January 19, 2005
Brow-beaten Mavericks

By Jess Myers

WCHA Notebook

Two losses to Minnesota last weekend dropped Steven Johns and Minnesota State, Mankato to 1-7-1 in the team's last nine games. (Photo courtesy MSUM)

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Some people’s emotions can be read in their eyes. With Minnesota State, Mankato coach Troy Jutting, you have to look just a little bit higher. When something’s wearing on Jutting, you can read it in his brow. And these days, that brow is sporting furrows deep enough to plant a nice row of crops.

Last Friday’s “home” game versus Minnesota at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul was a fine example of the highs and lows Jutting and company are contending with these days. One a night when one’s team scored six goals and when your athletic department sold more than 17,000 tickets, one would expect a smile. But with the temperature well below zero, the Mavericks goaltending having an off night, and the team playing a home game more than 100 miles from campus this was anything but a normal night.

In the end, a half-dozen goals was still four shy of a win, as Minnesota triumphed 9-6. While the Mavericks have made great strides since their disappointing 10-win season they still aren’t ready to be a serious contender for a spot in the league’s upper half. The “good news, bad news” nature of the Mavs season can be summed up in the night top line wing Brock Becker had in St. Paul, as he scored a goal in each of the first two periods, and left the game in the third with a possible broken foot.

“That probably typifies our night a little bit,” Jutting said, with a disappointed sigh. “He makes a few nice plays, and then, bang, he gets hurt. Brock’s one of the skilled kids we have that can make plays for us. Now the trainer says there’s a possibility that he has a broken foot.”

While Becker’s status was still not clear five days later, his status as an offensive catalyst for the Mavericks thus far in 2004-05 is unquestioned, and the hole he’ll leave in the team’s lineup is a considerable one. If he can make a comeback, it will not be the first one MSU fans have seen this year.

The team started out 0-5-1 before battling back to a .500 record, but has just one mark (an upset victory at North Dakota) in the W column in the past month. Jutting says that much of the trouble is self-inflicted, paying special note of the score-a-palooza loss to Minnesota.

“Anytime you score six goals in this league, you’ve got to get a win,” Jutting said. “Give Minnesota credit for taking advantage of opportunities, but we didn’t make it hard enough on them.”

Instead, as injuries and losses mount, the game seems a little bit harder each week for Jutting’s Mavericks. And after tough losses, that brow seems just a bit more furrowed each week.


Seawolf not blue over return to the blue line:
There was something upbeat and reassuring about Alaska Anchorage junior Matt Hanson’s reaction early in the week when coach John Hill moved him from fourth-line center to defense.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that Hanson, who is a natural defenseman, put aside thoughts of the glamour that comes with playing forward and the more natural ability to score while playing center, and welcomed the move to the blue line for a reason that’s most basic: ice time.

“On defense, I get to play a lot more,” Hanson told News reporter Doyle Woody. “I’m not saying I ever deserved to play on the top two lines, but back there (at defense), I think I can help the team a lot more. I’m pretty excited.”

Hill told the paper that he recruited Hanson as a defenseman, and with the team losing yet another player last week (freshman blueliner Tyler Cherwinski is academically ineligible and will miss the remainder of the season), switching Hanson back to his natural position only made sense.

And with the extra ice time involved, it made for a nice smile on the face of at least one Seawolf.

Great Weekend Getaway
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Denver at St. Cloud State
It’s a chance for the Pioneers to get back on track, and a chance for the Huskies to salvage some pride, this weekend at the National Hockey Center. True, Denver is on a one-game winning streak, having beaten Michigan Tech 1-0 the last time the Pioneers were on the ice. But heads are still being scratched as to how the defending national champs fell to Tech on Jan. 7. As for St. Cloud State, take away that five-goal outburst at Minnesota Duluth last week and the Huskies had been averaging less than a goal per game for a month. That’s not way to get back into the race for home ice. If Denver’s better record and national ranking wasn’t enough reason to pick the Pioneers in this series, consider that DU is 7-1 versus teams nicknamed “Huskies” this year. That lone loss to Tech is the lone blemish, as Denver has beaten Tech three times, St. Cloud State twice and Northeastern twice.

While You’re There: Long-time Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer remains a man who knows his way around a cheesy-baked pie, so when the Dean tells us to check out the House of Pizza (right next to the legendary Red Carpet in downtown St. Cloud) we don’t argue. Try the thin crust, and don’t go to heavy on the toppings, and you’re in for a treat.

