Monday, December 15, 2014

Mavericks remain third

There was a change at the top of the U.S. College Hockey Online rankings this week, but Minnesota State remained No. 3 in the poll. The Mavericks received six first-place votes.

Boston University moved up to No. 1, while North Dakota slipped a spot to No. 2. Harvard and Michigan Tech flipped positions, going to No. 4 and 5, respectively.

Bowling Green, the other WCHA team in the poll, remained 13th.

Those positions were the same in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings, although the Mavericks received no first-place votes in that poll.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Flu outbreak cancels second Princeton game

Saturday night's Minnesota State men's hockey game against Princeton has been cancelled due to an illness that has affected several members of MSU's team.

"At this point (around 2 p.m.) Saturday, we're sick and getting sicker," coach Mike Hastings said. (Read more on The Free Press website here.) "We couldn't have put a team on the ice."

Athletic director Kevin Buisman, in a press release sent out Saturday afternoon, said:

"Several members of our men's hockey team have come down with the flu and we do not have enough healthy student-athletes to field a team tonight. After consulting with several stakeholders, including the NCAA, Verizon Wireless Center and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and discussing our options, it was decided to cancel the game. There were several complicating factors in the decision which involved facility scheduling, individual and team travel and the fact that there is no guarantee that we would have enough bodies to play tomorrow. We know that our fan base and those that follow us would have wanted to see the third-rated Mavericks play tonight and hope everyone can understand this difficult situation and the issues we faced in coming to this decision."

Buisman said that the game would be declared a "no contest" and that plans for ticket reimbursement will be announced at a later date.

According to NCAA policies and guidelines, no contest may be declared in cases in which a team cannot participate due to illness, weather conditions, vehicle breakdowns, etc. It is not a forfeit.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Princeton coach Ron Fogarty said in a release. "As our staff, our priority is to the well-being of the student-athlete."

Minnesota State is off until Jan. 2-3 when it will play a WCHA series at Northern Michigan.

The third-ranked Mavericks defeated Princeton 5-0 on Friday night. With the cancellation, they closed out the first half of their season with a 13-4-0 record.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Mavericks 5, Tigers 0

Photo by Pat Christman
Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Huggins is back: After some early-season struggles, Cole Huggins put together his best game of the season in goal, stopping 15 shots for his seventh career shutout. Now that might not seem like a busy night, but he had to be really good early on (nine shots in the first period) as his teammates were a little slow out of the gate (shots were 9-2 midway through the first) and Princeton had several good scoring chances. He's now in a four-way tie for the Mavericks' career shutout lead with teammate Stephon Williams and former players Mike Zacharias and Eric Pateman. You can read more about Huggins' night in my Free Press game story.

2. Stepan up: Another player who has gotten off to a slower start, at least statistically, is sophomore forward Zach Stepan. He, too, had a great game, assisting on three goals and finishing plus-3. "He was good," coach Mike Hastings said. "I think there's been an attention to detail that's helping him, but that's coming from him. I think he's done something with coach Knott and coach Blue as far as doing some extra work besides what we ask in practice." Stepan assisted on goals by Zach Palmquist, Dylan Margonari and Max Gaede.

3. One for the Gator: Gaede's goal was his first of the season and just the seventh of his career. The senior forward has now played in 129 games (all in a row) and has carved out a spot on the Mavericks' fourth line or energy line. He seems to get plenty of scoring chances but has trouble finishing. Even though the game was well in hand when he scored MSU's fifth goal with 5:57 remaining in the game, the bench reacted like it was a tiebreaker. Well-liked player who works hard out there. He had two goals last season and one the year before. Gaede is plus-9 for the season. Bryce Gervais and C.J. Franklin had MSU's other goals. Gervais' was his team-leading 11th.

