Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hastings isn't going anywhere

I remember when Mike Hastings was listed among the possible coaching candidates for the Minnesota State men's hockey job in 2012. It seemed like the only thing people in Mankato knew about him was that he was the heir apparent at Nebraska Omaha whenever Dean Blais finished coaching there. 

I recall a few people who thought that likelihood of him leaving in a few years should disqualify him for the position. They didn't want to be going through another coaching search in 3-5 years. I said, if he turns around the program and leaves for a bigger job, so be it.

Well, he's turned around the program. And he's (apparently) had the chance to leave for a supposedly bigger job. So ...

Minnesota State is making sure he stays in Mankato.

The university announced on Wednesday morning that it is working a new, 10-year contract with Hastings. This comes just two years into the eight-year extension he signed in 2015.

Read more here, but the school's press release admits that another school has come calling in recent weeks. Presumably that school was Nebraska Omaha from which Blais just stepped down. 

A few things to note from the press release:

• The 10-year deal will last through the '27-28 season.

• It is believed to be the longest appointment among all current men's hockey coaches.

• Still to be negotiated: compensation and program improvements such as cost-of-attendance aid, staffing commitments, travel and recruiting budget enhancements.

"As part of a thorough review of Maverick men's hockey last summer, we had benchmarked resources against the top teams in other leagues and made a commitment to these future program enhancements," MSU President Richard Davenport said in the release. "We are now operationalizing those plans, which is indicative of our desire to position Maverick hockey to compete as effectively as possible against the very best programs in the country."

Said AD Kevin Buisman: "There had been some inquiry about Coach Hastings and a request for permission to speak with him about other employment opportunities," said Buisman. "In light of this, we decided to move proactively to secure his loyalty and I feel good about the commitment we have made. These arrangements put us in a great position to further advance the program, as we continue to pursue our ultimate goals."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Flanagan, Huntebrinker turn pro

Minnesota State defenseman and Sean Flanagan and forward Michael Huntebrinker, who just wrapped up their college careers, have turned pro, both signing with the ECHL's Reading Royals.

They were part of a senior class that won 98 games at MSU as well as two WCHA regular-season titles and two league tournament championships.

Huntebrinker had 15 goals and 38 assists in 124 career games. He was an alternate captain this season and a three-time WCHA All-Academic selection.

Flanagan had 13 goals and 41 assists in 140 career games. He, too, was an alternate captain this season and a three-time All-Academic pick. He blocked 138 shots and was plus-23 for his career. He already has played in one game for Reading.

The duo will join former teammate Johnny McInnis on the Royals' roster. McInnes, who was a senior when they were freshmen, was traded to Reading earlier this season from Utah. He started the season in Orlando.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Huskies win Broadmoor in 2OT

Michigan Tech won the Broadmoor Trophy and the WCHA's auto-bid into the NCAA tournament with a double-overtime victory over Bowling Green in Houghton, Mich. Looked like a jam-packed crowd at the McInnes Arena, too. More later, but here's the game-winning goal:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hastings: Focus is on MSU's program (not Omaha)

In the days before he was hired at Minnesota State, coach Mike Hastings was asked about the potential of being Dean Blais’ eventual successor at Nebraska Omaha.

Hastings was Blais’ associate head coach before taking the Mavericks job and earlier had spent 14 years in that city as the head coach of the Omaha Lancers junior team in the United States Hockey League.

Blais stepped down as Omaha’s coach on Tuesday, and Hastings’ name again has been floated by college hockey observers as a possible candidate.

Reached via phone while recruiting on Tuesday afternoon, Hastings said he believes he has it pretty good at Minnesota State.

“I’m concerned with what we’re putting together and dealing with our program,” he said, “what we still have in the locker room with the seniors that are leaving, that we have a very, very good recruiting class.

“I’m excited about the challenges ahead of us next year. I’m looking forward to that. That hasn’t changed.”

Hastings just completed his fifth season with the Mavericks, his second under an eight-year contract he signed in the summer of 2015 that replaced his original four-year deal and pays him an annual salary of $290,000.

The Mavericks are 122-62-18 under Hastings. Their season ended on Sunday in the third game of a WCHA playoff semifinal series at Michigan Tech.

Blais spent eight seasons at Omaha and had a record of 146-133-30 there with two NCAA appearance, including a Frozen Four spot in 2015. Omaha went 17-17-5 this season. Blais also coached North Dakota for 10 years where he led that program to two national championships.

Hastings said he considers Blais a mentor.

