Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rochester D-man commits

Rochester Post-Bulletin
On Wednesday night, word came that Riese Zmolek, a defenseman from Rochester Century High School, has committed to Minnesota State.

Zmolek is the son of former University of Minnesota defenseman (friend and teammate of former MSU women's coach and men's assistant and Eric Means) and nine-year NHLer Doug Zmolek.

The Rochester Post-Bulletin's Jason Feldman got in touch with Zmolek about the commitment, and he said:

"MSU has a very good hockey team and great coaches. It is a very good fit for me. ... (Coach Mike Hastings) demands a lot out of you, which is good. That's what you want in a coach, but he respects his players and holds them accountable."

Click on the link to read more comments from him and his coaches. (MSU coaches cannot comment on him until he signs a letter of intent.)

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Zmolek scored 20 goals and had 41 points in 27 games for Century this past season. He had a good fall in the Upper Midwest Elite League and also spent time before and after the season with the Austin Bruins of the junior-level North American Hockey League.

He's a draft pick of the United States Hockey League's Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, so it appears likely that's where he'll play at least one season before going to Minnesota State.

You can read another feature story by Feldman about Zmolek here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

UND's Hakstol goes to Philly

Stunning news out of North Dakota on Monday morning, as coach Dave Hakstol resigned to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Hakstol coached UND for 11 years, going 289-143-43 (.654) with seven Frozen Four appearances. A national championship eluded him, however.

Hakstol makes the rare jump from college hockey to the NHL, something that was last done by Herb Brooks when he left St. Cloud State for the Minnesota North Stars, his second stint in the NHL.

According to the Grand Forks Herald, Hakstol will be replaced by UND assistant coach, Brad Berry, making for a smooth transition there and preventing a domino affect in other coaching ranks. Hakstol's departure is the first coaching change in D1 men's college hockey this offseason.

A couple of thoughts:

• Hakstol's move means that, in just two years, the head coaches of the two programs at the forefront of the formation of the NCHC, are no longer at those schools. George Gwozdecky was let go by Denver two years ago. Gwozdecky, by the way, is also in the NHL. He's an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

• Hakstol was hired by Flyers GM Ron Hextall, whose son, Brett, played for Hakstol at UND.

• A sneak peek at the column I'm writing for Tuesday's Freep ... This might be a good time for Minnesota State to hammer down the final details of a contract extension with Mike Hastings. With the success he's had in three seasons, his name will get thrown out for any college opening, as it was this morning by a few prominent people on Twitter. UPDATE: Here is a link to that column.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mavericks team awards

The Minnesota State hockey team announced its team award winners on Thursday night. They were:

• Most Valuable Player — Matt Leitner

• Unsung Hero — Max Gaede

• Best Hustle — Dylan Margonari

• Most Improved — Casey Nelson

• Don Brose Leadership Award —Brett Stern

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Harrington hired to lead MSU women

Perhaps Minnesota State is looking for a miracle worker -- or at least someone who knows about miracles.

MSU on Wednesday announced that it has hired 1980 Olympian and former St. John's men's coach John Harrington as its next women's hockey coach. Harrington most recently worked for the Colorado Avalanche as a scout.

Read the MSU press release here.

Although he has not been a women's coach, Harrington has been a Division I assistant at Denver and St. Cloud State, a D-III head coach at St. John's from 1993 to 2008 (leading the Johnnies to five MIAC regular-season titles, four playoff championships and five NCAA tournament appearances) and a professional coach in Europe.

Harrington becomes the second Miracle on Ice team member to coach in the WCHA women's league, joining Wisconsin's Mark Johnson.

"I think it is exciting for Minnesota State and the Maverick women's hockey program," Johnson said in the MSU release. "John has a real deep background in the coaching world, whether it is at the Division I level or the Division III level. He understands college hockey and he's got a history with the WCHA. Certainly he has a history at the Division III level with what it takes to be successful. It bodes well for our league to bring in an experienced, veteran coach."

