Friday, November 30, 2007

Getting a point

Much like they have all season, the Mavericks had a very good Friday-night effort in a 2-2 tie with No. 12 Minnesota Duluth before a nice crowd of 4,328 at Alltel Center.

"We've had a couple of heartbreaking losses two Friday nights in a row, losing 4-3 (to Minnesota) and 2-1 (at Denver)," Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said. "(The tie) is not like winning, but it's not like losing, either.. We did some better things tonight."

A few notes from tonight's game:

Senior captain Joel Hanson finally snapped his oh-for-the-season, 10-game scoreless streak when he gave the Mavericks a 2-0 lead just 28 seconds into the second period. You can read more about that in Saturday's Free Press.

Freshman defenseman Kurt Davis scored his first collegiate goal in the first period.

Sophomore Ryan Gunderson played his first game of the season and first game since Jan. 13 of last season. Gunderson, a forward in his high school and junior days, was converted to defense, however, he went back up front in practice this week and centered a line with Geoff Irwin and James Gaulrapp. Jutting said Gunderson has been working hard and deserved to play. "This is a chance for him to prove he belongs," Jutting said earlier this week. Gunderson was even in plus-minus Friday with no shots on goal and was 5-2 on faceoffs.

Minnesota State's hasn't kicked the habit of giving up quick back-to-back goals, allowing both of Duluth's goals in a span of 66 seconds. In the previous four games, the Mavericks have allowed two goals in spans of 39, 86, 22, 69 and 72 seconds.

The Mavericks extended their unbeaten streak against the Bulldogs to six games (4-0-2).

No more Nunn

Maverick fans anxiously awaiting the arrival of Garry Nunn can stop dreaming of that day. Nunn has decided to play major junior hockey with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. We'll try to have more on this later, as well as some pregame coverage of tonight's game against UMD.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Marketing 101

There has been some discussion among blog readers about MSU's marketing efforts for hockey. There are myriad opinions. None on this post, however, just a list of what the university is doing, starting with this weekend's games against Minnesota Duluth:

Nov. 30, Minnesota Duluth -- First 100 fans receive a mini travel cooler from The Free Press
Dec. 1, Minnesota Duluth -- Skate With the Mavericks.
Dec. 7, Wisconsin -- First 500 fans receive MSU Hockey toque (knit hat) courtesy of McDonald's
Dec. 8, Wisconsin -- Teddy Bear Toss. Bring a new stuffed animal and receive a voucher for a discount at a future game
Dec. 28, Princeton -- First 500 fans receive a 11 x 17 2008 MSU Athletics wall calendar. It's also Group Incentive Night; bring a group of 20 or more to the game an everyone in your group will receive a free ticket to the Feb. 2 game against Denver.
Jan. 18, North Dakota -- First 500 fans receive a Maverick Hockey trading card set courtesy of Alltel
Jan. 25, St. Cloud State -- First 250 fans receive a Maverick game puck courtesy of MSU security
Feb. 1, Denver -- First 1,000 fans receive stress puck courtesy of MSU security
Feb. 2, Denver -- Autograph night. Postgame autograph session with the Mavericks
Feb. 8, Alaska Anchorage -- First 350 fans receive an MSU drawstring back pack courtesy of Charter Communications
Feb. 9, Alaska Anchorage -- Junior Maverick Night. Junior Mavericks get in free
Feb. 26, Nebraska-Omaha, Two for Tuesday. Buy one ticket, Get one free

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

And we're back

PucKato hasn't forgotten about you. It just took some time off around the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Mavericks are preparing for their second home game and first home series of the season, which I opined on in today's Free Press (beware the giant bald head if you click here). We'll see if a little home ice can cure what's ailing MSU right now.

A leftover nugget from the column: Minnesota State has played just one home game so far. The WCHA team with the next fewest home games at this point is North Dakota with five. Michigan Tech has played eight home games. Colorado College, Denver and Minnesota have played seven apiece. Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State, Alaska-Anchorage and Wisconsin have each played six games at home.

For those of you anonymous posters who might be disgruntled at the change in comment status, please sign in and post. We at The Free Press are still trying to determine how best to run and monitor the blog. We may go back to anonymous; we may add a level of security. In the meantime, comments and questions are encouraged.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You want answers, Thanksgiving edition

There was more venting than question asking this week, it seemed. But I'm going to try to answer a few things tonight. Remember, some of the questions might be paraphrasing of question/comments or combinations of similar questions. If there are things I don't address, it doesn't mean it's being ignored; it might come up at a later date. Just stay tuned and keep the questions coming.

Was Mike Zacharias' injury valid? Isn't he clearly the more talented goalie? Yes, it was valid. He didn't practice Monday or today. As for whether or not he's more talented, I'm not sure. Certainly, he's been better this year. Remember, Dan Tormey beat him out for the No. 1 job during their freshman season and was still No. 1 before he got hurt last year. Both goalies have shown flashes of brilliance. I think, right now, however, a healthy Zacharias is the top guy.

