College hockey: Mavericks picking up steam

MANKATO, Minn. -- It took 11 years for Minnesota State-Mankato to earn a home sweep of Minnesota. The Mavericks finally did it last weekend, but coach Troy Jutting wasn't overly impressed or entirely satisfied with his team's performance. "I thou...

MANKATO, Minn. -- It took 11 years for Minnesota State-Mankato to earn a home sweep of Minnesota.

The Mavericks finally did it last weekend, but coach Troy Jutting wasn't overly impressed or entirely satisfied with his team's performance.

"I thought we were OK," he said. "We weren't great by any means."

Jutting pointed to several areas -- including goaltending -- that can improve when the Mavericks host UND at the Verizon Wireless Center at 7:37 tonight.

He said goalie Phil Cook was very good in making 49 of 50 saves on Saturday, but Cook wants Friday's goals back. And the team's offense, which ranks ninth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and the power play, which ranks 11th, can both improve.


Still, the Mavericks (6-6-4, 4-6-2 WCHA) enter the weekend on a four-game winning streak -- the program's longest in three seasons.

"We did some things very well," Jutting said of the Gopher series. "Other things, we have to improve. We definitely have areas we need to get better in."

This weekend, Minnesota State will take on the team that Jutting picked to win the league -- a Sioux squad that has a 14-1-1 edge on the Mavericks in the last 16 meetings.

"I said it at the beginning of the season. I think North Dakota is the best team in our league," Jutting said. "They are extremely well-coached. They play hard. I've been impressed."

The Sioux (11-5-2), who are unbeaten in seven of the last eight games, know what to expect from the Mavericks.

"They play hard, they play fast and they play very aggressive," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "They have good depth through their line. There's nothing hidden about their game. They show up, work hard, play hard and play together. They have good players that play together."

Once again, the Mavericks are led by dynamic blue liners.

A defenseman may lead them in scoring for the third straight year. Kurt Davis led the team with 31 points in 2008-09 and Ben Youds led the team with 26 points last season. Both are seniors now and Davis' 13 points are tops for the Mavericks.


Hakstol called them "two of the best defensemen in the country."

"Any time you have senior defensemen who have had success through their careers, it's a bonus for the program," Jutting said. "Davis, Youds and Channing Boe all bring something to the team. Kurt and Ben have good offensive abilities. Channing is a big, solid defender who is a big leader for us."

Home sweet home

Jutting and Hakstol have probably racked up more frequent flier miles than anyone in college hockey during the first half.

The teams have boarded 20 airplanes, spent 30 nights in hotels and combined for more than 24,000 miles of travel with road trips spanning from Alaska to New England.

Minnesota State returned home last weekend after spending 40 days away from Verizon Wireless Center -- a place the Mavericks have been tough to beat during the last decade.

"It's nice to hear the crowd cheer when you score a goal," Jutting said. "It's good to sleep in your own beds and play in front of your own fans."

In the last nine years, the Mavericks are 76-53-24 at home (.575 winning percentage) compared with 53-97-24 on the road (.373). This season, they've lost only once at home, a 1-0 setback to Colorado College in October.


"I don't know if it has anything to do with the place," said UND senior defenseman Derrick LaPoint, whose team hasn't been in Mankato since Oct. 2008. "I think it's the team. They are a hard-working, hard-nosed team. They do the simple things right. They compete and we're going to have to match their intensity. We have to be up for two hard-fought battles. It's going to be an intense weekend."

Michigan-Michigan St.

expecting 110,000

The largest crowd ever to watch a hockey game is expected on Saturday when Michigan hosts Michigan State at The Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich.

About 110,000 fans are expected to fill Michigan's football field for the outdoor game.

The two schools set a record in 2001, when 74,544 showed up to watch the rivals play at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich. That record was broken in May when the opening game of the IIHF World Championship between the U.S. and Germany drew 77,803 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

The Central Collegiate Hockey Association game will start at 2:05 p.m., and will be televised on the Big Ten Network and FSN Detroit.

Legendary coach


Armstrong dies

Legendary college hockey coach Murray Armstrong, who led the University of Denver to five national championships, died Wednesday night in Florida at the age of 94.

Armstrong played in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Americans, Brooklyn Americans and Detroit Red Wings before moving to coaching in the 1950s.

He started at Denver in 1956 and led the Pioneers to national championships in 1958, 1960, 1961, 1968 and 1969 before retiring in 1977. Only Michigan's Vic Heyliger (six) has won more NCAA championships.


UND first-line forward Jason Gregoire and Brett Hextall are out for this weekend with upper-body injuries. Both missed last weekend as well. . . Both of Minnesota State's assistant coaches have area connections. Darren Blue is from East Grand Forks and second-year assistant Todd Knott is from Red Lake Falls. . . After this weekend's series, UND rookies Derek Forbort and Brock Nelson will leave to join the U.S. World Junior camp. If they make the final roster, they won't return until the Jan. 7-8 home series against Robert Morris.

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to .

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at
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