Weekend Preview: UND vs. MSU-Mankato

Things are turning around in Mankato. The Mavericks appear ready to make a run at the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003. After posting a 19-16-4 mark last season and barely missing postseason play, Troy Jutting’s team returns plenty of scoring, experience on the blue line, and a solid presence in net.

The off-season was a good one in Mankato. Last season’s leading scorer, Trevor Bruess (30 points in 38 games played), turned down a professional contract to return for his junior season. Of the three seniors on last year’s team, only forward Joel Hanson (9-14-23) and defenseman R.J. Linder (1-7-8) played extensively.

There are more question marks up in Grand Forks. The Fighting Sioux lost defenseman Robbie Bina (2-23-25) and goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (27-11-4, 1.75 GAA, .932 SV, 6 SO) to graduation along with rugged forwards Rylan Kaip (8-7-15) and Kyle Radke (1-3-4). As expected, T.J. Oshie (18-27-45) turned pro. And another domino fell when defenseman Taylor Chorney (3-21-24) gave up his final season of eligibility.

The good news for North Dakota is that Ryan Duncan, Chris Vandevelde, Andrew Kozek, and Joe Finley all left professional opportunities on the table and came back for another run at a championship.

An 0-2 start has the Sioux faithful wondering what is in store for this year’s team, while a home sweep of Bemidji State has the fans in Mankato excited for the WCHA home opener.

Minnesota State University Mankato Team Profile

Head Coach: Troy Jutting (9th season at MSUM, 129-145-38, .474)

National Rankings: #15/#15

This Season: 2-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA

Last Season: 19-16-4, 12-12-4 WCHA (4th)

Key Returning Players (last season‘s statistics): Senior F Mick Berge (20-6-26), Junior F Trevor Bruess (9-21-30), Sophomore D Kurt Davis (1-14-15), Senior G Mike Zacharias (18-13-4, 2.08 GAA, .924 SV, 5 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (5th season at UND, 106-58-15, .634)

National Ranking: #13/#13

This Season: 0-2-0, 0-0-0 WCHA

Last Season: 28-11-4 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)

Key Returning Players (last season‘s statistics): Senior F Ryan Duncan (18-22-40), Junior F Chris VandeVelde (15-17-32), Senior F Andrew Kozek (18-3-21), Junior D Chay Genoway (8-21-29), Senior D Joe Finley (4-11-15)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: January 19, 2008 (Mankato, MN). The Fighting Sioux scored three power play goals and added a shorthanded tally in a 5-3 victory over the Mavericks. Freshman Matt Frattin notched three assists. UND took Friday’s opener 2-1 and went five for twelve with the man-advantage in the two-game series.

All-time record: UND leads the all-time series 28-9-7 (.716), including an 11-3-4 (.722) record in Mankato. Remarkably, 10 of the 44 games played between the two teams have come in the WCHA playoffs, with North Dakota winning eight of those ten games.

Game News and Notes

The last time North Dakota lost to Mankato was in March 2006. The Mavericks’ 2-0 start is their best since opening up the 1998-99 season with six straight victories. UND’s 0-2 start is the first since 1994-95. MSU-M goaltender Mike Zacharias has been in net for 31 consecutive games. Sioux forward Darcy Zajac was the lone UND representative on the Icebreaker All-Tournament team last weekend. Zajac notched an assist and won 23 of 31 faceoffs on the weekend.

The Prediction

North Dakota will not drop to 0-3 on the season. The Fighting Sioux will improve on the power play and penalty kill and take Friday’s opener. The Mavericks will rebound and explode on Saturday. UND 3-2, MSUM 4-1.

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