The Mavericks are back in action today after a much-needed weekend off to nurse their bumps, bruises and other ailments. They'll be healthier when they play No. 16 Michigan Tech tonight and Saturday but not completely.
Forwards Michael Dorr and Eriah Hayes will be back in the lineup, giving MSU a full lineup of forwards (but still no extras). But with only five healthy defensemen, senior center Joe Schiller is going back on the blue line, a position he's been in before.
While forwards Max Gaede and J.P. Burkemper practiced this week, neither has been cleared to play yet. Defenseman Danny Heath put on his skates on Wednesday and hopes to be ready soon. Meanwhile, Chase Grant, Tyler Elbrecht and Brett Stern have not returned to the rink.
With veterans Dorr and Hayes back, the Mavericks have some depth up front. Interestingly, their top-scoring line is made up of two freshmen and a sophomore — Jean-Paul Lafontaine (3-1—4), Matt Leitner (0-3—3) and Johnny McInnes (1-1—2). Rookie defenseman Zach Palmquist (2-0—0) is the only other player besides Lafontaine with multiple goals.
As for Michigan Tech, the Huskies are off to a surprising start and unbeaten at home. Two of their players earned WCHA player-of-the-week honors this week. They are also getting a great start from freshman and Iowa native defenseman Nick Cecere. Led by some veteran players, new coach Mel Pearson noted when he took the job over the summer that the cupboard wasn't bare in Houghton.
Time to go around the WCHA ...
North Dakota at Minnesota: With the Gophers back in the Top 5, much is being made out of this series, including the claim that it's the best rivalry in college hockey. It's been fueled by the fact the UND has several players from Gopher territory. Of course, with the changes coming to college hockey, it might not be the same in a couple of years. Meanwhile, Minnesota has the nation's top scorer in sophomore Erik Haula, and North Dakota is going to have to wait a year for the highly touted Colten St. Clair, who is not eligible to play this season.
Colorado College at Nebraska-Omaha: CC might be the nation's second-ranked team, but the Tigers aren't looking past the unranked red Mavericks, who are 3-1 in WCHA play. Meanwhile, Omaha is fired up to play one of the nation's — and the conference's — top teams.
Wisconsin at St. Cloud State: The Badgers are off to a rocky star with a young team, and in no place is that more apparent than in their penalty kill, which has allowed 11 goals already, including six last weekend. For the Huskies, freshman defenseman Andrew Prochno is off to a fast start. Could his secret be whiffle ball?
Minnesota Duluth at Denver: The Duluth News-Tribune has a good feature on Bulldogs goalie Kenny Reiter, who holds some UMD records at the position and is continuing a family tradition between the pipes. Meanwhile, it's been a long time since the Pioneers have been unstable in goal, but there's no sure thing there right now.
Bemidji State at Lake Superior State: The Beavers will take on a future WCHA team in the Lakers. But this year's Lake Superior team is one of the nation's real surprise teams at 7-1-0 (check out my column on the success of future WCHA teams here).
Check back later for blog updates, including tonight's MSU lines and the answers to the season's first You Want Answers?!?! post.
I'm not in Houghton but will try to post some game updates on Twitter tonight as I get them. If you're in need of a football fix or some live blogging of any kind, I'll be covering the Mankato West section championship football game. You can follow that live blog here.