Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Best road trip ever?

In today's Free Press column, I seek out Minnesota State's best road weekend. I limited my search to the 17+ seasons (!) I've been covering the team, so since 2000-01.

Looking back over the seasons, I discovered there haven't been a lot of road sweeps. No wonder coaches can be thrilled by road splits and ecstatic about three-point weekends away from home.

The ones I did choose (five, plus this past weekend's sweep over then-No. 2-ranked Boston University) had some significance to them, based on opponent and/or impact on the Mavericks' season that year. What am I missing?

Give the column a read here and come back to the blog and add your thoughts. What about pre-2000?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mavericks back in rankings

Minnesota State dropped out of the national rankings after losing their season-opener at home to St. Cloud State. After sweeping Boston University over the weekend, though, MSU is right back in, landing at No. 14 in the latest USCHO poll:

USCHO.com Division I Men's Poll
Minneapolis, Minn./October 16, 2017

   Team             (First Place)    Record   Pts  Last Week
 1 Denver                    (49)    1- 0-1   999     1
 2 Harvard                           0- 0-0   897     3
 3 St. Cloud State           ( 1)    3- 0-0   886     6
 4 North Dakota                      3- 0-1   791     8
 5 Notre Dame                        2- 1-1   772     4
 6 Wisconsin                         4- 1-0   731    10
 7 Boston University                 2- 2-0   621     2
 8 Minnesota                         2- 2-0   583     7
 9 Minnesota Duluth                  1- 2-1   513     5
10 Providence                        2- 1-0   495     9
11 Penn State                        2- 2-0   454    11
12 Clarkson                          3- 0-1   436    15
13 Boston College                    1- 1-1   378    13
14 Minnesota State                   2- 1-0   344    NR
15 Michigan Tech                     3- 1-1   316    15
16 Northeastern                      2- 0-1   310    14
17 New Hampshire                     4- 0-0   255    20
18 Quinnipiac                        1- 1-1   184    17
19 UMass Lowell                      1- 3-0   164    12
20 Air Force                         3- 0-1   159    19

Others receiving votes: Cornell 126, Bemidji State 52, Ohio
State 9, Michigan 8, Omaha 7, Western Michigan 5, Army 2,
Vermont 2, Dartmouth 1.

The Mavericks were 18th in the preseason poll but dropped out after the 4-0 loss to the Huskies. Boston University was No. 2 last week and fell to No. 7. Should they have fallen further? Should they be below Minnesota State? What about other WCHA teams? Michigan Tech (15th) and Bemidji State (receiving votes) are still behind Minnesota Duluth, which fell from fifth to ninth. It's early in the year, of course, and putting a ballot together is no easy task (I know; I'm a voter). 

Others have taken note of the Mavericks' big weekend, though, as you can see here, herehere and here.

UPDATE: The Mavericks are ranked 12th in the USA Today/USA Hockey rankings.

Meanwhile, I'm working on a column about big MSU road sweeps in recent memory and where this past weekend ranks. There haven't been a lot, but the trip down memory lane was kind of fun. Look for that in Tuesday's paper or online later tonight.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Mavericks 3, Terriers 0

Freddy's three thoughts (from afar):

1. Road work: Time to start thinking about Minnesota State's best performances on the road after this sweep at No. 2 Boston University. It is early in the season, but, if the Mavericks get where they want to get at the end of the year, these games definitely will be a factor, especially if the Terriers bounce back from these losses and do what's expected of them. The first MSU road sweep that comes to mind is the 2014 series at Michigan Tech. The Huskies were 10-0-0 and No. 1 in the country at the time. I'll dig deeper for a future blog post. Any thoughts on this, dear readers?

2. Pawloski shines: Connor LaCouvee got the win against his old team on Friday night, but Mike Hastings went with Jason Pawloski on Saturday. Pawloski stopped 26 shots, including 12 in the first period when the Mavericks also had to kill off three penalties, for the shutout victory. That wasn't necessarily the plan going into the weekend, but, being early in the season, Hastings said it is important that both goalies get work. He added that both had good weeks in practice working with volunteer goalie coach Brennan Poderzay. Hastings also had praise for strength coach Tom Inkrott for what he did to help the team get through the weekend.

3. Please come to Boston: Watching online from Mankato, one could hear the MSU fans cheering goals and other plays. Hastings figured there were 100 or more people there rooting for the Mavericks. “The MSU contingent that traveled and came out and supported us, they were phenomenal,” Hastings said. “We’re very appreciative of the fans who stepped up and spent some money to come out and see us play in Boston. That is something special.” Those fans certainly got to see a special performance.

