Last week, we here at College Hockey News named Minnesota State as our team of the week. And it was well deserved — the Mavericks were coming off a solid weekend in which they defeated a top-12 team in Notre Dame and a dominating win over Brown.
This past weekend, MSU returned home and didn’t play very well — but the fact is, they won twice, extending their winning streak to four games. They’ve now won 8 of 10 and have put themselves in the thick of the Pairwise discussion. Even the two games they lost — they were swept at home by North Dakota before Christmas — they were extremely competitive in. They blew a 2-0 lead in the first game against the Fighting Sioux.
Unfortunately, “almost wins” don’t count come March, and a ninth place finish in the WCHA isn’t going to be enough to get the Mavericks to their first NCAA Tournament since 2003. Every team in the league has played half its league schedule, no more, no less. With 14 games remaining on the schedule, the time is now for Minnesota State to take what it has learned about itself in nonconference play, where MSU has gone 6-0-2 this season, and apply it to league games.
That starts this weekend in Mankato where the Mavs play host to Denver. The Pioneers are one of three teams tied for fourth in the Pairwise rankings. A three or four point weekend would likely move the Mavericks from Pairwise afterthought to Pairwise bubble. There are plenty of opportunities for MSU to make some noise here in the second half. With seven series remaining, four come against teams ranked ahead of them in the Pairwise.
Wins over American International and Massachusetts-Lowell aren’t going to cut it anymore. For MSU, now it’s time to show what kind of team they really are.