Of all of Andy Carroll’s strength, his ability to look in the mirror might be his best.

The Northfield native and third-year defenseman for Minnesota State University has taken noticeable steps in his game this season, playing nightly alongside classmate Wyatt Aamodt.

Carroll has played and excelled in every situation for the Mavericks this season. He’s played on the penalty kill, he’s run the point on MSU’s power play and he has been a strong 200-foot presence at even-strength. He’s been intentionally active, too, when the Mavericks have had the puck in the offensive zone.

But, he said, he keeps improving because he’s constantly critiquing his own game.

“I mean, there are nightly things where I can look back on film,” the 5-foot-10, 188-pound left-shot blue-liner said, “but for me it’s always been defending. I think I’ve taken strides, but there’s always room for improvement.”

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The 24-year-old Carroll is third in scoring among a deep defensive corps for No. 3-ranked MSU (13-2-1 overall) this season with two goals and seven points. The Mavericks, who have just six regular-season games remaining, play a non-conference series tonight and Saturday at Ferris State (6:07 p.m. both nights).

“I can improve on the rush a bit, joining in as the fourth guy, almost like a fourth forward off the rush,” he said. “I think, especially moving forward as we get into the playoffs, the penalty kills dial up, power plays dial up, so being able to score five-on-five is huge.

“In this league and in college hockey in general, it’s not easy to do that, so to have that fourth guy in on the rush will be huge.”

Carroll starred at Northfield High School from 2011-15, recording 59 points over four seasons. He played one season with the Sioux Falls Stampede U18 AAA program, followed by one season with Aberdeen of the North American Hockey League, then one season with Green Bay in the USHL. He has played in 76 career games as a Maverick, with five goals and 16 assists.

He matched a career-best last weekend when he had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win at Alabama Huntsville, scoring on a backhand shot from close range on a power play, then assisting on a Walker Duehr goal on his very next shift.

Minnesota State Mankato sophomore defenseman Andy Carroll
Minnesota State Mankato sophomore defenseman Andy Carroll

“First, it’s his feet. He’s such a good skater,” MSU associate head coach Todd Knott said when asked what makes Carroll such a valuable member of the Mavericks’ defensive corps. “Along with that, he’s not afraid to make some plays offensively.

“Some kids have that, whether it’s instinct or enough courage to go make some plays.”

The Games

Who: No. 3 Minnesota State University at Ferris State (non-conference series)

When: 6:07 p.m. today; 6:07 p.m. Saturday

Where: Robert L. Ewigleben Ice Arena (2,493 capacity); Big Rapids, Mich.

Records: Minnesota State 10-0-0 WCHA, 13-2-1 overall; Ferris State 0-11-1, 1-17-1

Follow along: Live blog at TheRinkLive.com; Live streaming at FloHockey.TV; Radio, 1420-AM KTOE.

Scouting the Bulldogs

Some teams are as good as their record indicates. Some teams are as poor as their record indicates.

The 2020-21 edition of Ferris State, though it has struggled all season, does not seem to fit the latter category. The Bulldogs are 1-17-1, their lone victory coming against a Division III school (Trine University) that is 3-6-0.

But a glance at scores and box scores indicates that Ferris has been competitive more often than not against WCHA opponents.

Ten of Ferris’ 17 losses have come by one or two goals. Six of those 10 losses have come by one goal and four of the 10 by two goals. Of the Bulldogs’ four two-goal losses, three have included an empty-net goal, meaning Ferris has essentially lost nine one-goal games this season.

“For them, they really have nothing to lose right now,” Knott said about the Bulldogs, “and that can be a scary team to play against. Right now … they’re prideful. Coach (Bob) Daniels does a great job with them and we know they’ll be hungry.”

MSU swept the Bulldogs 4-0 and 4-1 in Mankato on Jan. 23-24. The Mavericks excelled on the power play that weekend — perhaps no surprise considering MSU has the top-ranked power play in the country (32.3 percent) — going 4-for-7. And while the scores and stats may look like MSU cruised to two wins, the reality is Ferris matched MSU’s physicality and didn’t make things easy on the Mavericks.

MSU expects and equally challenging series this weekend, especially considering that Ferris plays in a small rink.

“Our veteran guys who have been around know that things happen really fast in that rink,” Knott said. “You have to play a smart game there. Ferris isn’t going to lay down for us. It’ll be very similar to (playing at) Huntsville last weekend.”

Last Meeting

The Mavericks and the Bulldogs met less than a month ago at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in Mankato. MSU won 4-0 and 4-1.

Dryden McKay recorded his sixth shutout of the season in the series opener, and Reggie Lutz recorded a goal and two assists.

Five Mavericks had two-point games in the series finale.

The last time the Mavericks and Bulldogs met in Big Rapids, Mich., was Jan. 10-11, 2020. MSU swept that series 5-0 and 5-1.

Head-to-Head

Records: Minnesota State 10-0-0 WCHA, 13-2-1 overall; Ferris State 0-11-1, 1-17-1.

National ranking: Minnesota State is No. 3 in this week’s USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine national polls. Ferris State is not ranked.

Win percentage (national rank, out of 51 teams): MSU .844 (1st); FSU .079 (51st).

Goals per game (national rank): MSU 3.69 (T-8th); FSU 2.42 (T-37th).

Goals against per game (national rank): MSU 1.06 (1st); FSU 4.26 (50th).

Power play (national rank): MSU 20-for-62, 32.3 pct. (1st); FSU 11-for-64, 17.2 pct. (36th).

Penalty kill (national rank): MSU 45-for-51, 88.2 (T-7th); FSU 45-for-66, 68.2 pct. (51st).

Shots on goal per game (national rank): MSU 36.19 (2nd); FSU 26.00 (40th).

Shots allowed per game (national rank): MSU 18.69 (1st); FSU 32.37 (38th).

Historical Data

Minnesota State and Ferris State have faced off 35 times in a series that dates back to the 1992-93 season. MSU holds an all-time lead in the series of 25-8-2, including a 9-6-1 record in games played in Big Rapids, Mich.

The Mavericks are 2-0-0 against the Bulldogs this season and they are 10-0-0 in their past 10 meetings with FSU.

Here’s a look at the past 10 matchups between them (home team in all caps):

Jan. 24, 2021: MINNESOTA STATE 4, Ferris State 1

Jan. 23, 2021: MINNESOTA STATE 4, Ferris State 0

Jan. 11, 2020: Minnesota State 5, FERRIS STATE 0

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