(photo courtesy Bucky's 5th Quarter)
The Matchup: Wisconsin vs. Minnesota State
When: Friday Nov. 23 & Saturday Nov. 24, 7pm CT
Where: Kohl Center (15,325)
Ice Sheet: 200' x 97'
TV: Friday – FSN Wisconsin, Saturday – FSN +
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads 23-15-4 all-time
Last Series Meeting: Split Series – Wisconsin 4-0 win on Friday, Minnesota State win 3-0 on Saturday
Wisconsin got one point out of their trip to arch-rival Minnesota last weekend, tying the first game of the series 2-2 but lost Saturday's contest to close things out. Earlier today the Badgers announced the hiring of interim assistant coach, Matt Walsh, to replace the departed Bill Butters. So that is a storyline to watch going into a series that features two of teams that haven't had much in the way of success in the WCHA.
…. more after the jump ….
About the Mavericks:
Record: 3-5-2 (1-5-0 WCHA, 2 points, T- 10th)
Head Coach: Mike Hastings (1st year, 3-5-2 overall)
Notable: The Mavericks have lost 5 of their last 6 games and have scored just nine goals in those 5 losses. Their lone win was at home against Minnesota in a home-and-home weekend series at the beginning of November. Minnesota State is coming off of a bye weekend.
Points: Matt Leitner – 10pts (1 goal, 9 assists)
Goals: Eriah Hayes & Johnny McInnis – 4 goals
Assists: Matt Leitner – 9 assists
Save Pct: Phil Cook – .883
GAA: Stephon Williams – 2.74gaa
About the Badgers:
Record: 1-5-2 (1-3-2 WCHA, 4pts., 8th)
Head Coach: Mike Eaves – 11th season (210-161-46 overall & at Wisconsin)
Notable: The Badgers are riding a seven game home winning streak over the Mavericks that dates back to Feb. 16, 2008.
Points: Michael Mersch & Mark Zengerle – 6pts
Goals: Michael Mersch – 6 goals
Assists: Derek Lee – 6 assists
Save Pct: Landon Peterson – .932
GAA: Joel Rumpel – 2.31gaa
Both of these teams need points badly this weekend and nothing more than a sweep of the series will help these teams climb up in the standings. Wisconsin hasn't won a game since their trip to Minnesota-Duluth nearly a month ago. Minnesota State has lost 5 of 6 as we've noted, so something has to give between these two teams and with a seven game home win streak on the line it could be the Badgers gaining that advantage.
This will be the first of two series between these two teams this season as the Badgers will make the return trip to the Mavericks in January.
As for this game, look for the Badgers sharpshooter, Michael Mersch, to continue his tear. He has 6 goals in 8 games and boasts a 25% shot percentage, an unbelievably accurate shooting number to say the least. Mersch is 5th in the WCHA in goals.
What will be key is the power play for both teams. Wisconsin and Minnesota State give up a ton of penalties with the Badgers ranking 4th in penalty minutes and the Mavericks ranking 3rd, and that's not a good thing. Couple it with the fact that the Mavericks rank 10th in the penalty kill (75%) and Wisconsin ranking 8th (80%) and you can see why staying out of the penalty box is important.
That and actually getting the power play offense going for both teams is key. Minnesota State ranks 8th in the WCHA on the power play, scoring on just 8 of 52 opportunities this season, but Wisconsin is worse, sitting 11th while converting on just 3 of 22 opportunities on the year.
Whichever team can take advantage of their special teams units will win the series.
Prediction: Wisconsin sweeps – 3-1 on Friday, 4-2 on Saturday