. Napravnik is the second leading scorer this season on the Mavericks at 33 points.