MANKATO, Minn. — The Minnesota State men’s hockey team is ready for a break.
After sweeping Northern Michigan 7-3 and 1-0 at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center over the weekend, the third-ranked Mavericks are heading into their final bye week of the season.
It’s a chance, coach Mike Hastings said, to get some rest and a little healthier before the final two weeks of the regular season and the WCHA playoffs.
“We’ve got some guys that are on the mend, and they’re close to being ready to get back into it but not quite there,” Hastings said, referring to senior captain and leading scorer Marc Michaelis, who has missed seven games with an lower-body injury, and high-scoring freshman Lucas Sowder, who has missed three games (upper body).
“We’ve got some guys — mentioning Josh French, Nick Rivera, our defensive corps — they’ve put on some miles here — hard miles, out on the rink,” Hastings continued. “And there’s been some hard games, some physical games.”
Minnesota State has gone 5-1-1 without Michaelis and 11-2-1 in the 14 games since its last break, which came during Christmas week.
The Mavericks’ next games are Feb. 21-22 at home against Alabama Huntsville. They will close out the regular season a week later at Bemidji State.
After missing six games with an upper-body injury, junior center Jake Jaremko returned to play the Wildcats.
Although he didn’t register a point, he centered a line that accounted for two goals on Friday.
Jaremko’s left wing, Reggie Lutz, had a goal and an assist and 10 shots on goal in the series opener and two shots on Saturday.
“Jake’s been doing a lot of work off ice,” Hastings said on Friday, crediting athletic trainer Matt Schmidt and strength coach Tom Inkrott for getting Jaremko ready. “He played significant minutes tonight. He played very well, handled them well. I think Reggie Lutz likes seeing him back. They’re pretty close, and they seem to have some chemistry going way back.”
Charlie Gerard was Jaremko’s right wing and also had a goal and an assist.
“I like playing with ‘Snake,’” Gerard said Friday. “He looked good for being out as long as he was. He’s a solid player. He looked like he didn’t miss a beat.”
Jaremko has 12 points in 18 games this season. He also missed eight games earlier in the season with an illness.
“I was interested to see how Jake Jaremko would handle a back to back,” Hastings said Saturday. “It’s good for him to go through that because now he can get a little bit of rest and then get back after it.”
With second-place Bemidji State idle, Minnesota State extended its lead atop the WCHA standings to 11 points over the weekend.
The Mavericks have 62 points, and the Beavers have 51, although Bemidji State and Northern Michigan (44 points) have two games in hand. The Beavers and Wildcats play each other on Friday and Saturday at Marquette, Mich.
Around the WCHA
Bowling Green ended a four-game losing streak with a home sweep over Alaska-Anchorage, winning 5-4 in overtime on Friday and 4-1 on Saturday. The wins pulled the sixth-place Falcons to within six points of fourth-place Alaska, who they’ll play at Fairbanks this weekend.
Bowling Green also gained on fifth-place Michigan Tech, which split during its Winter Carnival weekend against visiting Lake Superior State. The Lakers won 7-3 on Friday, and the Huskies rebounded for a 4-3 overtime victory on Saturday.
Alaska took five of six points at Alabama-Huntsville, tying 6-6 before winning the 3-on-3 overtime point on Friday and shutting out the last-place Chargers 3-0 on Saturday.