Why does Troy Jutting mess with his goalies? This commentator said most coaches don't even talk to their goalies and only lets the goalie coach deal with them. Come on. Do you really believe that? Look, the last time I checked, a goaltender is every bit a part of a hockey team as the other guys. He's on the roster. He's considered a player. The head coach has every right to talk to a goalie and, yes, even yell at him from time to time when he's not doing his job. I do think that a coach has to be a good manager of goaltenders and know how they're playing, when to play them, when to pull them, etc. There's no question that the position is different than any other, but that doesn't mean you treat goalies as outcasts.

What will it take to get back on track? How crucial is the Minnesota Duluth series? The Mavericks need wins right now. They need points to get out of the basement of the WCHA. More disturbing than the 7-0 loss might be the failure to win close games like Friday at Denver, Friday at home against Minnesota and even Friday at Anchorage when they tied. Five more points puts them in fifth place, but they left those points on the table. The schedule gets a little easier for awhile, and they have a chance to make some hay. Also, they will be playing at home for two games for the first time this season. They have a chance to redefine their season in front of a home crowd, people who have seen just one of their games in a 3-6-1 start.

What are your thoughts on the new recruits? The Mavericks announced a four-player early recruiting class last week. It's small, but the team is only losing three seniors. The two forwards, Adam Mueller and Joe Schiller, certainly sound like guys who can score. Mueller is supposedly very fast, and Schiller has made a quick transition from high school to juniors. The defensemen are older, experienced guys from the USHL, and the Mavericks seem to have had decent success with those kind of players, including Channing Boe and Kurt Davis this year and Steve Wagner in the past. They also have forward Garry Nunn coming in next year, although he cannot play until 2009 and have verbal commitments from defenseman Danny Heath and goaltender Kevin Murdock for '09.

Is Mankato losing interest in Division I hockey? The team's lone game this season drew an all-time record crowd, breaking a record from five seasons ago, and last year's average of attendance of more than 3,800 was nearly 300 per game better than the previous year. Based on those numbers, I'd say no to the question. However, I do think more could be done in the Mankato area and south-central Minnesota to draw people to games. Nothing markets better than winning, but I also think the marketing efforts of both MSU and the city/civic center could be better and could try to reach a much larger audience. There's a rapidly growing population in the far-south metro, including Belle Plaine, Jordan, New Prague and just inside that ring. There are undoubtedly many hockey fans in those towns. Get them to a Maverick game. Tell them that its 45 minutes to Mariucci Arena and the Xcel Energy Center and you can't get into those buildings. Then tell them that it's 45 minutes to Mankato and there are plenty of good seats available for a WCHA game.

How do you mention the line of Berge-Bruess-Kalinski and not mention Trevor Bruess? At the time, I was referring to goal scorers and probably should have put in more about Bruess, the sophomore forward. At the time, that line was still together, too. Anyway, Bruess has had a very good start to the season. He's a hard-nosed, hard-working center who's a treat to watch when he's on the ice. There will be much more to write about him in the future, that's for sure.

That's about all for now. I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving. PucKato might be off a few days, but you never know when I'll find something to throw in, so keep checking in.

Ruegsegger's amazing goal

With apologies to Kurt Davis and Dan Tormey ... here it is.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Any questions?

The Mavericks will be off Thanksgiving weekend before finally playing a two-game series in Mankato. PucKato might even take a little break, too, this week, but not before trying to answer a few of your questions. Post them in the comments section, and I'll try to get to them Tuesday evening (no turkey-preparation questions, please).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Men v. Boys

We can go over the keys to the series -- get some scoring from Joel Hanson (didn't happen), play a 60-minute game (not even close Saturday) and win the special teams (nope) -- but those things alone can't explain why Denver destroyed MSU 7-0 Saturday.

If there was ever a game that looked like the fourth-ranked team was playing the last-place team in the WCHA (which the Mavericks are now), this was it.

Denver's stars came to play, as Tyler Ruegsegger scored two spectacular goals (seriously, if these don't show up on YouTube ...) and set up another, Brock Trotter had a three-point game and goalie Peter Mannino showed that the early Hobey Baker talk hasn't jinxed him as he stopped 28 shots and even picked up a pair of assists.

The Mavericks, meanwhile, couldn't keep up. They weren't able to score on some early chances and got schooled one-on-one by Ruegsegger & Co. Afterward, the team appeared to be embarrassed by the loss with little to say about. "I can't find one thing positive right now," sophomore forward Trevor Bruess said.

A few notes: Coach Troy Jutting said he started Dan Tormey in goal because Mike Zacharias was injured. It's not serious, Jutting said, but he wanted to give Zacharias extra rest with the off-week coming up and Minnesota Duluth on the horizon. ... Defenseman R.J. Linder was scratched for the first time this year. Just his turn out of that seven-man rotation, Jutting said.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A few changes

Here are MSU's lines for the rematch against Denver. There are a few changes, including Dan Tormey as the starting goaltender and defenseman R.J. Linder sitting for the first time this season. Up front, Jerad Stewart is replacing Jason Wiley.




