Youngsters Contributed to Mavericks' Hot Start
by Joshua Berhow/CHN Writer
The October and November months have never been too friendly to Minnesota State.
In the Mavericks’ previous three seasons, they’ve had just nine total wins in those months – three each season – and only five total WCHA wins.
But with six October and November series completed this season and one more left to play, the Mavericks already have seven wins and five in the conference.
The experience of having 13 upperclassmen is what many thought would lead the Mavericks, but it’s been a couple underclassmen who have helped Minnesota State to third place in the WCHA, in sophomore defenseman Kurt Davis and redshirt freshman forward Mike Louwerse.
“They’re both having a great start,” said head coach Troy Jutting. “I don’t know if I expected Kurt to be one of the top scoring defensemen in the country, but we knew we’re going to need him to score to be successful. And when you look at our five freshmen forwards, Mike’s only missed one game. It hasn’t been a two game or three game deal for him, Mike’s played well in all the games he’s played in.”
Davis, who has scored a point in every game so far, is the top-scoring defenseman in the WCHA (3-14—17) and is second in the nation among defensemen. After totaling 15 points all of last season, his point production, as well as special teams play, is a big reason for the Mavericks’ turnaround in the early months.
“I think it’s his confidence,” Jutting said. “Kurt’s a very skilled kid and a very talented hockey player and after going through it for a year now he understands what it’s all about. He’s obviously playing extremely well for us.”
Besides contributing offensively, Davis has been a key component to the special teams and runs the point on the power play.
“He’s a great power play defenseman,” said forward Jason Wiley. “He runs pretty much both our power plays so it’s key to have him back there. Special teams can make a huge difference in the league, and it’s good to have someone with an offensive talent back at the point.”
While Davis is progressing in his sophomore season, Louwerse is trying to make up for lost time. Louwerse came to MSU last season out of high school and was shut down after four games with a sports hernia and given a medical-redshirt.
But Louwerse hasn’t been rusty to begin the season, scoring twice in the Mavericks’ season opener and has seven goals on the season, second in the nation among rookies. Also a contributor on the power play, his four power-play goals is second in the conference.
“We know that Mike’s got a lot of skill and he can put the puck in the net,” Davis said. “He’s not going to be a physical guy, kind of like myself, but if we’re out there making plays then it’s going to be good for the team.”
A more experienced group of players and steady goaltending from Mike Zacharias has helped the Mavericks forget about their early-season slump of the past. And with all WCHA teams in nonconference play this weekend, Minnesota State will sit at third in the conference for another week, something it’s not familiar with this time of year.
“We think we deserve to be in the top three,” Davis said. “Being in the top three has been our team’s goal this whole year and it will be the whole way. It won’t surprise me one bit if we’re up there the whole year.”