No. 15 Mavericks to face No. 12 Huskies
Tied at 30 points in conference action, the 15th-ranked Minnesota State and No. 12-ranked St. Cloud State women’s hockey teams face off this weekend in a WCHA two-game series..
For the first time since Dec. 20, 2005, the women’s hockey team is ranked in the USA Hockey Poll. The program’s current state has arguably never been better, and the Mavericks will look to continue that narrative when traveling north to St. Cloud this weekend.
The Huskies and the Mavericks have played each other twice already this season, with the Mavs coming out on top in both contests by scores of 3-1 and 4-1. Minnesota State won both games at home when St. Cloud State was ranked No. 14 in the USCHO and USA Hockey polls.
Since then, the Mavericks have been a consistent reserve in both polls, and after their sweep over Bemidji State this past weekend, they finally cracked the rankings.
“After beating St. Cloud the first time, sweeping them, we for sure thought that we were gonna crack it so it was devastating when we did not,” explained senior goaltender Alexa Berg. “It definitely set a fire underneath us, wanting to be ranked. When we found out yesterday, we were all in the locker room and we were so excited. We know we’re a team that deserves to be in that spot.”
It has been a long time coming for Minnesota State to receive recognition nationally, not only this year but also in years past. When current head coach John Harrington took over in 2015, he was put in a position to build MSU’s program from the bottom up.
Harrington and the Mavs finished just 3-29-4 in his first year as head coach, but steady growth in the team’s performance has now found the team at 15-16-1 with just two games remaining in the regular season. With two wins this weekend, the Mavericks will reach the 17-win mark, which would be a new school record for the women and a giant step in the right direction for the women’s hockey program.
A lot is on the line this weekend, not only from a program standpoint but also in the eyes of the WCHA standings where the Mavericks are currently tied for fifth with none other than this weekend’s matchup: the St. Cloud State Huskies.
“When we found out we were ranked yesterday, seeing Brooke Bryant, who’s a fifth year, so excited to finally get ranked. How excited she was, screaming up and down, makes you realize how hard they’ve worked for this moment,” said Berg. “I believe it’s only going to go up from here.”
Berg also did not forget to mention, “Being tied with St. Cloud is definitely keeping us on our heels. We gotta focus on taking it one period at a time this weekend.”
St. Cloud State has been a tough team to beat this year, going step-for-step with some of college hockey’s best. The Huskies have taken down currently ranked No. 4 Minnesota and No. 6 Wisconsin, while also giving No. 8 Minnesota Duluth a run for their money as well.
With St. Cloud in a position where it can protect home ice while also fending off Minnesota State in the WCHA standings, Berg expects the Huskies will make it difficult on the Mavericks this weekend.
“We expect that they’re not going to give up at all,” said Berg. “They’re a really hard working team, an aggressive team that likes to block shots. We want to make sure we’re getting pucks through. “
Despite this, the Mavericks are more confident than ever going into the weekend.
“After taking Duluth into overtime twice and beating Bemidji during senior weekend, everyone is feeling good,” explained Berg. “Everyone is comfortable and confident, and we’re super excited to get on the ice on Friday.”
The series begins this upcoming weekend on Feb. 17 and Feb. 18, where the two will battle for the WCHA’s fifth seed at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. Puck drop is set for 6 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Write to Kole Buelow at Kole.Buelow@mnsu.edu
Header photo: MSU Women’s Hockey team wraps up their regular season with a two-game away series against St. Cloud State this weekend. (Lilly Anderson)