Perfect timing

The timing couldn't have been better for Minnesota State's coaches and an MSU recruit to watch each other.

Danny Heath, a defenseman from the Arizona-based P.F. Chang's midget team, verbally committed to the Mavericks last week. His team played in a tournament in Denver Friday afternoon and this morning, and he and his coach, Jim Johnson, were outside the MSU locker room following the Mavericks' game against Denver.

Heath is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound defenseman from Glendale, Ariz., and likely will join the Mavericks in 2009.

Johnson said he's been coaching Heath for six years. Johnson, a New Hope native and former Minnesota Duluth defenseman, played 13 years in the NHL with Pittsburgh, Minnesota/Dallas, Washington and Phoenix.

The day after

Sorry there wasn't a post-game blog last night. I had a few computer issues that appear to be resolved now. For those of you who haven't read the print account of last night's 2-1 Minnesota State loss to Denver, you can read it here today.

As they did last Friday against Minnesota, the Mavericks skated right with the fourth-ranked Pioneers. Defensive partners Brian Kilburg and Kurt Davis had an outstanding game. Kilburg played with a purpose after being scratched from the lineup last week, and the two got the puck out of the zone and up the ice. The pairing had four (two each) of the Mavericks' 29 shots on goal. Another defenseman, Ben Youds, had three shots on net.

Unfortunately for the Mavericks, Denver goalie Peter Mannino was waiting at the other end of the ice.

"He looked like a big-timer out there tonight," Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said.

Kilburg began the rush that led to the Mavericks' lone goal, a short-handed tally by Trevor Bruess. Kilburg popped the puck high in the air out of the zone, and Bruess and Jon Kalinski were on the loose in the neutral zone. Kalinski, who has five shorties, took it in on a 2-on-0 breakaway. Mannino made the first save, but Bruess was right there to put back the rebound.

A two-goal flurry, including Brandon Vossberg's bad-angle goal, by Denver less than 90 seconds later, however, ended up being the difference in the game.

A few more notes/observations from last night:

It's funny how opposing coaches can have different views on the same play. Take Vossberg's goal for example. "You can't give that up. You just can't. Not at this level," Jutting said, of the 40-foot shot from the corner of the zone that went in off the back of Mike Zacharias' goalie pads. Denver's George Gwozdecky: "Smart players do that normally. Smart offensively players do that instinctively."

Gwozdecky on the Mavericks: "Their transition game gave us fits. They had five or six 3-on-2 attacks that caught us flat-footed. Theirs was pretty darn good, and ours was lackluster."

Kilburg on whether or not last week's benching inspired him: "It was a little bit of both. This was the third game we lost in a row where one period hurt us. A little of it was not playing last week, but we had to win. There's no other way to put it."

Mavericks forward Jerad Stewart when asked if it was strange to be watching a game from the press box (the sophomore hadn't missed a game in his 46-game career): "Yeah. It sucks." I would expect Stewart to be back in the lineup tonight.

Gwozdecky on tonight's rematch: "It will be another exciting game ... because Mankato is a darn-good hockey team."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Almost game time (updated)

Live from Magness Arena ...

One lineup change for the Mavericks. Defenseman Blake Friesen is in; Channing Boe is out. Boe sat out opening night at Michigan Tech and hasn't missed a game yet. R.J. Linder and Kurt Davis are the only defensemen to play in every game this season. Sophomore forward Jerad Stewart, who is out because of a game DQ last week, is missing a game for the first time in his MSU career.

Here are the lines (starters in bold):




Greetings from Denver

Hello from the Mile High City. I got here early, went to see "No Country for Old Men" and finally got to check into the hotel and get online for a bit before I head over to Magness Arena.

I thought there might be more comments on this weekend's MSU-DU preview, but I'd like to respond to Mr. or Ms. A. Nonymous, who laughed at me for bringing up the Mavericks' amazing come-from-behind win over the Pioneers from four seasons ago.

It's true. It's not 2003. But I don't think anyone who was in the Civic Center that night will ever forget what they saw. Every time Minnesota State hosts or goes to Denver I think about that game. Last season, a former Denver player told me players and coaches are still not allowed to speak of it around DU.

If it wasn't college hockey, if it wasn't MSU vs. Denver, it might have gone down as one of the all-time great comebacks in sports. Down 6-1 after one? Down 7-1 almost halfway through the second? It should have been featured PTI and SportsCenter, just like that crazy, 14-lateral Division III football win from a couple of weeks ago. Shane Joseph should have gotten some face time on national TV.

If I'm Troy Jutting or George Gwozdecky, I would refer to that game forever, telling my team that we're never too far behind to come back or that we darn well better close out our opponent, even if we have a six-goal lead.

