We're back once again with our weekly "Take Five" series where we take a deeper look into the hockey Badgers opposition by chatting with local beat writers from around the country. This week Wisconsin is packing up the bus and hitting the road as they travel to Mankato to take on Minnesota State.
Earlier this week I was able to chat with Minnesota State beat writer Shane Frederick (@puckato), who covers the Mavericks for the Mankato Free Press. Shane also does a fantastic job with his blog "PucKato" which is dedicated to coverage of the Minnesota State hockey team.
The Badgers are coming off a home sweep of RIT last weekend and Minnesota State is coming off a road split at St. Lawrence.
I was able to chat with Shane about a number of topics including their goaltending situation, outstanding freshman Jean-Paul LaFontaine, and of course I had to get his prediction for this weekend's WCHA series.B5Q: Minnesota State has had a tough time with injuries this season. How healthy are the Mav¹s heading into the second half of the season?
Shane Frederick: They're still not 100 percent and won't be at all with Chase Grant out for the season after having surgery for a torn labrum in his hip. That loss was a tough one; he had a fine freshman season and there were some high expectations for him coming into this year. They got D Tyler Elbrecht back from a broken arm in December, which was big, but have lost F JP Burkemper more recently to a broken wrist. Just one of those seasons, I guess. Reminds me a little of Michigan Tech last year.
B5Q: Freshman Jean-Paul LaFontaine has been outstanding this season. He leads MSU in a number of offensive categories including total points. What does he bring to the ice that makes him so special?
Frederick: He just seems to have a high hockey IQ, makes a lot of smart, savvy plays and has a great shot. He's a creative player, and he always seems to be around the puck. He and fellow rookie Matt Leitner, the center on that freshman line (Max Gaede is the right wing), seem to have developed a strong connection.
B5Q: Last season it felt like Phil Cook had taken over the reins between the pipes in Mankato. This season it appears Austin Lee has gained the #1 job. Is it as simple as Lee putting up better numbers so far? And who should we expect to see in goal this weekend?
Frederick: Lee definitely outplayed Cook over the first half of the season. Cook really struggled over a couple of games late in November but he had a nice peformance in one period against the U18 national team and then got his first win of the season on Saturday at St. Lawrence. I haven't gotten word on who will go this weekend. I wouldn't be surprised if it's Lee Friday and wait and see for Saturday.
B5Q: The Mavericks have struggled this season at times for a number of reasons. What¹s going to be the biggest key for MSU in beating the Badgers this weekend?
Frederick: They have to stay out of the box and play smart and simple hockey. Obviously, Bucky has a solid power play and MSU's penalty kill has been spotty (despite scoring seven short-handed goals this season). But, more than that, MSU needs to stay fresh for the entire game/series. The Mavericks' depth isn't great on D, and if they're killing all game, they're going to be tired in their own end late. They can't afford that.
B5Q: Time to put you on the spot Shane. What¹s your prediction for this WCHA match up between Wisconsin and Minnesota State?
Frederick: Boring as it sounds, I think we're going to see a series split this weekend, with the Mavericks winning on Friday and the Badgers coming back to win on Saturday. Probably a couple of one-goal games.
We can't thank Shane enough for taking the time to chat with us this week about the Badgers and Mavericks. Make sure you follow him on twitter (@puckato) and his blog PucKato for coverage of this weekends series.
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