February 2, 2006
Maverick Multiplicity

By Jess Myers

WCHA Notebook

Travis Morin and his Minnesota State Mankato teammates have posted an
8-3-1 record in the last two months.

National TV Schedule

If you’ve got one scorer to build a team around, David Backes is clearly a pretty good cornerstone upon which to set your team’s foundation. But the key to the 8-3-1 run Minnesota State Mankato has been on since early December has been the emergence of complimentary scorers in the Mavericks lineup.

Last Friday’s 5-4 win at Minnesota Duluth was a prime example of the sudden offensive diversity that’s paying dividends for Mankato fans. Backes, the opponents’ center of attention every time he was on the ice, had just one assist, leaving the majority of the scoring workload to teammates like defenseman Blake Friesen, who scored his first collegiate goal, and forward Austin Sutter, who scored for the fourth time this season.

“Guys that we need to score and haven’t, did tonight,” said Mavericks coach Troy Jutting outside the DECC’s pink-hued visitor’s locker room. It should be noted that the same DECC staff who posted a sign on the locker room door proclaiming it the home of the “Michigan Tech Huskeys” (sic) last season, had a sign reading “Mankato State” on the door this year. That is so 1997.

Jutting was most happy for senior forward Jeff Marler, who scored on Friday to snap a 22-game goal drought and got another goal in the Saturday night 7-1 win.

“If this was the start of the year, we lose 4-3,” said Marler on Friday. “Guys are finally scoring, and this is the time of year to do it.”

Backes is tied with Travis Morin for the team scoring lead with 33 points each. He frankly didn’t expect last weekend’s offense from people like Sutter and Marler, but was enjoying the show.

“That’s a very pleasant surprise, but we know that we have guys that can step up,” Backes said, reflecting back one weekend to when the Mavericks were swept at North Dakota. “We played well last weekend and didn’t get rewarded, but nights like this make the pain we’ve suffered worthwhile.”

Before you make plans to spend the playoffs in Mankato, it should be noted that the Mavs are still two games under .500 heading into this weekend’s home series with Michigan Tech and will need plenty of help to crack the WCHA’s top five in the next month. Jutting said his team has set a goal, but it has nothing to do with the league standings.

“What we’ve set as a goal is to play every night like it’s our last night,” said Jutting. “I’m a guy that believes if you do that and play that way, the other stuff will take care of itself.”


Pioneer Spirit: Denver heads into this weekend’s bye having won five in a row. Where just a few weeks ago, folks were talking about the possibility that the two-time defending NCAA champs might not even get invited to the dance this year, road sweeps at Wisconsin and Alaska Anchorage have vaulted the Pioneers back into a tie for the WCHA lead, giving them a very real chance to defend their MacNaughton Cup title.

But Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky looks back beyond just the past few weeks when looking for reasons that his team is in such a good position now.

“We put ourselves in contention prior to the Christmas break with a pretty big sweep iof a series in Duluth,” Gwozdecky said. “Everyone in our league knows the advantage of finishing in the top three and after that series in Duluth, I felt we were in a position to battle for one of those top three spots.”

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Wisconsin at Minnesota Duluth
Two desperate teams square off on the ice when Wisconsin visits Minnesota Duluth (the Bulldogs and Badgers have combined to lose 10 in a row). But the real action will be in the rafters of the DECC on Friday night when UMD will retire Brett Hull’s number 29 sweater. Hull played only two years for the Bulldogs, but still holds the school’s single-season records for goals (52), hat tricks (seven), multi-goal games (13) and power play goals (20). Hull was the WCHA Freshman of the Year, a Hobey finalist and played in a Frozen Four before heading to a lucrative NHL career which featured two Stanley Cups.

While You’re There: If you’re one of those folks who like a little more hockey mixed in with your hockey, head to the DECC Saturday afternoon when perennial prep power Duluth East hosts Chaska at 2 p.m. The Greyhounds have been to the state tournament in nine of the past 12 seasons (winning the title twice), and are ranked in the state’s top 10 again this year. If there’s no overtime in the high school tilt, you may just have time afterward to scoot over to Sammy’s Pizza on First Street for a great pie before the Bulldogs and Badgers drop the puck.

