Sunday, June 25, 2017

Grad transfer to help Mavs in goal

Minnesota State is adding another goaltender to the roster for 2017-18, as Boston University's Connor LaCouvee will be joining the Mavericks as a graduate transfer.

LaCouvee has one year of eligibility remaining and will be able to play immediately since he will have graduated from BU and will be attending MSU as a grad student.

I got a chance to talk with LaCouvee this week, and you can read his comments in my story here.

That will, at least for one year, help fill the hole left by highly touted recruit Matiss Kivlenieks, who opted to sign an NHL contract rather than play college hockey.

The 6-foot-0, 196-pound LaCouvee played in 32 games in three seasons for the Terriers — 19 as a sophomore — and had a record of 14-9-5, a .905 save percentage and a 2.80 goals-against average. The Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, native played in just five games last year, starting four.

It will be interesting to see if he'll be in goal when the Mavericks play at Boston U in October, but surely he'll be competing for the starting job with Jason Pawloski and Aaron Nelson.

The Mavericks also recently received a commitment from Holy Family Catholic and Sioux Falls Stampede goalie Jaxon Stauber. The son of former Gopher and Hobey Baker winner Robb Stauber likely is a year or two away from joining MSU.

Friday, June 23, 2017

NHL wants more college hockey programs

On Friday, prior to the NHL draft in Chicago, the NHL announced an initiative to grow college hockey, helping five schools with feasibility studies to add men's and women's programs. The first program to undertake such a study will be the University of Illinois, a Big Ten school that hasn't had varsity hockey since the 1940s.

Adding a program is an expensive proposition, Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman admitted during a news conference streamed online. The last schools to add varsity hockey, of course, were Penn State and Arizona State. The former was made possible with a $102 million donation from Terry Pegula, which included funding for an arena for men's and women's hockey. The latter is still looking for a proper rink but got $32 million in seed money to start a men's program.

Whitman sure sounded like someone interested in having hockey at his school. Illinois certainly makes sense as it is in a state that produces a lot of hockey players and is crazy about its Blackhawks. It would give the Big Ten an eighth program, too, joining Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and (starting this season) Notre Dame. (Of those schools, only Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State have women's hockey.)

We'll see what happens, but it seems like a good step in trying to grow a sport that should keep growing. What other schools might take the NHL up on its study? What schools would you like to see add hockey?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rivera, brothers to play in Maccabiah Games

Minnesota State sophomore-to-be Nick Rivera will be playing for the United States in the 20th World Maccabiah Games in Israel next month. Joining Rivera on the roster are his brothers, Luke and Jacob. They will leave for training camp on Saturday and then head to Jerusalem next week before starting playing on July 5.

You can read more about Rivera's interest in the event and about the Games themselves in my Free Press article here.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Michigan Tech names coach

While I was out last week ...

Michigan Tech filled the final coaching opening in college hockey by hiring assistant Joe Shawhan to replace the departed Mel Pearson.

Shawhan was an assistant under Pearson, now the Michigan coach, since 2014 and worked wth the Huskies' goaltenders and defensemen.

He's had 10 years of college coaching experience, including stops at Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State, and another 10 in junior hockey. As head coach/GM for the Soo Indians from 1995-2005, he became the winningest coach in the history of the North American Hockey League (474-162-43).

Shawhan was a goaltender for Lake Superior State from 1982 to 1987 and is a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He finished his college degree at Northern Michigan.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Kivlenieks skips college for NHL

One of Minnesota State's prized recruits for 2017, goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks, has opted to sign with the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets rather than go to college. Columbus announced the signing on Thursday.

The USHL Player of the Year and Goaltender of the Year recently completed his junior hockey career, losing 2-1 in overtime of the decisive fifth game of the USHL's Clark Cup playoffs. The Chicago Steel won the championship, defeating Kivlenieks' Sioux City Musketeers.

