Mankato St? Minnesota State University, Mankato? Neither. Now it's Minnesota State University Mankato. They've dropped the comma? Though the school seems to have some sort of identity issue it's hockey team doesn't. They're tough bunch. At least they always are when UAA plays them. Under the official league scheduling rules (also known as Don Lucia's List) UAA and Mankato are "designated rivals". The WCHA perhaps should have chosen that moniker more carefully ... you can't actually make two teams into rivals. Nevertheless a bit of a rivalry has begun to establish itself over the years. Most of those years both teams resided in the bottom half of the standings. That proximity in the standings has made the points won and lost in this series very important to both teams. Hence, both teams generally give their best when UAA and Mankato play. It should be no different this coming weekend.
Though last weekends goals against isn't an indication of it; UAA's defensive game is improving bit by bit over the last few weeks. This past weekend we saw the offense come alive in terms of scoring chances. Many of those additional scoring changes came by way of odd man rushes for UAA. Those rushes were a direct result of the improved defensive play. I see better transitions and better decisions. The play in their own zone is more disciplined that it has been all season. Positinally it has been very very good. Everyone seems to contribute as necessary by going down and blocking shots.
With the same sort of ethic this weekend the Seawolves should see some points on the road. Part of the offensive problem has been that the forwards have simply been too busy in their own zone to make anything happen up the ice. That improvement along with the growing offensive confidence the team is showing makes me pretty optimistic. Defensive patience coupled with likes of Smith, Beagle, Walsky, Waldrop, Hamiton breaking out means that UAA could counterpunch the Mavericks into Palooka-ville? Lightsout City? Rubberleg-berg?
Special teams are likely to be a factor this weekend. The power play needs something. It needs to score some goals. Maybe they're all just gripping their sticks too tightly? Hopefully they'll contribute something this weekend but more importantly the penalty kill HAS to be at its best this weekend. Backes, Morin and Carter have 13 power play goals between them.
The last time UAA and Mankato played UAA helped them find a goalie. All three of their goalies had played prior to the UAA series. Since then it's pretty much been all Tormey and he's been playing well enough to keep his team in games against anyone. Of course as it was vital last weekend to getting points ... UAA really oughta score first. It'll just make things a bit easier guys. Really. Ok then.
I thought Lawson was great against UND but I thought also wanted to say here that Luke Beaverson had an outstanding series. He was solid every shift. He took care of business along the boards and was physically more dominating. He's making me think that he's really starting to mature. He is showing confidence with the puck and is looking both strong and quick on his skates. I imagine he was a bit motivated since he came to UAA as a result of UND rescinding their scholarship offer to him. Way to go big Luke.
More soon ... probably.