Friday, July 21, 2017

New coach for Nanooks

Lance West, an assistant coach for Alaska the last nine years, was promoted to head coach of the Nanooks on Wednesday, replacing Dallas Ferguson, who stepped down earlier this month to become the coach of the major junior-level Calgary Hitmen.

West, who played at Alabama-Huntsville, was an assistant for Ferguson's entire head coaching stint in Alaska.

Alaska's press release says nothing about West being an interim coach, although the release about Ferguson leaving mentions that the school would be seeking an interim coach. Also, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story refers to West as an interim coach.

Alaska's is the third coaching change in the WCHA this offseason as Northern Michigan fired Walt Kyle and hired Grant Potulny and Michigan Tech's Mel Pearson left for Michigan and was replaced by Joe Shawhan.

Here's what season each WCHA head coach is going into:

Bob Daniels, Ferris State, 26th
Tom Serratore, Bemidji State, 17th
Chris Bergeron, Bowling Green, 8th
Mike Hastings, Minnesota State, 6th
Matt Thomas, Alaska Anchorage, 5th
Mike Corbett, Alabama Huntsville, 5th
Damon Whitten, Lake Superior State, 4th
Grant Potulny, Northern Michigan, 1st
Joe Shawhan, Michigan Tech, 1st
Lance West, Alaska, 1st

Thursday, July 20, 2017

WCHA women seek crowdsourcing funds

Despite the loss of a major program, North Dakota, this offseason, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association women's conference is alive and well, commissioner Katie Million says.

However, with belt-tightening around the league's seven remaining programs, which includes Minnesota State, the conference is looking for creative ways to help cover certain conference costs, including operations, its postseason championship tournament and postgraduate scholarships.

"We wanted to do something that eases the pain to each of our schools," Million said.

On Thursday, the WCHA announced a crowdfunding campaign through the website RallyMe to solicit donations to cover various costs "aimed at enhancing the student-athlete experience," according to a press release.

The league hopes to raise more than $140,000 by mid-March. Goals include $50,000 for league operations, $25,000 for the Final Faceoff tournament and $7,500 for its postseason scholarship.

"The conference is not in a state of desperation," Million said in a phone interview. "But we were looking for innovative, creative and, even more so, progressive moves to help the overall league."

The league is also seeking funding for its postseason awards banquet (goal: $25,000), regular-season and postseason championship trophies ($5,000 each), monthly and weekly player awards ($6,000) and television production ($20,000).

Since the WCHA is a nonprofit organization, donations through the RallyMe site are tax-deductible. RallyMe is a site used by several athletes, teams and organizations — including governing bodies such as USA Hockey — to raise funds for sports endeavors and causes. The league's RallyMe page is wcha.rallyme.com.

Read more about the WCHA's campaign in The Free Press here.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mavericks to play on Hockey Day Minnesota

Minnesota State will be featured on Hockey Day Minnesota, playing a televised game at St. Cloud State on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Fox Sports North, in conjunction with the Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Hockey and St. Cloud's organizing committee, announced the schedule for the 12th annual event on Wednesday.

The lineup includes high school and women's college games outdoors on Lake George, followed by the Mavericks and the Huskies from the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center at 5 p.m. and then the Wild vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Minnesota State's game, which will air on FSN-Plus, will be the second of the season against St. Cloud State. The rivals also will meet in Mankato on Oct. 7 to kick off the season.

Following is the Wells Fargo Hockey Day Minnesota schedule:

10 a.m. St. Cloud vs. St. Cloud Cathedral (high school boys), Lake George, St. Cloud

1 p.m. St. Cloud State vs. Minnesota Duluth (college women), Lake George, St. Cloud

4:30 p.m. Moorhead vs Centennial (high school boys), Lake George, St. Cloud

5 p.m. Minnesota State vs. St. Cloud State (college men), Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, St. Cloud

8 p.m. Minnesota Wild vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul

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.