More later from the rink.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mile high-bound

A few thoughts on the Minnesota State-Denver series before I leave for Colorado ...

Three keys to the series:

1. Joel Hanson needs to score: It's quite stunning that the Mavericks' senior captain and top returning scorer from last season has yet to register a point through the first eight games of the season. "Never in a million years," coach Troy Jutting said when asked if he ever thought such a slump were possible. "He's worked hard, he wants to play well and in a lot of aspects he has played well," Jutting said. "The scoring aspect hasn't happened, and we need him to score. It's hurt us when you look at where we're at." You can read more about Hanson and a full series preview in Friday morning's Free Press.

2. Sixty-minute men: The Mavericks can't afford the kind of letdowns they had against Minnesota last weekend, especially because Denver, which has allowed just 1 1/2 goals per game this season, doesn't appear like a team you can come back against (although if anyone can in this series ...). "We need to play 60 minutes," Jutting said. "We've been pressing that this week, obviously." Junior defenseman Brian Kilburg, who was a healthy scratch Saturday, needs to come back with a vengeance, be a plus player and try to prove his coaches wrong.

3. Special teams: After going four games without giving up a power-play goal, the Mavericks allowed four against the Gophers last weekend. Denver scored just two power-play goals in its first six games but went 4 for 11 in a sweep of Minnesota two weeks ago. MSU has to shore that up. Keeping penalties to a minimum will help. The Pioneers have been a perfect 19 for 19 on its penalty kill over the last four games. The Mavericks are 6 for 41 on the power play this season but scored three of those goals in one game at Alabama-Huntsville.

Here were the lines as of Wednesday:

extra forward: Stewart (can't play Friday due to game DQ)

Linder Youds
extra defenseman: Friesen


Next time you'll hear from me I'll be in Denver. Look for some pre- post- and maybe -- maybe -- even in-game blogs this weekend.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

You want answers? 11.13.07 edition

Thanks, faithful blog readers, for all of your questions, comments, rants and arguments. I wasn't sure how the blog would go off when I started it, but after a month or so, I think it's great. Now, on to some of your questions (I've paraphrased some of them):

What's the deal with Peter Lompado? Lompado has not played this season. The defenseman from Shattuck-St. Mary's is taking a redshirt season. He is practicing with the hockey team, but he's also working out with the MSU baseball team. He's a left-handed pitcher who went 6-1 at Shattuck last season with two no-hitters and a 1.17 ERA.

Does Troy Jutting need to pick a No. 1 goalie by the holidays, and is Mike Zacharias the obvious guy? This topic is the subject of much debate on the blog. As I see it, Jutting doesn't have to pick a guy right now. He has to see what he's got. So far, it looks like Zacharias has the edge on Dan Tormey. Neither stood on his head against the Gophers last weekend. This seems to be one of the coach's most important decisions week in and week out. Historically, Jutting prefers to roll with one main guy and play him 75 percent of the time or more, but some teams will rotate goalies all season. During MSU's best year in the WCHA, they rotated Jon Volp and Jason Jensen in the second half of the season. I'll admit, I was a little surprised to see Tormey in net Saturday at Mariucci. However, I like that Jutting gave him a chance to really get back on track in the building he got hurt in last year. If Tormey would have won the game, it would have been a huge confidence boost for him and the team.

Are there incentives in Troy Jutting's contract? I'll have to do some checking on this. But when I wrote about Jutting's two-year extension before the season started, MSU athletic director Kevin Buisman told me it was a pretty straightforward deal. From what I understand, though, in the MnSCU system, you can only sign a two-year contract once. The other deals have to be four-year contracts. If that's the case, Jutting has the ultimate incentive clause right there.

Are there any lines that Jutting is satisfied with, and what's wrong with Joel Hanson? Troy has done some line shuffling early in the year, as many coaches do. He has stuck with the line of Trevor Bruess, Jon Kalinski and Mick Berge for the last few games, however, and that seems to have worked as Berge and Kalinski have 10 of their team's 22 goals. As for Hanson, he has to be disappointed that the Mavericks are eight games into the season and he has yet to score a point. In fact, the three seniors on the team have just one point, a Matt Tyree goal. Hanson has had scoring chances, though.

What's the status of Austin Lee and can he be redshirted if he doesn't play? Right now, Lee, a freshman from Bloomington, is the Mavericks' No. 3 goaltender. Jutting said he can redshirt if he doesn't play, so, if Zacharias and Tormey stay ahead of him, that might be good option. But I've seen some weird things happen in net over the years. Remember when injuries forced the Mavericks to bring in MSU's club-team goalie, Erik Gilbertson, as a practice player in 2002? In one of Jutting's classiest moves, he let Gilbertson start and play 3 1/2 minutes on senior night.