There has been speculation since late in his phenomenal season that NHL teams were interested in Kivlenieks and that they might woo him before he ever set foot on the Minnesota State campus.

The Mavericks, don't forget, still have Jason Pawloski, who will be a junior. For all of MSU's inconsistency in goal, he finished last season with good numbers, going 4-2 with a .937 save percentage and a 1.52 goals-against average in the team's last six games. For the season, which included a gap between mid-December and mid-February in which he didn't play, Pawloski was 8-5-2, .920, 2.10. 

Then there's Aaron Nelson, the former third-stringer, who got a stretch of starts in January and February and put some real pressure on the other goalies. He'll be a senior. The Mavericks certainly will be on the lookout for a goalie they can bring in late. 

Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

MSU recruits win USHL title

The Chicago Steel won the USHL Clark Cup as the legaue's tournament champions on Tuesday night, defeating the Sioux City Musketeers 2-1 in overtime of the decisive fifth game.

The Steel had three future Minnesota State players on the roster, including two who are coming to Mankato next fall: Jake Jaremko, Reggie Lutz and Wyatt Aamodt.

Jaremko and Lutz, forwards from Elk River, will be freshmen next season. Jaremko had 13 points (5-8) in the USHL playoffs, which ranked fourth. Lutz had 12 points, including 7 goals. Aamodt, a defenseman from Hermantown, was a scratch during the playoffs.

Sioux City goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks is also an Minnesota State recruit. The USHL player and goalie of the year finished the postseason with an 8-5 record (two OT losses), a .925 save percentage and a 2.08 goals-against average.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Mavericks name team award winners

Minnesota State announced its team award winners on Thursday. No real surprises on the list. Here's a look (plus some Puckato comments):

Most Valuable Player: Marc Michaelis, freshman forward. Hard to quibble too much with this choice. He led MSU and the WCHA (overall games) in scoring and was the league's rookie of the year as well as a first-team all-conference pick. Puckato would have given strong consideration to C.J. Franklin and Daniel Brickley for this award, too.

Hardest Worker: Max Coatta, sophomore forward. Probably a candidate for most-improved player, too (more on that in a bit), he played in all 39 games, seemingly locking down a job as the kind of third- or fourth-line grinder — responsible and can chip in a few points — that the Mavericks value so much. Puckato would have considered Brickley, Carter Foguth and Jordan Nelson, too.

Most-Improved Player: Ian Scheid, freshman defenseman. As I've written before, this award can have a couple of interpretations — improvement from one year to the next or improvement over the course of a season. Scheid definitely improved as the year went on, but he also had a strong start to an excellent freshman year. He'd definitely get Biggest Surprise Award, if one existed, being a late recruit who scored 24 points and was plus-16, which led the team. Others Puckato would have thought of: Brickley, Coatta, Zeb Knutson and Parker Tuomie.

Unsung Player: Carter Foguth, senior defenseman. Foguth is an anagram for fought, something auto-correct haunted me with regularly. That's appropriate, as Foguth fought as hard as anyone for the Mavericks. No player did the tough, dirty work like he did. He logged a ton of minutes, played through a lot of bumps and bruises — and worse! — with no complaint. He's going to be a tough player to replace. Can't think of another player to consider for this award.

Don Brose Leadership Award: Foguth. I can't argue with the leadership award, as I don't see much behind the scenes, but Foguth was a three-time captain (twice wearing the "C") and highly respected by players and coaches alike, a great example to whoever gets a badge next season (captains have not been announced yet).

Three-Star Award: Parker Tuomie, freshman forward. This award is determined on a point system for the Three Stars of the Game that are announced after each home game. Tuomie was No. 1 twice, No. 2 once and No. 3 three times. Brad McClure was No. 1 three times. Nine others were No. 1 once. Brickley was No. 2 four times. Tuomie came into the season with more hype than Michaelis. It took him a bit longer to get going, but he finished strong, which should bode well for next season.