Around the WCHA: Ferris State 5, Lake Superior State 2 ... Bemidji State 4, Northern Michigan 2 ... Minnesota Duluth 3, Michigan Tech 1 ... Alaska 2, Alabama Huntsville 1 (OT)

Minnesota State vs. Princeton — Game 1 live blog

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Friday Morning Skate

The No. 3 Mavericks will close out what's so far been a successful first half of the season with a nonconference series against Princeton at the Verizon Wireless Center.

Minnesota State's veteran depth up front has been a common theme over the last 2 1/2 months, but two rookies are making big impacts on this team. C.J. Franklin and Brad McClure certainly aren't playing like first-year players thus far.

For more on the series, check out The Free Press' gameday preview, too.

It's a big weekend for MSU sports, with the football team hosting a national semifinal game on Saturday afternoon. There's also thoughts going out to athletic director Kevin Buisman, who recently revealed that he has cancer.

Going around the WCHA ...

Minnesota Duluth at Michigan Tech: The series of the weekend takes place in Houghton where the No. 9 Bulldogs take on the No. 4 Huskies. This will be the 226th and 227th meetings between the two teams, who are now nonconference foes, but perhaps one of the most meaningful.

Lake Superior State at Ferris State: The Lakers and the Bulldogs meet in Big Rapids where the home team needs to win a couple of games if it wants to stay in the hunt for home ice over the second half of the season. After this weekend, 10 of Ferris State's next 12 games are on the road.

Northern Michigan at Bemidji State: This should be another good series and an important one for possible movement within the league standings. Bemidji State has seen recent improvement after losing a bunch of close games. Special teams has been a big difference between losing and winning.

Alabama Huntsville at Alaska: In Fairbanks, the Nanooks, coming off their series split in Mankato will host an improved Chargers team, one that has its sights on taking postseason-ineligible Alaska's place in the league playoffs at the end of the year.

For more on the WCHA (and the UMD-Tech series) check out Jack Hittinger's and my USCHO column this week. Also see who we pick in this weekend's games.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hastings 'concerned' about civic center cuts

Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings on Tuesday said he is "concerned" about the slim and trim budget and proposed cuts to the Verizon Wireless Center project and hopes that money can be found to get the things his program needs during next summer's renovation.

"It's not a Band-Aid," he said in a story published in Wednesday's Free Press. "It's the future."

As in the future of the program.

During Monday's Mankato City Council meeting, City Manager Pat Hentges reported on the cuts and said that Minnesota State is going to have to come up for the money to pay for things like therapy whirlpools, steam rooms, a reception area, displays and other items.

Those items, Hastings said, not only were expected to be in the final project but things like the whirlpools are vital, items in the modern care of the players through injury.

The cost of the civic center expansion project is just under $31 million, but the hockey portion of the project is set at just $4.7 million, and now there is a shortfall of at least $444,000.

Hastings said he was told since the day he was hired that state bonding money would take care of the facility issue that Minnesota State has at the civic center and All Seasons Arena, its part-time practice home (and current full-time home of the MSU women's team). 

After officials toured Bemidji's now 4-year-old, $75 million Sanford Center (they also toured the 4-year-old, $80 million Amsoil Arena in Duluth recently), Hastings was told that MSU's renovation would be far better than what Bemidji has. Now, he's not so sure.

He's also seeing the arena arms race escalate, with Nebraska Omaha opening an $82 million on-campus arena next season, Minnesota proposing $8 million or more in locker room and other renovations to Mariucci Arena and even hockey's crown jewel, North Dakota's Ralph Engelstad Arena, getting a multi-million-dollar locker room update (link includes video of the completed project).

"We're at a point of importance," Hastings said.

And, oh by the way, there's still no talk about a video scoreboard.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mavs fall, rise to No. 3

Following their home split with Alaska over the weekend, the Mavericks moved to No. 3 in both national polls.

I say moved, because they went down one spot in the U.S. College Hockey Online rankings and up a position in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings.

Ah ... rankings.

North Dakota stayed No. 1 in both polls. Boston University is No. 2, Michigan Tech is No. 4 and Harvard is No. 5.