Are the Mavericks purposely recruiting more four-year players, rather than getting one or two blue chippers who might leave early? I don't think so. Certainly, when you look at the current roster, it's hard to pinpoint someone who might leave early for the pros. Jon Kalinski was probably the most likely candidate, but he was kept out of free agency last summer when the Flyers drafted him in the sixth round. I think there was always a fear that David Backes wasn't going to stay at MSU for four years, and they got him for three. But I think, three years ago that the coaches sincerely thought Ryan Carter and Steve Wagner would be seniors on this year's team. Those losses certainly hurt the Mavericks the last couple of years. Maybe the coaches have to do a better job preparing themselves for those potential departures, but I don't think they'll be shying away from any blue-chip prospects if they think they can get them even for one season.

What happened to Kevin Huck? Huck transferred to Division III Wisconsin-Superior. He played two seasons for the Mavericks and was in and out of the lineup and the doghouse. He played 41 games, scoring four goals and 10 assists. This year, he has played two of five games for Superior and has one assist and one penalty. Not a huge loss for the program.

What do you think of the rotating assistant captain system? I like it. I'll admit, I haven't looked to closely into how they're doing it, although Jutting originally said he didn't have a set system and that he could just name an assistant captain for the the entire year eventually. But I like how the Minnesota Wild rotates its captains. Such a system could be a nice touch for a team that is going to need leadership from its younger players in the coming years.

Do you think the team rule regarding dumb penalties will hurt the team? In the short term it might, especially if it means sitting a top-line forward or defenseman. However, in the long term, if the players learn from it, it should help the team. The Mavericks already seem to have significantly cut down their penalties, and having a little depth allows the coaching staff to bench players for sub-par play. If you're going to do it, you have to do it early and consistently, and, so far, I think they have.

Enough with the David Backes updates. Let him go Move on. The beauty of the blog is, unlike the newspaper, I have infinite space to fill. If you don't want a Backes (or Wagner or Carter or any other MSU alum) update, don't read it. But he was a significant player for the Mavericks, and a lot of people want to know how he's doing and there's no harm in checking in once in awhile. Speaking of alumni, Lucas Fransen is indeed playing in the Netherlands (thanks, Chris!). B.J. Abel is playing in Italy. And, last week, Travis Morin got called up from South Carolina of ECHL to Hershey the AHL.

That's all the time I have for now. Sorry if I didn't get to one of your questions. Feel free to keep them coming, though, and we'll do another one next week.

Stewart out Friday

When a player is kicked out of a game you sometimes question whether the rink announcer is right when he calls out a game disqualification nor a game misconduct.

Mavericks forward Jerad Stewart got a DQ for his knee-to-knee hit on Minnesota's Mike Howe Saturday, and MSU coach Troy Jutting said that was indeed the call. As a result, Stewart must sit out Friday's game at Denver.

Jutting said Stewart will make the trip, however, and likely play Saturday. Jutting did not dispute the call and, although he doesn't think Stewart intentionally tried to hurt Howe, he did stress that players must be more careful in those open-ice situations. Not only could Stewart have damaged Howe's knee but he just as easily could have injured himself on the play.

The WCHA does seem to be cracking down on dangerous play, as the league issued a press release Saturday morning in which it said it was giving Colorado College's Derek Patrosso a one-game suspension for a checking from behind penalty Friday against Minnesota Duluth.
Greg Shepherd, the league's supervisor of officials reviewed the play and called for the extra penalty. Patrosso had received a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Submit your questions

I'll try to have another installment of "You want answers?" today or tomorrow. Send in your questions about MSU, WCHA and other hockey-related topics in the comments section, and I'll try to get to as many as I can. I'll also answer and update some questions from the last week. Thanks again to everyone who's been reading and responding to the blog.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Flip flop

During Friday's game between the Mavericks and Gophers in Mankato, an MSU fan held up a sign displaying the WCHA standings. There were the once-mighty Gophers, sitting at the bottom of the list with a winless record and the Mavericks a few spots ahead of them.

What a difference a weekend makes.

The Gophers swept the Mavericks and moved back ahead of them by a point.

Second periods killed MSU this weekend. In first and third periods, the Mavericks outscored the Gophers 5-2. The middle periods: 7-1 Minnesota, including a four-goal outburst Saturday.

"We were horrible in the second period," Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said.

Said forward Mick Berge, who had two goals Saturday and a three-goal weekend: "(Minnesota) made us look silly in the second period."

Minnesota is 15-0-3 against the Mavericks in their last 18 meetings.

Another look at the keys to the weekend:

1. Great goaltending: Jutting went with Dan Tormey in place of Mike Zacharias and like, Zacharias Friday, Tormey was good but not great. Tormey made a few outstanding saves but would probably like to have another crack at Kyle Okposo's long power-play goal that tied the game at 2-2. Officials reviewed Tony Lucia's goal that made it 4-2 because it appeared that Minnesota forward Ryan Flynn bumped Tormey as he tried to make the save. The goal stood. Jutting said he didn't see the play.

