As I mentioned earlier in the week, this weekend the Seawolves both have and don't have their fate in their own hands. A four point weekend will go a long way to creating a good matchup for the WCHA playoffs. And with any lesser accumulation of points, the Seawolves could make their playoff task proportionally more difficult. And nothing about getting 4 points out of Mankato is going to be easy.
In looking over this matchup it occurs to me that one player on the ice may be the sole factor in determining the outcome both nights. That one player is actually two guys. Phil Cook and Austin Lee. As they go, so go the Seawolves? Is it that simple?
I'm thinking so. In the last 8 games Mankato is 4-3-1. Cook has gone 2-2-1 and Lee is 2-1 over that stretch. Cook's save percentage over that stretch is .884 and Lee's is .956. I'm not saying here that Phil Cook has necessarily been playing poorly but he certainly hasn't gotten the results. Against UAA earlier this year though he pretty much stood on his head both nights with a save percentage for both nights of .935. His career save percentage is a respectable .903. He has been their primary guy throughout the season with 25 games compared to Lee's 11.
Cooks last time out Mankato lost 6-2 to Duluth on Saturday prior to Mankato's off week. In the three games prior to that Lee got the nod, picking up a win and a loss against CC before a win in the Friday night Duluth game. Lee picked up the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week based on that single outing.
So without a crystal ball or the nightmarish prospect of reading Troy Jutting's mind, I've got no idea which guy the Seawolves will face this weekend. Will he go with the guy he's leaned on all season or the guy who's played mostly backup type minutes until the last couple of series? They both appear to be healthy. The purple cows had last weekend off. Who would you start? I'm just not going to guess.
Now to my main point. The Seawolves have not been an offensive juggernaut this season. I'm not being negative with that statement. While at times they have looked like world beaters and shown flashes of offensive excellence, more often they've struggled to get the puck past the goal line. On more than a couple of nights that's been because the other team's crease monkey played really well. And I think on at least one of the next two games, a Mankato goaltender is going to play really well. Maybe both.
So the Seawolves are going to have to be in playoff hockey mindset. They've got a lot of experience this season playing exactly that sort of game though. I have confidence that whoever gets the call in net for the Seawolves will play well. I know that the defensive game plan execution will be excellent. The penalty kill over the 2nd half of the season has been perhaps the best in the WCHA with some crazy fucking number like 92 percent (no I didn't calculate it but it's a close guess .. trust me).
That all leaves the main question to be determined; can the Seawolves put enough pucks in the net to win what really looks to be a low scoring couple of games? This is why I'm saying the outcome may in large part be determined by Mankato's goaltenders.
It's been a pretty classic example of scoring by committee this season for the Seawolves. Honestly, one guy having a great night can be the difference for them. Take your pick as to who that might be this weekend.
I'm not expecting Matt Bailey to play. Last weekend the word was that he might be back for the playoffs from the sprained knee he got against UNO.
Both of the games will be on GCI Channel 1 this weekend. The Chatroom can be accessed by clicking the "tab" on the far right called "Chatroom" at any time. Here is the UAA weekly release. Here is the Mankato weekly release. That's pretty much all I've got. Should I say "most important series of the year" again? Well it is. So there's that.
Unrelated to the series. I looked back over my letter to Chris Green regarding the Peluso jersey retirement and I have to say this ... it was definitely not the best letter I've ever written. In my defense, it was early and I was distracted by some other goings on. So someone, please write something more compelling than my less than stellar offering and send it in? Please. I failed to include some of the benefits that retiring his number brings to the program. It definitely would be a positive in terms of recruiting. Thanks in advance for anything that you might do to second my nomination.