Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mavericks prepping for Sioux Falls

Minnesota State will leave Mankato for Sioux Falls after practicing today. The Maverick have had quite a while to get ready for the regional after not playing last weekend. It's been an opportunity to try and refocus on what went well during their 14-game unbeaten streak.

“Guys are fired up for sure,” junior forward Max Coatta said. “It’s been a little longer for us than most teams, sitting around waiting for the tournament to start. But guys are ready to go.”

Read more about their preparations here.

The Mavericks will practice at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls. That day's practices are open to the public. They will have press conference after that, and I'll have coverage of those events (along with those of the other teams in the regional) leading up to Friday's game.

Also a reminder that Friday's game is at 6:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3, which is ESPN's web streaming service. The earlier, 3 p.m. game between St. Cloud State and Air Force will be on ESPNU. The regional final on Saturday is at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Lucia out as Gophers coach

Minnesota men's hockey coach Don Lucia announced Tuesday he's stepping down from the program he guided for 19 seasons. It will be the second time in 33 years that the Gophers will be seeking a new coach.

"Somebody else should have an opportunity, too," Lucia said at a news conference with U of M athletic director Mark Coyle.

Lucia led the Gophers to national titles in 2002 and 2003. He went 457-247-73 with the Gophers and has an overall record of 736-403-102 over 31 years that included stints at Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado College.

Prior to this season, his teams won six straight conference regular-season titles, four in the Big Ten and two in the WCHA. The Gophers went 19-17-2 this season and missed out on the national tournament by .0001 points after the outcomes of six conference tournament games Saturday went against them.

Coyle said a search for Lucia's replacement will begin immediately. Early speculation includes current assistant coach Mike Guentzel; St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko, a former Lucia assistant; and Northern Michigan coach Grant Potulny, a former player and assistant for Lucia. Even Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings' name has been floated a couple of times. He, too, is a former Lucia assistant.

Lucia is staying on at Minnesota as a special assistant to the athletic director through June 30, 2019.

Read the Associated Press story here.

Monday, March 19, 2018

How the West is feeling

ICYMI, you can read my story about Minnesota State finding out its NCAA tournament fate on Sunday morning in my Free Press story here.

What about the other teams going to Sioux Falls? Here are their reactions:

SCSU receives No. 1 overall seed for NCAA Division I men's hockey tournament by Mick Hatten, St. Cloud Times

UMD endurs roller coaster ride to NCAA tourney by Matt Wellens, Duluth News-Tribune

Air Force hockey delivers surprising, inspiring ride to NCAA tournament, by David Ramsey The Gazette

Air Force learns place in unusual NCAA bracket by Kate Shefte, The Gazette

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Mavericks to Sioux Falls

For Minnesota State and its fans (and at least one media member!), Sunday morning was the best case scenario.

The Mavericks are going to Sioux Falls, S.D., for the NCAA West Regional. 

All of the Minnesota teams are in the same region, which means just one — if any — will be playing in the Frozen Four in St. Paul. Air Force could spoil it for all of them.

Minnesota State, the second seed, will play Minnesota Duluth, the third seed, at 6:30 p.m. Friday. St. Cloud State, the national tournament's No. 1 overall seed, will play fourth-seeded Air Force.

Read much more about MSU's selection in my Free Press story here.

After going to Providence in 2003 and Toledo, Worcester and South Bend in 2013, 2014 and 2015, the 2 1/2-3 hour drive to Sioux Falls will be a welcome destination to many in Mankato.

Minnesota State's allotment of 400 tickets (three-game packages for $74 only; no single-game seats) will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday through the athletics office.

The other NCAA regionals look like this:

Midwest (Allentown, Pennsylvania, Saturday-Sunday): 1-Ohio State vs. 4-Princeton; 2-Denver vs. 3-Penn State.

East (Bridgeport, Connecticut, Friday-Saturday): 1. Notre Dame vs. 4-Michigan Tech; 2. Providence vs. 3-Clarkson.

