Sunday, October 6, 2013

Maverick Hockey Hits the Ice

the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato with the new
purple seats, new boards, glass, and benches.
It’s a new year with a new team and a new rink. Not a completely new rink, but the MSU men’s hockey home arena the Verizon Wireless Center in downtown Mankato received a pretty good facelift during the offseason.   The building was built in 1995 with red and blue stadium seats which were removed last month and replaced with purple seats, giving the arena more of a home feeling than before. “It’s weird not coming out and seeing the sea of red”, senior captain Johnny McInnis said of the new seats. Head coach Mike Hastings agreed, “It’s fantastic, it feels like home”. Not only were the seats replaced, but the arena also received new boards for the rink, new benches, a new ice making system, and new glass. While all of these additions definitely improved the arena, the Mavericks focused on the game at hand and did not disappoint.
          The Mavericks took the ice at the Verizon Wireless Center Sunday night for their first game speed action of the season. They faced off against the University of Lethbridge (Alberta, Canada) in an exhibition game to prepare for this weekend’s road series at Providence. MSU didn’t just beat the Pronghorns, they steamrolled them en route to a 7-1 victory. The scoring got started early when sophomore center Teddy Blueger sent a perfect tape-to-tape pass to Dylan Margonari, sending him all alone on a breakaway where he buried the puck over Lethbridge goaltender Alex Sirard’s shoulder just 4:34 into the first period. The Pronghorns responded with a goal of their own when forward Brent Henke deflected a shot past Mavericks goaltender Stephon Williams on the power play to even the score at 1-1. From there, this game was all Mavericks.
          Senior Matt Leitner found the back of the net with the eventual game winning goal to put MSU up 2-1 before Teddy Blueger found his name on the score sheet again with a power play goal to close out the scoring in the first period and sending the Mavericks to the locker room with a 3-1 lead. The second period included two goals, both from freshmen making their Maverick debuts.
          Freshman forward Zach Stepan ripped a slap shot from just inside the blueline that beat the Lethbridge goaltender for his first goal in a Maverick sweater. Later in the period, freshman forward Mike Huntebrinker popped in a goal of his own to push the score to a 5-1 Maverick lead heading into the final period. Senior captain Johnny McInnis and sophomore defenseman Nick Buchanan each added third period goals to close out the game. The big story of the evening, though, was the dominance of one of the forward lines.
Sophomore Teddy Blueger collected a goal and three assists
on his way to being Sunday night's first start of the game.
         Teddy Blueger was awarded first star of the game, while Johnny McInnis was the second star, and Dylan Margonari the third star. These three skated on the same forward line throughout the game, and combined for three of the seven goals scored. The obvious choice for first star of the game, Blueger recorded a goal and three assists for a four point night while winning 13/16 face-offs. He credits his success to his line mates, whose skills complement each other, “Johnny has a great shot, Dylan has great speed, and I’m more of a passer”. Each has their own strength, and their combined strengths formed an unstoppable line. McInnis finished with a goal and two assists with team leading seven shots on goal while Margonari tallied one goal on the night. These three may have stolen the spotlight, but rest of the Mavericks chipped in as well.
          Twelve players recorded at least one point in Sunday night’s victory, and all three goaltenders received playing time. Sophomore Stephon Williams started in goal for the Mavericks, and played the first period and a half with three saves and one goal against before Senior Evan Karambelas took over for the second half of the second period. Freshman goaltender Cole Huggins made his Maverick debut when he played the entire third period and recorded four saves on four shots.

Senior Captain Johnny McInnis scored one goal and added
two helpers for a three point night.
Although Lethbridge was an inferior opponent in comparison to the teams MSU will play the rest of the season, the exhibition game gave the Mavericks a chance to play a game together and get some of the freshman settled in while also seeing which players play best together. This weekend the Mavericks travel to Providence, Rhode Island to play the Providence Friars in a nonconference series. In last week’s USCHO.com Division I men’s poll, the Friars came in at #14, two spots behind the Mavericks who placed tied for 11 th on the list with Michigan. This will be a good test for MSU as they won’t face another top 20 ranked opponent until November 15th when they travel to Mariucci to play Minnesota. The puck drops for game one in Providence at 7:00pm eastern on Friday.

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