On the surface, it looks like Troy Jutting’s Mavericks are playing better in the second half after a dismal 3-12-1 start to the season. Mankato has picked up points in six consecutive weekends of WCHA play, going 6-5-1 in those twelve games.

But there’s another way to look at the “tale of two seasons” for MSU-M. The Mavs have fared well against the other teams in the bottom six (St. Cloud State, Wisconsin, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, and Alaska Anchorage), forging a record of 7-6-1. Mankato hasn’t yet played North Dakota, but has struggled against the others in the top six (Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Denver, Colorado College, and Nebraska-Omaha), winning just once in 12 games (1-10-1).

Minnesota State-Mankato has been led by their freshman class. The seven first-year skaters have scored 31 goals and added 51 assists for 82 points in 164 games played, an average of .5 points per game for the entire class.

By contrast, North Dakota’s nine rookie skaters have netted 27 goals and chipped in 38 helpers for 65 total points in 229 games played for an average of .28 points per game.

UND’s second half resurgence has been helped by junior forward Carter Rowney, who has netted 16 goals this season, eight during the month of February alone.

North Dakota will be unable to field a full complement of players for this weekend’s action, as sophomore forward Taylor Dickin (lower body injury) joins a long list of injured Sioux players. North Dakota will dress nine forwards and eight defensemen for the two game series, with blueliners Joe Gleason and Dan Senkbeil playing up front. Despite the injuries, UND is 14-5-2 (.714) in their last 21 games.

Dave Hakstol’s team has secured home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs and sits squarely on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. Anything less than a sweep this weekend would be devastating for North Dakota’s postseason chances.

MSU-Mankato Team Profile

Head Coach: Troy Jutting (12th season at MSUM, 184-220-55, .461)
Pairwise Ranking: NR
National Rankings: NR
This Season: 12-20-2 overall, 8-16-2 WCHA (11th)
Last Season: 14-18-6, 8-16-4 WCHA (11th)

Team Offense: 2.79 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.38 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.4% (33 of 162)
Penalty Kill: 79.3% (130 of 164)

Key Players: Freshman F Jean-Paul Lafontaine (13-15-28), Freshman F Matt Leitner (9-18-27), Senior F Michael Dorr (8-10-18), Freshman D Zach Palmquist (6-12-18), Junior D Evan Mosey (2-8-10), Senior G Austin Lee (5-13-1, 3.20 GAA, .905 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (8th season at UND, 205-105-30, .647)
Pairwise Ranking: 14th
National Rankings: #14/#15
This Season: 18-12-3 overall, 14-11-1 WCHA (4th)
Last Season: 32-9-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 21-6-1 WCHA (1st)

Team Offense: 3.06 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.79 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.7% (33 of 152)
Penalty Kill: 80.7% (113 of 140)

Key Players: Junior F Danny Kristo (15-21-36) Junior F Corban Knight (12-20-32), Sophomore F Brock Nelson (22-16-38), Freshman D Nick Mattson (5-11-16), Senior D Ben Blood (2-14-16), Senior G Brad Eidsness (6-3-1, 2.30 GAA, .914 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 12, 2010 (Mankato, MN). In a rare Sunday afternoon contest, UND again rallied from an early deficit to secure the road victory, 4-2. Down one goal late in the game, the Mavericks couldn’t capitalize on nearly two minutes of 5 on 3 play, and North Dakota forward Evan Trupp iced the contest with an empty-netter in the final minute. On Friday night, the Green and White scored three 3rd period goals in under three minutes to come back and win 4-3.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: January 9, 1010. North Dakota got two goals from Jason Gregoire for the second consecutive game and completed the sweep of the visiting Mavs, 3-2. The Fighting Sioux won Friday’s opener, 4-1. The game also marked junior forward Matt Frattin’s return to the lineup after serving a first-half suspension.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 35-10-7 (.740), including a 21-6-3 (.750) record in games played in Grand Forks.

Last ten: North Dakota has a sparkling 9-1-0 (.900) record in the last ten contests, and has lost just once in the last 18 meetings (16-1-1).

Game News and Notes

UND head coach Dave Hakstol is 20-3-2 (.840) against the Mavericks in his career. MSU-Mankato is just 1-11-1 when trailing after the opening period of play. North Dakota is 12-4-3 at home this season, but three of those four losses were by four goals (Boston College, Minnesota, St. Cloud State).

The Prediction

North Dakota is just 8-5-1 against the bottom six teams in the league, but they’ll add two wins to that total this weekend. UND will struggle in Saturday’s rematch, but special teams will be key. UND 5-2, 3-2.