Friday, March 14, 2008

Weekend Series Prep: Minnesota at MSU-Mankato

Series: Minnesota leads the all-time series 25-2-5.
Drop of the puck: Friday: 7:07 p.m; Saturday: 7:07 p.m. central time (Sunday, if necessary TBA)
Television: Friday and Saturday are live on FSN North.

Announcers: Frank Mazzocco and Doug Woog
PTFG Prediction: Minnesota is 17-0-3 against Mankato in the last 20 encounters, so I say the Gophers win in three.


Pairwise: Mankato 11, Minnesota 12 Mankato 10, Minnesota 15
USA Today: Mankato 11, Minnesota 15
Krach: Mankato 10, Minnesota 11


Star Tribune: Roman Augustoviz takes a different angle, talking to Mankato West's coach Ken Essay, a former Mankato player.

Pioneer Press: Bruce Brothers features freshman Mike Hoeffel.

Minnesota Daily: Brian Deutsch breaks dwon the WCHA first round.

Weekend outlook: The teams played twice this season with Minnesota winning 4-3 in Mankato on Nov. 9 and 5-3 in Minneapolis on Nov. 10. It was the only series among 14 WCHA weekends that the Gophers swept this season.

Gophers at a glance: The Gophers and Mavericks are locked in a tight race in the PairWise rankings, which are highly-regarded in the NCAA tournament selection process. Minnesota is currently ranked 12th and Minnesota State is ranked 11th. A lot of it could come down to what Boston University, Duluth, Notre Dame and Wisconsin do this weekend, but a sweep one way or another could knock one of the teams from the NCAA picture.

The NCAA selects 16 teams to the field, though some bids are automatically awarded to conference tournament champions which are not in the top 16 of the PairWise rankings.

Minnesota is opening the WCHA playoffs on the road for just the third time since their most recent seventh place finish in 1976-77. The Gophers also went on the road in 1999-2000 at Colorado College and 1997-98 at Minnesota Duluth. They were seeded sixth in both of those previous road appearances. Minnesota swept the series at Colorado College and lost in three games at Minnesota Duluth, dropping the third game in overtime.

The Gophers have qualified for the WCHA Final Five nine straight years and all but one year since the format began in 1992-93. The only time Minnesota failed to reach the Final Five was in 1997-98 when it lost in three games to Minnesota Duluth.

It sure would be weird to not have the Gophers at the Final Five, but honestly I could see it happen. Minnesota has been playing much better the past three weekends (note: scoring more goals and still getting good goaltending), but Mankato hasn't been too shabby either.

I think this weekend comes down to two things: special teams and goaltending.

Mankato at a glance: Minnesota State was 3-6-2 overall and 1-6-2 in the WCHA at the end of November, but the Mavericks have been one of the league’s best teams since. They own a 15-8-2 overall record and 11-6-2 WCHA record over the past three months, earning their second home postseason series and first since 2002-03 when they beat Wisconsin in two games for their most recent Final Five appearance.

Trevor Bruess has eight goals and 20 assists for 28 points, while Mick Berge has 19 goals and six assists for 25 points. Mike Zacharias has started 26 straight games and has a 2.21 goals against average and .920 save percentage.

Did you know? Minnesota has won all four postseason meetings between the two teams as the Gophers swept a first round series in 2004-05 and beat the Mavericks in the 2000 Final Five first round and 2003 Final Five semifinals.


The Sports Guy said...

Roman A has five blogs the past two days on this weekend - wow, this guy is a true blogger.

PJS said...

Roman A. is a hard worker. I don't read all of the puck stuff as I do football and basketball, but you gotta give that guy his due credit.

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