When the puck drops today at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center, it will mark the first time this season that the Minnesota State University men's hockey team will play games on consecutive weekends.
This weekend's games against Ferris State (5:07 p.m. today, 3:07 p.m. Sunday) are also just the third and fourth home games of this season for the No. 2-ranked Mavericks, who take a 7-1-1 overall record into the series against the Bulldogs, who are just 1-8-0.
Ferris State is coming off its lone victory of the season, a 7-0 victory against Trine University, a winless Division III team from Angola, Indiana.
From MSU's perspective, this weekend's series will be more about the Mavericks playing a full 60 minutes, something they've been more effective at in January than they were in November and December. In their first five games, the Mavericks scored a total of three third-period goals. One of those games was a loss at Michigan Tech, one was a tie against Bemidji State and one was a one-goal win against Bemidji State.
Head coach Mike Hastings said on the "Beyond the Pond" show on KFAN radio today that playing a complete game will become more and more imperative for the Mavericks as the postseason draws closer.
Here are 3 other things to watch in this weekend’s series:
1. Lineup taking form
In last weekend's sweep at Lake Superior State, for the first time this season, Minnesota State used the same lineup in consecutive games. It paid off in the form of 3-0 and 6-2 wins against the then-No. 19 ranked Lakers. It also paid off as some new names showed up on the scoresheets.
Defenseman Wyatt Aamodt scored his first goal of the season in Friday's win. On Saturday, senior defenseman Riese Zmolek had three assists -- more than doubling his point total this season -- and junior forward Sam Morton had a breakout game, collecting his first three points of the season, two goals and one assist. Morton has played in five consecutive games, the past four with Dallas Gerads (below) on his left wing. Ryan Sandelin joined that line on the right wing last weekend and the trio combined for five points in Saturday's four-goal victory.
MSU's leading scorer, sophomore Cade Borchardt, appears to have found a home, too. After spending most of the first half of the season as the team's extra skater -- often slotting in with all four lines at times during games -- Borchardt has teamed with center Nathan Smith and junior wing Julian Napravnik to give the Mavericks a second potent scoring line. That trio has combined for six goals and 20 points over the past four games.
2. Staying healthy
This weekend's series marks the start of a stretch where MSU will play four games in seven days and six games in 15 days. Some good news is all six of those games are in Mankato. If the Mavericks can jump out to an early lead today and Sunday, watch for more ice time for the third and fourth lines, and perhaps some different faces on the power play and penalty kill units.
Following this series, MSU hosts Alabama Huntsville on Thursday and Friday afternoons in a non-conference series, then No. 5-ranked Bowling Green comes to town on Feb. 5-6. Perhaps we see Ryan Edquist get his second start of the season this weekend or against Huntsville.
3. Ferris' story: Close but no 'Ws'
Ferris State's 1-8-0 record suggests the Bulldogs are perhaps the worst team in the WCHA this season. They sit near the bottom of the league's standings, in sixth place, ahead of Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State, having gained their only point with an OT loss to Alabama Huntsville on Jan. 8.
But Ferris has rarely been out of a game. Aside from a four-goal loss and a five-goal loss to Bowling Green, the Bulldogs' other six losses have all been by one or two goals. One of their two-goal losses included an empty-net goal by Bowling Green.
Ferris State's offense has been solid. It ranks 21st out of 51 teams nationally in goals per game (3.00), but the Bulldogs have struggled defensively, allowing 4.11 goals per game, which ranks 47th nationally.
Who: Ferris State at No. 2 Minnesota State, WCHA series
When: 5:07 p.m. Saturday, 3:07 p.m. Sunday
Where: Mayo Clinic Health System Events Center, Mankato
Records: Ferris State 0-4-0 WCHA, 1-8-0 overall; MSU 4-0-0, 7-1-1
Follow along: Live streaming at FloHockey.TV; Radio, 1420-AM KTOE
No. 3-ranked Minnesota State swept Ferris State 5-0 and 5-1 at Big Rapids, Mich., on Jan. 10-11, 2020.
Dryden McKay recorded 19-save shutout in the opener, while Marc Michaelis and Julian Napravnik scored two goals each and defenseman Wyatt Aamodt added one. Jared Spooner had three assists in the game and defenseman Edwin Hookenson had two.
In the series finale, McKay made 25 saves and MSU scored three power-play goals in the victory, two by Charlie Gerard and one by Reggie Lutz. Lucas Sowder added a goal and two assists, and Parker Tuomie had three assists. McKay didn't allow an even-strength goal in the series.
The last time the teams met in Mankato was on Nov. 16-17, 2018. MSU swept that series by scores of 7-1 and 5-2.
Records: Ferris State 1-8-0 overall, Minnesota State 7-1-1
National ranking: MSU is ranked No. 2 in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls; Ferris State is unranked
Win percentage (national rank): FSU .111 (50th); MSU .833 (1st).
Goals per game (national rank): FSU 3.00 (T-21st); MSU 3.56 (14th).
Goals against per game (national rank): FSU 4.11 (47th); MSU 1.11 (1st).
Power play (national rank): FSU 7-for-37, 18.9 pct. (24th); MSU 10-for-34, 29.4 pct. (2nd).
Penalty kill (national rank): FSU 23-for-33, 69.7 pct. (T-46th); MSU 30-for-33, 90.9 pct. (6th).
Shots on goal per game (national rank): FSU 31.44 (12th); MSU 36.89 (3rd).
Shots allowed per game (national rank): FSU 31.22 (31st); MSU 20.67 (1st).
Minnesota State and Ferris State first faced each other in the 1992-93 season. The Mavericks hold a 23-8-2 all-time record against the Bulldogs, including a 12-1-1 mark in games played at Mankato. This weekend's games are the only scheduled regular-season meetings between the conference rivals. MSU is 9-1-0 in its past 10 games against Ferris State. The Mavericks have won nine consecutive games against the Bulldogs, outscoring them 41-15. A look at the past 10 meetings between the teams (home team in all caps):
Jan. 11, 2020: Minnesota State 5, FERRIS STATE 1
Jan. 10, 2020: Minnesota State 5, FERRIS STATE 0
Jan. 12, 2019: Minnesota State 2, FERRIS STATE 1
Jan. 11, 2019: Minnesota State 3, FERRIS STATE 2 (OT)
Nov. 17, 2018: MINNESOTA STATE 5, Ferris State 2
Nov. 16, 2018: MINNESOTA STATE 7, Ferris State 1
Feb. 17, 2018: MINNESOTA STATE 4, Ferris State 2
Feb. 16, 2018: MINNESOTA STATE 7, Ferris State 1
Dec. 10, 2016: Minnesota State 3, FERRIS STATE 2
Dec. 9, 2016: FERRIS STATE 3, Minnesota State 0