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CCHA Notebook: Is Minnesota State back on track?

Mavericks coach Mike Hastings talks about his team's resolve after the holiday break and a look at the goaltenders on the Mike Richter Award watch list.

Mike Hastings Minnesota State.jpg
“You know, one thing that this group's done a really good job of, from the time that they left campus after we were swept by Bemidji, is turning the page and just moving on to the next,” says Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings, shown here in back left.
Maggi Hittinger / Special to The Rink Live

Minnesota State did not finish 2022 on a particularly high note.

The Mavericks were swept at home not once but twice in the month of December – the first time at the hands of Ferris State and the second against instate rivals Bemidji State.

It left MSU in something of an odd position: They found themselves not in first or even second place in the CCHA standings at the holiday break but in third, behind both the Beavers and Michigan Tech.

Mavericks head coach Mike Hastings said that although his squad was somewhat dejected following the two losses to Bemidji, they didn’t leave Mankato sulking.

“You know, one thing that this group's done a really good job of, from the time that they left campus after we were swept by Bemidji, is turning the page and just moving on to the next,” Hastings said during his weekly media conference on Wednesday afternoon. “They did a good job at managing their time away from home. They came back in really good shape and a really good attitude, and the energy has been good for the two weeks that we've been together.”

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That’s been evident in how the Mavericks (14-9-1, 9-6-1 CCHA) have played upon return, going on the road and sweeping Northern Michigan and Arizona State on back-to-back weekends. MSU is now undefeated in its past seven games on the road and has tons of confidence as they return home this weekend for the first time since the BSU series. They’ll face eighth-place Lake Superior State.

“I definitely think there is confidence flowing and anytime you can get two sweeps on the road, it's huge,” MSU senior forward Cade Borchardt said. “I think the break was nice for us just to kind of get a little reset.”

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Minnesota State forward Cade Borchardt (28) has seen his goal-scoring drop this season, but says of his teammates: "Those guys have been trying. You know, their intentions have been in the right direction; they just got off to a little bit of a slow start."
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

Borchardt was one of the many Mavericks who seemed to have benefitted from the break. He scored one of MSU’s five goals in Saturday’s 5-0 shutout against Arizona State. The Burnsville, Minnesota, native has scored just three goals this season after netting 15 a season ago. Hastings noted that while it seems to have taken some time for some of the Mavericks’ senior leaders to find their scoring touch, they appear to be turning a corner.

“Those guys have been trying. You know, their intentions have been in the right direction; they just got off to a little bit of a slow start,” he said. “Maybe some expectations from themselves being a little too high or maybe the shared responsibility of being a part of a leadership group after the group that walked out the door, but I can tell you right now they've their their attitudes and the work ethic has been good from the beginning of the year and it's nice to see them be rewarded.”

Hastings went on to name check a few other players who seem to be heating up. Brendan Furry, who had been on a 12-game goal-scoring drought, finally ended it in the second game against NMU, scoring twice and adding an assist. He notched a goal and assist in each of MSU’s games against the Sun Devils a week later. Ryan Sandelin also scored twice against ASU and once against Northern Michigan.

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“Right now Ryan Sandlin's consistent day in and day out in practice and into the weekends, and Brendan Furry's been our best player since our first practice back after the break,” Hastings said. “You're seeing some secondary scoring from some other guys like Adam Eisele, Christian Fitzgerald… it was really good to see [Cade Borchardt] get the monkey off his back on Saturday, too.”

Those veterans heating up also seems to have coincided with the Mavericks moving up both the standings and the Pairwise ratings .

Thanks to results elsewhere last weekend, MSU is now in second in the CCHA standings, five points behind Bowling Green with two games-in-hand. Their sweep of Arizona State also really helped their in the NCAA at-large bid chances: They went up from No. 20 to No. 15, making their past to an at-large bid just a little easier (but by no means a guarantee).

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011123.S.BP.BSUMHKY Mattias Sholl.jpg
Bemidji State sophomore Mattias Sholl (30) makes a save during the second period against Minnesota Duluth on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Five CCHA goalies on Richter Watch List

Five CCHA players have been selected to be on the “Watch List” for the Mike Richter Award, which is given to the NCAA’s top goaltender. These include: Noah Giesbrecht (Ferris State), Beni Halasz (Northern Michigan), Blake Pietila (Michigan Tech), Mattias Sholl (Bemidji State) and Christian Stoever (Bowling Green). In all there are 41 names on the list.

Sholl (2.01) leads the conference in goals-against average and is ranked No. 10 in the country, while Pietila (.924) is on top in save percentage. Pietila is tied with three players for No. 8 nationally, while Sholl and Giesbrecht (.923) are tied with two others for 11th.

A committee of voters will narrow the list down to approximately 15 finalists within the few three weeks and then ultimately choose the winner who will be announced in April during the NCAA Frozen Four.

What to read next
Roed recorded two assists in Bemidji State’s weekend nonconference series against Minnesota Duluth to lead all conference freshmen in points.
The Beavers went four-plus periods without being called for a penalty in the series. UMD made BSU pay once the Beavers were sent to the penalty box.
“It was a tight hockey game,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said. “There wasn’t any easy ice. And I thought their battle level, their compete level was the best that we’ve seen this year.”
The late extra-attacker goal by Wyatt Kaiser brought the Bulldogs back after Bemidji State took a 1-0 lead early in the third period.