2. Stay out of the box: The Mavericks were called for seven penalties for 25 minutes, including Jerad Stewart's major penalty for kneeing Mike Howe. Stewart was also given a game disqualification, which, if it stands, means he will have to sit out Friday's game at Denver. The Gophers scored two power-play goals, including one at the end of the Stewart's penalty. A Jon Kalinski interference penalty killed some third-period momentum, and a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty with 1:35 left kept the Mavericks from pulling Tormey for an extra attacker.

3. Home ice advantage: The Mariucci Arena crowd of 10,031 can be an intimidating environment. The crowd was quiet in the first period after a nasty head injury to Howe, who was taken off the ice on a backboard (it was later announced that he would be OK) and especially after the Mavericks grabbed a 2-1 lead on a Berge power-play goal. But the Gophers got their buldin back during their four-goal outburst in the second period.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tormey to start (updated)

Just arrived at Mariucci Arena and grabbed a line chart. Dan Tormey will start in goal tonight for the Mavericks. If you recall, Tormey was outstanding in his last start here -- until he got his hand sliced open by Blake Wheeler's skate, an injury that required surgery and kept him out of action for a couple of months.

Here are the Mavericks' lines (starters in bold):



A few changes: Wiley is in for Mike Louwerse, and Youds is in for -- and this is a bit surprising -- Brian Kilburg. Kilburg, a junior defenseman was minus-1 Friday and had no penalties. Coach Troy Jutting has long said he likes all seven defensemen he's been rotating this season.

I spoke with Kilburg in the press box. Apparently, he is a scratch because of his performance Friday. "They're taking the stupid stuff (penalties and poor play) seriously," Kilburg said, "whether your're a senior or a freshman."

Another change is Geoff Irwin and Rylan Galiardi have swapped places. Irwin moved up to the second line with Mouillierat, who is now in the middle, and Joel Hanson.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Too little, too late

Well, the Alltel Center was filled to the rafters -- the announced crowd was a school-record 5,192 -- and they got a highly entertaining hockey game.

Minnesota exploded for three goals in the second period and then held off a furious rally to defeat Minnesota State 4-3 in the first game of the WCHA series.

The Gophers were desperate for a conference win and a power-play goal and got both. The Mavericks wanted to put on a good show in its home opener and did everything but win. Minnesota State came out flying but flattened after failing to score. After falling behind 4-1 after two periods, they mounted their comeback with a power-play goal by Mick Berge and a four-on-four goal by freshman Andrew Sackrison.

Reviewing my keys to an MSU win:

1. Great goaltending: Mike Zacharias stopped 20 of 24 shots. He played fine but wasn't spectacular, coach Troy Jutting said. It was hard to blame the goalie on Ben Gordon's power-play goal to open the scoring. Blake Wheeler made a nice pass to Gordon at the back door. Actually, Gordon partially fanned on the shot. The Mavericks needed to do a better job defensively to help Zacharias on the quick goals by Tony Lucia and Patrick White early in the second. Evan Kaufmann's game-winner was a power-play goal.

2. Stay out of the box: The Mavericks did that, committing five penalties and putting the Gophers on the power play just three times. But Minnesota, which came into the series in an 0 for 30 power-play slump, scored twice with the man advantage. The first took the crowd out of the game (and brought to life a good-sized Gopher contingent); the second was the game-winner.

3. Home-ice advantage: Minnesota State came out fired up and played brilliantly for the first five to 10 minutes. The Mavericks forechecked hard, got the puck deep and even got the Gophers to play some dump and chase. The only thing MSU didn't do in that stretch was score.

Notes: Led by center Zach Harrison, the Mavericks kept Kyle Okposo off the board. Okposo had no shots on goal and was -2. ... Blake Wheeler was a difference maker for Minnesota, however, getting two assists. ... Jutting said forward Jason Wiley was scratched because of the team's crackdown on dumb penalties; the coach said Wiley will play Saturday.

Drop the puck (updated)

Forty minutes till faceoff. The student section is alreayd full, and the teams are about to come out for pregame warmups.

Here are tonight's lines (starters in bold):

Minnesota State



Louwerse is taking Wiley's place. Not sure why yet. Youds is out with an injury.




This weekend's series will feature two referees as the WCHA experiments with a two-ref, two-linesman system. The referees are Brian Thul and Randy Schmidt.

Sweet Lou hits Kato

Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne was at the Mankato Barnes & Noble Friday afternoon autographing copies of the book, "Minnesota North Stars: History and Memories with Lou Nanne," along with author Bob Showers.

Nanne said it was his first book stop outside the Metro area and chose Mankato because of tonight's Mavericks-Gophers game (Nanne said he couldn't make it to the game due to another commitment but would be at Saturday's rematch at Mariucci).

The book, a coffee table-style collection full of pictures (no coincidence that it was released right before the holidays), is in its second printing, said Nanne, who, played for and was general manager of the Minnesota North Stars. He was also an All-American defenseman for the Gophers and may be best known to young hockey fans as the longtime color commentator during state hockey tournament TV coverage.