Stick Salute

History never looked so good as it did last Saturday at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center when MSU, Mankato donned throwback sweaters (see the picture of Steven Johns at the top of this notebook) similar to those worn by the Mavericks during their run to the Division II national title in 1980. To honor the 25th anniversary of coach Don Brose’s only national title, the current team wore bright gold sweaters with purple trim and the word “MAVERICKS” spelled out across the front in the shape of the school’s bovine mascot. According to MSU athletic officials, the sweaters will be auctioned off at the end of the season.

Bench Minor
In the final 1:09 of Saturday’s game between St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth at the DECC, a pair of fracases between the Bulldogs and Huskies resulted in more than 60 minutes of penalties being doled out by referee Derek Shepherd. We know that these in-state rivalries can be intense, but for two teams to gather more than 100 minutes in penalty time is ridiculous, and when more than 60 minutes of those infractions come in the final 69 seconds of a game that’s all but decided (when fans should be allowed to warm up their cars or do something more productive than watch men in stripes explain things to both benches) we’ve got to draw the line. Keep it clean, folks.


• If relative team offense is any factor in the NCAA selection process, Minnesota coach Don Lucia is probably hoping that his team gets to face Minnesota State, Mankato in the WCHA playoffs. Twice this season the Gophers have put up nine goals in a game, and the Mavericks have been the victim on both occasions. And with last Friday’s 9-6 win being played at the Xcel Energy Center, Lucia noted that such offense was a real rarity in the home of Jacques Lemaire’s trap-happy Minnesota Wild. “I would imagine this is the first time that 15 goals have been scored in this building in a long, long time,” Lucia said.

• With frigid temperatures gripping northern Minnesota last week, the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs continued to perform like an old car in cold weather. In last Saturday’s 5-1 home win versus St. Cloud State the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead, marking the just first time in their last dozen games that the Bulldogs have scored first. In fact, one explanation for UMD’s rapid fall from the top-ranking in the nation to below .500 may be the fact that the Bulldogs have scored first in just five of their 24 games thus far.

• As of last week, fewer than 1,500 tickets remained for the NCAA West Regional, to be played at Mariucci Arena on March 26-27. With the host Gophers a good bet to play in Minneapolis, one gets the feeling that one or two Pride On Ice types have snapped up a few seats.

It’s been an interesting few weeks for Michigan Tech, as the Huskies head into this weekend’s series at Minnesota having won two of their last three, after getting just one win in all of their previous games. You’ll recall the formerly-woeful Huskies holding Denver (which had the nation’s highest-scoring offense at the time) to just one goal in their weekend split at Denver. Then last Tuesday Colin Murphy had four assists as the Huskies spanked Notre Dame 6-2 before 3,000-plus at the Resch Center in Green Bay. The road games at Minnesota will be nothing new for Tech, which is in the midst of a 55-day stretch (Dec. 4 to Jan. 28) without a home game.

• Fast on the heels of Tech’s game in Green Bay and MSU, Mankato’s game in St. Paul, the recent trend of neutral site games continues this weekend as Wisconsin and Notre Dame play Saturday night at Allstate Arena in suburban Chicago. The Badgers and Irish facing off in a big building brings us back to December of 1989 when those teams squared off in the then-brand new Bradley Center in Milwaukee in the very first Badger Hockey Showdown. The Fighting Irish were on the verge of winning the national football title then, but the hockey team was a woeful D-I independent. The Badgers, on the other hand, were three months away from winning the 1990 NCAA title and featured an amazing wealth of talent. The 17,000-plus who showed up expecting to see a battle between two nation powers got what they paid for, for about the first two minutes anyway, as Bucky coasted to a 9-3 win.

Colorado College will not only be looking to maintain its place among the top of the national polls this week when it hosts Minnesota Duluth. The Tigers may be looking for some measure of revenge as well. Last season, the Bulldogs swept the four-game series from CC, making the first time in 16 years that the Duluthians had beaten CC four times in one season.

If Fighting Sioux fans are having flashbacks to the days of Gerald Ford or humming “Love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain & Tennille this week, that’s understandable. After last weekend’s 1-0 loss at Colorado College, North Dakota has now been shut out three times in a season for the first time since the 1974-75 campaign. Die-hard Sioux fans will shudder to recall that 6-28-2 club (which finished last in the WCHA) captained by brothers Larry and Daryl Drader. No word as to whether Larry had another brother named Darryl back home in Estevan, Sask.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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