“I consider myself incredibly fortunate to say I worked with the man,” Hastings said, “and had the opportunity to learn from him because he’s one of the best in the country.”

Brickley, Michaelis earn top honors

Minnesota State sophomore defenseman Daniel Brickley and freshman forward Marc Michaelis earned WCHA postseason individual awards on Tuesday.

Brickley was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, and Michaelis was named Rookie of the Year.

Bemidji State goaltender Michael Bitzer was named WCHA Player of the Year, while his coach, Tom Serratore, was named Coach of the Year.

Brickley finished the season with 31 points, including eight goals, in 31 games. Despite missing eight games with injury, he was the WCHA’s top-scoring defenseman and is currently second in the nation among defensemen with 1.00 points per game.

Michaelis led the Mavericks and the WCHA (overall games) in scoring with 36 points, including 13 goals. He’s currently the fourth-leading rookie scorer in the country.

Brickely, considered one of the top free agents in college hockey, appears to be staying in Mankato for another season per this tweet from TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie on Monday:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Huskies 4, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Hard ice: Just as Minnesota State shut down Michigan Tech on Saturday night, the Huskies did the same to the Mavericks on Sunday to clinch Game 3 and advance to the WCHA tournament championship. Tech held MSU to just three shots on goal in a momentum-grabbing second period and blocked 11 shots for the game to end Minnesota State's season. They made life difficult for the Mavericks for much of the second and third periods after a fairly even and very physical first period. "It was a hard-fought battle," junior forward C.J. Franklin said. "Sometimes the bounces don't go your way. They made some plays, and it was game over."

2. Tough call #1: The game turned midway through the second period on a pair of power play goals by Tech's Gavin Gould, who finished the game with a hat trick. He put the home team up 3-1 with goals 85 seconds apart following back-to-back too-many-players penalties on Minnesota State. Those are penalties that shouldn't happen this time of year. The first was clearly an MSU mistake, as they skated with six on the ice for several seconds before getting caught. The second occurred during a line change, and coach Mike Hastings said he didn't agree with that. But, he added, they still needed to kill the penalties, and they didn't.

3. Tough call #2: For the second game in a row, the Mavericks had a goal taken off the board. On Sunday, it came with 3:05 to play in the game. A Daniel Brickley 6-on-4 power play goal would have made it a 3-2 game and undoubtedly made for a wild finish. But the officials went to the video review and determined that Franklin was in the crease making contact with goalie Angus Redmond on the play. Franklin said he didn't think he made contact. Hastings said, "No comment," and that he didn't want to take away from Tech earning the victory. I didn't get a great look at it on the TV monitors here. Would have liked the above-goal angle.

Deep thought: Sunday was the last game for senior skaters Carter Foguth (144 games), Sean Flanagan (140 games), Zach Stepan (136 games) Jordan Nelson (134 games) and Michael Huntebrinker (124 games) as well as for goalie Cole Huggins (88 games), who was the backup. That's a group that's accomplished a lot over its time at MSU, winning 98 games. "I'm going to miss them," Hastings said. "I thanked them for moving the needle for our program." Pretty classy group to deal with from a sportswriter's perspective, too, I might add.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech will host Bowling Green for the Broadmoor Trophy and the WCHA's lone bid into the NCAA tournament on Saturday in Houghton. "Whoever comes out of our league is going to be a real good representative at the national tournament," Hastings said.

Live coverage: MSU vs. Michigan Tech, Game 3

Minnesota State and Michigan Tech are playing for a spot in next week's Broadmoor Trophy championship game. The Huskies won Game 1 5-1, and the Mavericks won Game 2 1-0. The winner will host the title game against Bowling Green, which swept Bemidji State in the WCHA's other semifinal series. The loser's season will end. Follow along below tonight's lines:

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 10-Knutson
6-Tuomie, 17-Huntebrinker, 19-McClure
23-Rivera, 16-J. Nelson, 12-Coatta
25-Stepan, 26-French, 27-Schwalbe

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson

39-Pawloski
34-Huggins

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Gerard, Madry, A. Nelson, Vanko

MICHIGAN TECH
10-Jackson, 25-Neville, 7-Sturos
9-Gillies, 20-Smith, 11-L'Esperance
27-Heinonen, 15-Lucchini, 19-Gerrie
14-Gould, 6-Leibinger, 13-Beretta

2-Watson, 5-Reinke
22-Hanna, 3-Roy
12-Auk, 4-Birks

37-Redmond
35-Wintjes
31-Kero