A Virginia, Minn., native who played college hockey at Minnesota Duluth, "Bah" Harrington replaces Eric Means, who resigned at the end of this past season. MSU will formally introduce Harrington at a press conference later this month.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mavericks' '15-16 schedule out

The WCHA and Minnesota State released their 2015-16 schedule on Monday, and the Mavericks' opponents are a combination of new and old WCHA teams.

Minnesota State's eight-game nonconference schedule is made up of the old foes, including the regular-season opener Oct. 9-10 at home against Nebraska Omaha. A week later, the Mavericks will travel to St. Cloud State for a pair of games. On Nov. 13-14, MSU will play a home-and-home series against Minnesota, with the Friday-night game taking place in Mankato. On Jan. 29-30, the North Star College Cup will take place at Xcel Energy Center with the Mavericks expected to play St. Cloud State in the first round and either Minnesota or Bemidji State the next day.

Minnesota State will play an exhibition game on Oct. 4 against an opponent to be determined.

As for the Mavericks' league schedule, they will open the conference schedule Oct. 23-24 at Bemidji State.

The rest of their 17-game home schedule includes Alaska (Oct. 30-31), Alaska Anchorage (Nov. 27-28), Alabama Huntsville (Dec. 11-12), Northern Michigan (Jan. 8-9), Lake Superior State (Jan. 22-23), Bowling Green (Feb. 5-6) and Bemidji State (March 4-5).

The remainder of their road schedule includes Ferris State (Nov. 6-7), Northern Michigan (Nov. 20-21), Bowling Green (Dec. 4-5), Michigan Tech (Jan. 15-16), Alabama Huntsville (Feb. 12-13) and Alaska Anchorage (Feb. 26-27).

The Mavericks will start the season with 10 straight weeks of play before getting three weekends off around from mid-December through the holidays.

For more on MSU's schedule go here. For more on the WCHA's composite schedule go here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hastings to do Wild's "Let's play hockey" open

Minnesota State men's hockey coach Mike Hastings will do the Wild's traditional, "Let's play hockey!" announcement to open tonight's playoff game against the St. Louis Blues at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

This year's national coach of the year also will make the media rounds leading up to the pregame ritual. According to MSU sports information, he'll be on WCCO-TV at 5:20 p.m., Fox9 at 5:40 p.m., KFAN radio at 7:55 p.m. (during the pregame show) and be on the mic in the arena at 8:10 p.m.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Finalists named for women's coach

Minnesota State will interview three candidates — Amber Fryklund, John Harrington and Laura Schuler — for the vacant women's hockey coaching position next week. The university announced Thursday the three finalists on Thursday, who are vying to become the program' fourth coach.

"This is a talented group of candidates with very diverse backgrounds and a variety of professional experiences," athletic director Kevin Buisman said in a statement. "We have heard a lot of wonderful things about what each of these candidates might bring to our program, and I feel very good about these finalists."

Fryklund is an assistant coach at Bemidji State, her alma mater, a position she has held for four seasons. The Hibbing native and BSU's all-time leading scorer was a finalist for that school's head-coaching opening last summer. She also has coached high school hockey in Duluth for five years.

Harrington was the men's coach at St. John's University (1993-2008) and currently works as a scout for the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. In between, he coached professional hockey in Switzerland and Italy. The 1980 Olympian and former Minnesota Duluth player worked on Division I college staffs at St. Cloud State and Denver. He interviewed for the MSU men's job in 2000 when Troy Jutting was hired and also interviewed for the vacant St. Cloud State women's position last summer.

Schüler is an assistant coach at Minnesota Duluth and has been since 2008. She also was the head coach at Northeastern (2004-08) and Massachusetts-Boston (2001-2004). As a player, the Northeastern graduate and Hall of Famer, was a member of the Canadian National Team, including that country's 1998 Olympic team.

You can read full bios on the candidates here.