Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mavericks look for two wins at Bemidji to open WCHA schedule

Max Gaede and Sean Flanagan against UConn
The Minnesota State University, Mankato men’s hockey team begins conference play in the newly constructed WCHA conference this weekend when they head to Bemidji State University to play the Beavers. The Mavericks carry a 2-2 record heading into the weekend with a sweep over the University of Connecticut, a weekend after being swept by Providence. Last weekend the Mavs did not play and remain the no. 16 team in the nation in this week’s college hockey rankings. Unranked Bemidji State holds a 2-3-1 record that includes a sweep last weekend over fellow WCHA opponent Alabama-Huntsville. This will be the first conference series this season for the Mavs, but Bemidji is a familiar opponent.
The Beavers have been a member of the WCHA since 2010. Last season, the Mavericks outscored Bemidji 9-1 en route a two game sweep at home. The Beavers are hoping to turn things around this season in the new look WCHA and return to national prominence as they made the NCAA Frozen Four just five seasons ago, but have failed to make the NCAA Tournament since. With a considerably weaker conference schedule this season, Bemidji should find themselves among the middle of the pack in the WCHA, as opposed to the bottom three as they have in each of the past three seasons. A couple of wins this weekend would be huge for the Beavers in conference standings, as well as beating a nationally ranked team. The Mavericks have a little more weight on their shoulders heading into conference play, though.
In the two WCHA preseason polls, one voted on by WCHA coaches and the other by members of the press, Minnesota State was voted to finish first in both polls. The Mavs want to make a statement early on this season that they are the team to beat in the WCHA and can do that with a sweep on the road at Bemidji.
“It’s great to be named the preseason number one team, but at the end of the day, it’s just a poll,” sophomore forward Bryce Gervais said. “The league is still very competitive and there are a lot of good teams in the league. To be a number one team you need to outwork the opponent every game and look to get better every day during practices.”
Gervais has two goals through four games this season
The Mavericks are led by Gervais and sophomore forward Dylan Margonari who each have two goals through the first four games, and senior captain Johnny McInnis who has three assists. The Mavs carry a pretty deep lineup this year, though. Thirteen players have found themselves on the score sheet through the first four games, including three freshmen that scored their first career goals in the UConn series.
“I believe every line can score and also play very well defensively. Depth is going to be big for us this year and will help us win games” Gervais said.
Stephon Williams also performed well two weekends ago, only allowing two goals on the weekend versus UConn. He will need to have another big weekend in goal to keep the Beavers top scorers in check.
Bemidji is led by former Academy of Holy Angels star and Minneapolis native Danny Mattson, who has six points through the Beavers first six games. The Beavers also have a couple of goal scorers in Edmonton, Alberta native Markus Gerbrandt and Cory Ward who each have four goals on the season. The only Nevada native in collegehockey, Ward was a highly touted freshman last season, finishing with nine goals and six assists as a true freshman. These players should see ample amounts of ice time this weekend against the home team Mavericks.
The Beavers are looking to make a name for themselves as a competitor for the WCHA crown.
“They won both games at Huntsville last weekend so have got to be feeling good heading into the matchup this weekend. We know how hard they work and need to match that,” Gervais said. “This will be a big test for us and we’re looking forward to our first WCHA matchup.”
If the Mavericks can contain the Beaver scorers this weekend, their depth should be able to bring them back to Mankato with a pair of wins and a great start in conference play.
After the series at Bemidji, the Mavericks return home next weekend in another conference dual versus Bowling Green State University. The puck drops in Bemidji Friday night at 7:37 p.m. at the Sanford Center and at 7:07 p.m. on Saturday night.

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