UND will try to do what almost nobody has done recently: Win in Mankato
UND will arrive at the Mankato Civic Center on Thursday for practice.
But it may not recognize the place.
Since UND and MSU-Mankato last met in Mankato, Minn., in March 2013, the downtown venue has completely changed.
The size of the ice is smaller, shrinking from the 100-foot wide Olympic ice sheet to an 87-foot wide NHL hybrid. All of the seats have been yanked out, including those bright red ones, and have been replaced by Maverick-colored purple chairs. There's a new center-hung video board, instead of the hard-to-see screens on the end.
The Mavericks have renovated their locker room, the training center and the coaching staff's offices, moving the opponent's locker room to do so.
"It's become their home every day," said coach Mike Hastings, whose team was still shuffling practices between two arenas when he took over in 2012. "It's become a very comfortable place for the student-athletes to eat, study, train, go for recovery and go for practice."
And it's become a miserable place for visitors.
Since the start of last season, the Mavericks are 23-1-0 in the Mankato Civic Center.
The lone loss was a 1-0 defeat to Lake Superior State last January in a game where the Mavericks outshot the Lakers 29-11, but couldn't get one to go.
Second-ranked Minnesota State (2-0) will enter this weekend's series against No. 16 UND (7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday) on an 11-game home winning streak. During those 11 games, the Mavericks have allowed just nine goals combined.
"You keep waiting for the bubble to burst," said Hastings, a Crookston product who is assisted by Todd Knott of Red Lake Falls and Darren Blue of East Grand Forks. "I wish I had (the magic formula) in a book, because I'd hold onto it for a long time."
The two years prior to Hastings' arrival in Mankato, the Mavericks were 13-18-5 at home.
But they went 13-7-1 in Hastings' first year, then have been dominant since the Great College Hockey Realignment of 2013.
In the last seven seasons -- including this one -- Minnesota State has only been swept at home one time. Omaha did it to open the 2015-16 season. Minnesota State hasn't been swept at home by a conference foe since Wisconsin won back-to-back overtime games during 2012-13.
The Mavericks haven't just been mopping up on WCHA teams, either.
They swept a Boston University team with four NHL first-round draft picks on their roster to open last season. They beat Minnesota there, too, and swept Arizona State, an NCAA-tournament team a year ago, convincingly last weekend.
"We know what we're dealing with," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Last year, they came into our building and came out hard and strong against us. I thought we got better as the weekend went on, but that was a message to our team. We've got to be ready right away. There's going to be two good teams playing against each other on their ice."
In the last two seasons, only one college hockey team has a better record at home. That's St. Cloud State, which is 17-0-1.
"They've been talking about it in the locker room," UND freshman Shane Pinto said of the jump in competition from Canisius last weekend. "It's going to be different, especially those guys, they're really good. The biggest thing is not to try to do too much. Play simple. They're going to play hard, (we have to) just play hard as well and play the right way. That's the big message this week."
Last season, UND seemed to be at its best when the odds were the longest, beating 10 ranked opponents.
Goalie Adam Scheel, then a freshman, earned wins over three of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, including one against the Mavericks.
"For anyone, it's easy to get up for big-named opponents," Scheel said. "But I just try to take every game the same. It doesn't matter who we're playing. We're just going to play our style of hockey."
No. 16 UND at No. 2 MSU-Mankato
When: 7:07 tonight, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Mankato Civic Center, Mankato, Minn.
Records: UND 2-0, MSU-Mankato 2-0.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).
Of note: MSU-Mankato is 23-1 at home since last season and enters this weekend on an 11-game winning streak in the Verizon Center.
MSU-Mankato at home since last season
W, 4-3 -- vs. Boston University, Oct. 12, 2018
W, 5-3 -- vs. Boston University, Oct. 13, 2018
W, 4-0 -- vs. Alaska (Fairbanks), Oct. 26, 2018
W, 3-1 -- vs. Alaska (Fairbanks), Oct. 27, 2018
W, 2-1 -- vs. Minnesota, Nov. 3, 2018
W, 7-1 -- vs. Ferris State, Nov. 16, 2018
W, 5-2 -- vs. Ferris State, Nov. 17, 2018
W, 4-1 -- vs. Alaska Anchorage, Dec. 7, 2018
W, 6-0 -- vs. Alaska Anchorage, Dec. 8, 2018
W, 4-1 -- vs. Michigan Tech, Jan. 4, 2019
W, 4-2 -- vs. Michigan Tech, Jan. 5, 2019
W, 5-3 -- vs. Lake Superior State, Jan. 18, 2019
L, 1-0 -- vs. Lake Superior State, Jan. 19, 2019
W, 6-1 -- vs. Alabama Huntsville, Feb. 1, 2019
W, 4-0 -- vs. Alabama Huntsville, Feb. 2, 2019
W, 4-1 -- vs. Bemidji State, March 1, 2019
W, 3-1 -- vs. Bemidji State, March 2, 2019
W, 3-1 -- vs. Alabama Huntsville, March 8, 2019
W, 4-1 -- vs. Alabama Huntsville, March 9, 2019
W, 2-1 -- vs. Lake Superior State, March 15, 2019
W, 2-0 -- vs. Lake Superior State, March 16, 2019
W, 3-2 -- vs. Bowling Green, March 23, 2019
W, 4-1 -- vs. Arizona State, Oct. 11, 2019
W, 5-0 -- vs. Arizona State, Oct. 12, 2019
NCAA's best home records since last season
.972 -- St. Cloud State (17-0-1)
.958 -- MSU-Mankato (23-1)
.947 -- UMass (18-1)
.857 -- Arizona State (12-2)
.806 -- Clarkson (14-3-1)
UND is 14-6-1 (.690) during that time