Both Nanne and Showers, a first-time author, said they have been surprised by the vast interest in the book.

Nanne said sports fans in Minnesota have a special attachment to the North Stars not only because they grew up with the team for 26 years but because it was taken away from them when then-owner Norm Green up and moved it to Dallas in 1993. While the Minnesota Wild has been a tremendously popular replacement since starting as an expansion team in 2000, the bond isn't quite the same, according to Nanne.

"It's like making a new friend," he said.

Name that rink

A comment on the previous post got me thinking. The Alltel Center needs a nickname.

The building's new name certainly rolls off the tongue easier than Midwest Wireless Civic Center. I believe the arena had the name Cellular 2000 before that and got the nickname, "The Cell," by my predecessor, P.J. Slinger. That nickname has hung around a little but didn't really stick through the name changes.

Some people simply called it the Wireless Center. I thought the anti-goaltender nickname the "Civ" (read: sieve) was cute. I believe "the Phone Booth" has also been tossed around.

So what do you all think? Let's hear your ideas. Put them in the comments section and I'll pick some of the best and do something with them around the time of the Mavericks' next home game, which will be Nov. 30.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Let's play hockey

The Alltel Center is sold out, and the puck drops between the Mavericks and Gophers in less than 24 hours.

Maybe the six-game road swing to start the season was a perfect marketing tool for MSU, as there seems to be great anticipation for this game. Maybe it's because the Mavericks are 3-2-1. Maybe it's because the Gophers are in town. Maybe it's because the Gophers are winless in WCHA play. Whatever the reason, the rink should be rocking Friday night.

Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said he's not fooled by Minnesota's alleged struggles. "They're a good hockey team. I think people like to root for their demise ... but they've played pretty well from the tapes I've seen."

Three keys to the series
If the Mavericks are going to get their first win over the Gophers since 2002, look for the following to happen:

1. Great goaltending: Mavericks starter Mike Zacharias is riding a two-game shutout streak, but even he admits that the quality of competition is changing significantly. Still, a hot goalie is a hot goalie.

2. Stay out of the box: The Mavericks must continue to keep their penalties down. Their penalty kill has been strong and has not allowed a goal in four games, but they should look at Minnesota's 7.5 percent power play as a mirage. When MSU does go to the box, a Jon Kalinski short-handed goal would help matters.

3. Home-ice advantage: Minnesota State needs to take advantage of Friday's 5,000-plus crowd. Sure, the Gophers are used to playing in front of 10,000, but the Alltel Center (I'm still not used to writing that but it beats writing Midwest Wireless Civic Center over and over) can be a great atmosphere when it's full and everybody's into the game. An early goal or two by the home team and a few big hits could do wonders for the Mavericks.

Notes: The only forward line that will be the same as last week will be the Kalinski-Bruess-Berge combo. Other lines include Mouillierat-Galiardi-Hanson, Gaulrapp-Harrison-Stewart and Irwin-Sackrison-Wiley. ... Freshman D Ben Youds did not practice Thursday. Jutting said Youds is dinged up and his playing status will be made during Friday's morning skate. Youds, however, said it's nothing serious and is looking forward to playing. ... If he can't go, Channing Boe will play with R.J. Linder. ... Other defensive combinations: Davis-Kilburg, Friesen-Canzanello. ... For more on this weekend's series, including a feature about small-town boy Jon Kalinski, check out Friday's Free Press.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Full house

Sounds like it's slim pickings for tickets for Friday's game between the Mavericks and Gophers at Alltel Center. According to assistant athletic director Tim Marshall, more than 5,000 tickets have been sold -- That's deep into standing-room-only territory -- and only a few remained. If it's a capacity crowd, we could see an attendance figure that treads close to the all-time high of 5,182 set against North Dakota in 2003. Some suite configurations from a few years ago may prevent the figure from reaching that mark, but we'll see.

Jackman makes Islanders debut

Former MSU forward Tim Jackman made his debut with the New York Islanders Tuesday night, playing a little more than seven minutes against the Rangers.

Jackman, who played for the Mavericks from 2000-2002, was called up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League where he had seven points and 24 penalty minutes in 10 games.

Jackman has now played in 33 NHL games since leaving Mankato. The Islanders are his fourth team. He's also played with Columbus (the team that drafted him), Phoenix and Los Angeles

Monday, November 5, 2007

MSU hires hockey trainer

Earlier tonight, probably around the same time I was posting that an athletic trainer had not been hired to replace Jason Bushie, Minnesota State sent out a release saying that it has hired Sean Donley as its new men's hockey trainer.

Donley spent the last three years with the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders of the United States Hockey League. A 2002 graduate of Metropolitan State (Colo.), Donley also worked with the University of Denver training staff as a student. He received a master's degree from St. Cloud State in 2005 and also worked with that school's hockey program.