Northeast (Worcester, Massachusetts, Saturday-Sunday): 1. Cornell vs. 4-Boston University; 2. Michigan vs. 3-Northeastern.

The four regional winners will play in the Frozen Four on April 5-7 in St. Paul.

Selection Sunday

Minnesota State will find out its national tournament fate at 11 a.m. today when the NCAA Selection Show airs on ESPNU. All we really know now is that the Mavericks will be a No. 2 seed, finishing sixth in the Pairwise Rankings.

Already, the speculation has started, and if you want to see where some of the experts who cover this stuff every year have MSU in their Bracketology, check it out:

Adam Woden of College Hockey News has the Mavericks in Worcester, Mass., against Minnesota Duluth.

Mike McMahon of College Hockey News has them in Sioux Falls, S.D., against Minnesota Duluth.

Jayson Moy of U.S. College Hockey Online has them in Allentown, Pa., against Penn State.

Here's hoping for the MSU fans' sake (and mine) that the Mavericks go to Sioux Falls, which will not have its host school, North Dakota, playing. UND is 14th in the Pairwise but got bumped after so many lower-ranked teams won their conference's auto-bid, including Boston University (Hockey East), Princeton (ECAC) and Michigan Tech (WCHA). That also eliminated Minnesota by the slimmest of margins. The Gophers and Minnesota Duluth are practically tied in the PWR, but the Bulldogs have a .0001 edge over Minnesota. Crazy!

Michigan Tech wins Sauer Trophy

Michigan Tech won the Jeff Sauer Trophy as the WCHA playoff champion on Saturday night, defeating Northern Michigan 2-0 in Marquette, Michigan.

The Huskies, the tournament’s fifth seed, played all of its games on the road, going 5-1 (2-1 at Minnesota State in the semifinals) to earn the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Against the Wildcats, goaltender Patrick Munson stopped all 21 shots he faced and held a 1-0 lead on a second-period goal by Greyson Reitmeier until Joel L’Esperance’s empty-netter in the final minute.

Michigan Tech also won the WCHA playoff title last year.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Suess named WCHA Player of the Year

Minnesota State men's hockey player C.J. Suess was named WCHA Player of the Year on Thursday. It marks the first time an MSU player has won the award since the program joined the conference as a full-time member in 1999.

The award caps a week's worth of honors for Suess, a senior center and one of three captains for the Mavericks.

Suess was named the WCHA’s Offensive Player of the Year on Tuesday and, on Wednesday, learned he was one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to college hockey’s most outstanding player. Last week, he was named First Team All-WCHA.

Suess leads Minnesota State in scoring with 43 points in 39 games, including 22 goals. His 127 career points (57 goals, 70 assists) rank him tied for fifth on the Mavericks’ Division I-era scoring list. Suess scored 36 points this season in conference play, including a league-best 19 goals, making him the first MSU player to win the WCHA’s scoring title, too.

“First of all, I think it’s an outstanding honor to be selected by coaches throughout the league,” Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said in the WCHA's press release. “Secondly, I think C.J. is a complete player. There isn’t a situation that he does not play in over the course of an entire game. During his time with us, he has worked to eliminate holes in his game to develop into a complete player. You can talk about his talents on the ice, but his leadership skills in being a ‘we’ guy and never a ‘me’ guy is exhibited daily. Over his entire four-year career, he has contributed daily to making Minnesota State a better place to be.”

A Forest Lake native and fifth-round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets, Suess has led the Mavericks to a 29-9-1 record and their third MacNaughton Cup as the WCHA’s regular-season champion in his four seasons at MSU.

Suess ranks second in the nation with 509 faceoff wins. His plus-minus for the season is currently plus-19.

Suess and the Mavericks will try to keep their season going in the NCAA tournament, which begins in a week. They will find out where and whom they’ll on Sunday.

There will be a Selection Show viewing party starting at 9 a.m. Sunday at Pub 500. The show, which will be broadcast on ESPNU, starts at 11 a.m.