Read more here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan State 3, Bowling Green 2 ... Northern Michigan 1, Ferris State 0 ... Michigan Tech 2, Lake Superior State 2 (Tech wins shootout) ... St. Cloud State 5, Alaska 4 (OT) ... Bemidji State 0, Minnesota Duluth 0 ... Colorado College 3, Alaska Anchorage  2

Mavericks 6, Terriers 3

Freddy's three thoughts (from afar):

1. Brickley's big night: Daniel Brickley had an outstanding game for the Mavericks. The junior defenseman finished with a goal and three assists and was plus-2 against the second-ranked Terriers. Actually, MSU's defensemen were all solid, finishing with 11 of their team's 45 shots and a combined +6. No one was a minus. Sophomore D Ian Scheid and freshman Riese Zmolek also scored goals.

2. Welcome back, Connor: Connor LaCouvee got the start in goal, his first as a Maverick. But it wasn't the first time he played a game at Agganis Arena. After playing three seasons at BU, LaCouvee transferred to MSU as a graduate for his final year of eligibility. He beat his old team, making 32 saves on 35 shots. "Connor is a mature young man," coach Mike Hastings said. "He handled it well, after being put in that building and being asked to do some special things."

3. Young fellas: A few freshmen got their first career points in the game. Jared Spooner scored MSU's sixth goal, which gave the team a three-goal cushion midway through the third period. Zmolek scored his first goal, and Jake Jaremko had his first assist, a faceoff win on a power play that led to Scheid's goal and a 4-2 lead early in the second period.

Read my Free Press story here. And something from someone who was actually there here.

Around the WCHA: Northern Michigan 3, Ferris State 2 ... Michigan Tech 4, Lake Superior State 3 ... Bowling Green 4, Michigan State 1 ... Bemidji State 5, Minnesota Duluth 2 ... St. Cloud State 6, Alaska 3 ... Colorado College 6, Alaska Anchorage 1 (WCHA teams go 3-2 in nonconference play).

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Morning Skate

The Mavericks are in Boston today and Saturday to take on No. 2-ranked Boston University for the first time ever. There is a little familiarity as coaches Mike Hastings and David Quinn know each other well, going back to their Omaha days. Also, MSU's newest goaltender, grad-transfer Connor LaCouvee came over from BU.

Hastings said he wants to maintain a challenging schedule for his team, playing teams like the Terriers. BU will come to Mankato next year, and North Dakota will be back on the schedule then, too, as MSU will travel to Grand Forks.

Read more about Minnesota State's series against Boston University here.

MSU shot a video preview with Hastings following the team's practice Thursday in Boston.

Also, in case you missed it on Thursday, here's a breakdown of Hastings' contract with Minnesota State.

Elsewhere in the WCHA this weekend ...

Northern Michigan and Ferris State kick off the conference schedule with a series in Big Rapids, Mich., and No. 15 Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State will do the same in Sault Ste. Marie.

Bowling Green and Michigan State will play a home and home series, with the Falcons hosting tonight. The series renews an old CCHA rivalry.

Bemidji State and No. 5 Minnesota Duluth will play home and home, starting tonight in Bemidji where the Beavers will play their first game of the season. I'm not sure if this is some kind of record, but the P-word (Pairwise) is already being mentioned in Duluth.

In a couple more WCHA-NCHC matchups, Alaska will play a series at No. 6 St. Cloud State where it expects a tough test, and Alaska Anchorage will go to Colorado College for two games.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Contract shows MSU's commitment to hockey, Hastings

Mike Hastings agreed to a 10-year contract with Minnesota State over the offseason, as the school started working on a new deal after another college, presumably Nebraska Omaha, sought permission to talk to him about its coaching opening.

The long-term deal was an impressive proposal to make sure Hastings remained in Mankato. The contract also included a raise to more than $335,000 as well as promises to enhance other areas of the program, including cost-of-attendance stipends for the players, raises for assistant coaches and bigger budgets for team travel and recruiting.

For more on the contract, read my Free Press story here.

Hastings was hired by Minnesota State in 2012 and got a salary of $225,000. That was raised to $290,000 in 2015 when he received a new, eight-year deal.

"We think he's the best coach in the country," MSU president Richard Davenport said. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Crowd size grows; Mavs out of poll

There's gotta be a Sean Spicer joke here somewhere, right? ...

Minnesota State re-examined the numbers from Saturday night and determined that the official attendance was 5,406, the second-largest crowed in program history. During the game, it was announced at 5,030, the 17th-largest crowd.

Either way, it seemed 5,000-plus turned out to be too many for the Verizon Center's security to handle. The hope is those bugs will be figured out by the time Minnesota State returns from its four-game road swing. Same with the Mavericks' scoring.

Meanwhile, Minnesota State dropped out of the USCHO rankings following the 4-0 loss to St. Cloud State. The Mavericks were No. 18 and are now just receiving votes.