Stick Salute

Congrats to former Badger Chris Chelios, who was named captain of Team USA for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. While we were more than a little surprised to see the 44-year-old even named to the squad, especially after he announced his “retirement” from international hockey at the end of the 2004 World Cup, we can think of no better team leader than a veteran of three previous Olympics, two World Cups, two Stanley Cup titles and a NCAA Frozen Four crown.

Bench Minor

While some are quick to cite the loss of starting goaltender Brian Elliott as the cause of Wisconsin’s current four-game losing streak, we’re wondering how much the sudden Joe Pavelski power outage is hurting the Badgers. Still the team’s leading scorer, Pavelski has just two assists in the last four games, and has not scored since notching the ninth goal in his team’s 9-1 win at Colorado College on Jan. 14.

That’s not to say that the Pioneers don’t have designs on keeping the WCHA’s regular season title in Denver for another summer. But like other coaches who have won the Cup only to see their team fizzle in the playoffs, Gwozdecky knows that the effort required to win the regular season crown in the nation’s toughest conference may be too much for a team with designs on playing in April.

“The MacNaughton Cup championship is the most difficult thing to win in college hockey, without a doubt,” Gwozdecky said. “And there are some people who probably don’t want to invest that time and effort because it takes such a toll on you.”

Even with two NCAA championship trophies to his credit, Gwozdecky still has fresh memories of his 2001-02 squad that didn’t make it to the Frozen Four after tearing through the WCHA in the regular season.

“That’s still probably the best team we’ve had here and we won the MacNaughton Cup and the Broadmoor Trophy, then maybe ran out of gas a little bit, losing a game in the third period in the NCAA playoffs,” he said.

As for more recent history, the Pioneers’ sweep in Anchorage may have been Hobey Baker Award candidate Matt Carle’s last trip to his hometown as a collegian, and he put on a nice show for the home folks. Carle assisted on four of the Pioneers’ eight weekend goals while dealing with the normal media attention that has accompanied the Anchorage native on both of his trips to Sullivan Arena with Denver.

“It's always been very special for him playing in Anchorage in front of so many of his friends and family,” Gwozdecky said. “We’ve only made the trip in two of his three years here and I’m not sure if we play there next year, but Matt’s always garnered huge media attention when we’ve played there and he’s handled it well.”


Dave Shyiak can do something no Alaska Anchorage coach has ever accomplished this weekend if he can coax a win out of the Seawolves in their series at St. Cloud State. Since the building opened in 1989, the Seawolves are 0-22-2 at the National Hockey Center. And with the Huskies suddenly sniffing a shot at home ice, the Seawolves may be picking a bad time to try and snap the skid.

• When North Dakota takes a penalty this weekend in the series at Colorado College, the Sioux might not want to see Marty Sertich and Brian Salcido heading onto the ice for the ensuing power play. Sertich and Salcido are first and second in the WCHA in power play points with 24 and 22 man-advantage points, respectively.

• Michigan Tech’s current four-game unbeaten streak (2-0-2) is the team’s longest run without a loss since the Huskies went 3-0-1 over a two week stretch of February 1998.

• Last weekend’s sweep at Wisconsin was a “good news, bad news” deal for fans of Gopher forward Danny Irmen. On Friday Irmen recorded his second career hat trick, and followed it up on Saturday with a pair of assists, earning a share of the WCHA’s Offensive Player of the Week award. The bad news came late in the Saturday game, when Irmen took a hard shot and is expected to miss the next three to five weeks with a separated shoulder. It’s the second significant injury for Irmen this season. He missed nine games after breaking a finger in the Gophers season-opening loss to Alaska Fairbanks.

• Last weekend’s pair of 2-1 wins by St. Cloud State at North Dakota marked the first time in the hockey program’s history that the Huskies swept a weekend series in Grand Forks.

• While North Dakota’s 9-3-1 road record is much more impressive than its 7-8-0 home mark, Colorado Springs World Arena is probably not the best place for the Fighting Sioux to try to break their current two-game losing streak. North Dakota last won there in December 2000, and has lost six in a row at CC.

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