Tuesday, August 18, 2009

WCHA Previews: Mankato

School: Minnesota State Mankato or just Mankato
Mascot: Purple Cows
National Championships: None at DI
Head Coach: Troy Jutting, 142-162-44, 10th season

Last Season: 11-13-4, 8th Place WCHA; 15-17-6 Overall

Predicted 09/10 WCHA Finish: 8th

Key Departures:
F Mike Berge, 7-24-31*
F Trevor Bruess, 12-5-17
G Mike Zacharias, 14-14-6, 2.99 GAA, .911 save %
*All stats listed from 08/09

Key Returnees: (82.1% of scoring returns)
D Kurt Davis (Jr), 6-25-31
F Kael Mouillierat (Sr), 17-13-30
F Geoff Irwin (Sr), 12-16-28
F Rylan Gialardi (Jr), 8-20-28
F Mike Louwerse (So), 13-13-26

Top Sieve:
No returning goalie has started an NCAA game

Key Additions:
F Tyler Pitlick (MN HS), 27-31-58
F Eriah Hayes (USHL), 27-18-45
G Kevin Murdock (USHL), 21-10-4, 2.24 GAA, .920 save %
G Phil Cook (NAHL), 24-10-5, 2.68 GAA, .922 save %

Freshman Scouting Report: Tyler Pitlick is the biggest name in this class; he was a finalist for MN Mr. Hockey last season and should add more offense to the team. He will be eligible for the 2010 NHL Draft. Eriah Hayes was a teammate of Craig Smith’s in Waterloo and was 4th on his team in scoring. Kevin Murdock very well could be the starter for Mankato when the season starts. He had a fine season w/ the Lincoln Stars last season, but I’d think sophomore Austin Lee and freshman Phil Cook could compete for playing time as well. It will be someone’s job to grab, since the seat is vacant. Overall a decent class for Mankato.

When Wisconsin Beats Mankato: @ Mankato 10/23 & 10/24, @KC 2/12 & 2/13

08/09 Recap: While Mankato finished 8th in the WCHA last season they were only 3 points out of 5th place. Really outside of Tech, every team was in the running for home ice until the last few weekends of the season. At the end of the 07/08 season, Mankato threw a lot of blame around for not making the NCAA tourney when the PWR had them as the 1st team out, and a lot of that blame fell to Wisconsin. Wisconsin made up for it by promptly ended their season in the 1st round of the WCHA playoffs w/ a sweep. I don’t remember much about Mankato’s past season, because the Badgers played them late in the year and they never queued my interest other than some cheap jokes about their mascot and 24 year old freshman from time to time. Mankato had the WCHA best PP during league games.

Team’s Biggest Strength(es): The team scores a lot of hardworking goals and they have a lot of their offense back from last season, so they should score.

Team’s Biggest Weakness(es): Goaltending, cue up CC’s preview from last week on this one. As an anonymous poster guessed correctly last week, Mankato is in the 8th slot instead of UAA because they have no experience in the net.

09/10 Thoughts: Mankato should be one of the better offensive teams in the WCHA this season, but on the flip side they will likely also be one of the worst defensive teams in the league. There should be a lot of high scoring games for Land Cow fans, but in the end I think they will lose more than they win. If they were to stumble upon good goaltending (maybe Kevin Murdock will bring along his USHL success), they could easily finish in the top half of the league. Again how many freshman or inexperienced WCHA goalies step in and take the league by storm? Defenseman Kurt Davis and forward Kael Mouillierat should be the offensive leaders again for the Land Cows, both coming off nice seasons. The team is old (w/ 24 year old freshman how can they not be?) and in the WCHA that isn’t something to take lightly. I know the Badgers are banking on their group of seniors as well.

Mankato gets a good taste of future WCHA opponents Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha w/ series against both this coming season.

The difference between 3rd and 9th in the WCHA could likely be a few Randy Schmidt missed calls again this season. As much as UAA, Tech and Mankato aren’t powerhouses in the WCHA, I’d take them any day over the crap at the bottom of the CCHA. There are no nights off in the WCHA unlike the CCHA where the junior varsity suits up to beat W. Michigan.