Backes out four weeks

Ex-Mavericks and current St. Louis Blues forward David Backes will miss four weeks because of an injury to his left knee. Backes, who was injured Saturday, has two goals and two assists in 12 games. The injury will not require surgery and, according to Blues officials, could have been worse.

You want answers?

Since the blog went up in September, some of you have had questions for PucKato. Sorry I haven't been able to get to respond to all of them right away, but tonight I'm going to answer a few of them. Here we go ...

Why didn't MSU have any preseason games? I asked Troy Jutting today if, in retrospect, he wishes he would have had a nonconference series or an exhibition game before the Michigan Tech series, and he said he tried to get games for that weekend but was unable to do so. With the improvement the Mavericks have shown against Alaska-Anchorage and Alabama-Huntsville, it appears that some preseason action would have been helpful.

Has a new athletic trainer been hired to replace Jason Bushie? Not yet. MSU's head athletic trainer Jeff Chambers has been around the practice rink, though, and made the last two road trips.

Isn't Lucas Fransen playing in the Netherlands? I haven't been able to track that down. The former MSU defenseman doesn't show up on, which is a great source for hockey statistics of all leagues and levels. However, I forgot to mention ex-Maverick Aaron Fox, who is now playing in Austria. Fox, who played at MSU from 1997-2000, has enjoyed a nice career in Europe, racking up tons of points in several countries, especially Germany.

Will the Alltel Center be full for Friday's game against the Gophers? It's certainly looking that way. As of tonight, Ticketmaster only had standing-room-only tickets available.

Will Mike Zacharias start in goal both nights against Minnesota? Since it's Monday, that decision isn't even close to being made. I'm guessing Zacharias, who has a .943 save percentage in five games, will start Friday. But, based on past history, Jutting won't -- at least publicly -- make a decision on Saturday's starter until after Friday's game or the next morning. Jutting noted Monday that he was glad to see Dan Tormey get back on track with a solid performance Saturday at Huntsville.

What happened to Ryan Gunderson? He's on the team, practicing hard every day. The sophomore played in six games last year as a freshman and had one assist. Remember, he was converted from forward to defense when he arrived last season, and he's probably the eighth D on a team with seven pretty solid defensemen right now.

That's all for now. Thanks for the questions. Keep them coming.

Skaters as waiters

Members of the Minnesota State men’s hockey team will be "Skaters as Waiters" from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Junker's Bar & Grill in North Mankato.

Hockey players will wait tables and tend bar, donating all tips to Campus Kitchen Mankato, a non-profit organization that helps prepare and deliver meals around Mankato for families. There will also be a silent auction for items that include Maverick hockey memorabila.

The event is being coordinated by Brian Kilburg, Matt Tyree, Mick Berge, Jon Kalinski, Channing Boe and Rylan Galiardi.

"This is a chance for those that follow the Maverick men's hockey program to get to know us while having a great time and a great meal," Kilburg said. "But our primary focus is to assist and provide support for Campus Kitchen Mankato. We want to be involved in the community, and this project is something we all thought would be appropriate and worthwhile."

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Coming home winners

The Mavericks defeated Alabama-Huntsville 4-2 Saturday afternoon to finish off a series sweep of the Chargers and finish the six-game road swing to start the season with a winning record of 3-2-1.

(Sorry I didn't have a post after Friday's 7-0 win. I was at a hockey arena, only Bruce Springsteen was playing in it.)

"Obviously, it's good have a winning record," coach Troy Jutting said. "I'd like to be 6-0, but the improvements we've made from the first weekend to the second and third have also been good."

A couple of MSU's veterans broke out of their offensive slumps as Mick Berge scored two goals Saturday and had a three-point weekend. Jon Kalinski, who scored twice Friday, also had three points in the series, as did defenseman Brian Kilburg (another good radio name, by the way) Defenseman Nick Canzanello had a goal and an assist Friday, and senior forward Matt Tyree scored his second career goal and first in more than a year.

Goalie Dan Tormey also got back on track. Playing for the first time since getting roughed up at Michigan Tech, he stopped 26 of 28 shots for his first win of the year. Mike Zacharias recorded his second straight shutout Friday. When Huntsville scored in the second period Saturday, it snapped MSU's nine-period shutout streak, a stretch that lasted 132:58.

The Mavericks will finally play a home game Friday night against Minnesota.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sweet road Alabama

According to some research by the Minnesota State athletic communications office, the Maverick men's hockey team will have traveled more than 9,200 miles over the first three weekends of the season. That includes a nine-hour bus ride to Houghton, Mich., a five-hour flight to Anchorage, Alaska, and this weekend's trip to Huntsville, Ala.

"It does take its toll on you," junior defenseman Brian Kilburg said. "I won't lie; by the time you get back Sunday night, you're beat." You can read more about the MSU road warriors in Friday's Free Press.

Here are a few more notes on this weekend's series at Alabama-Huntsville:

Looking to bolster their scoring -- the Mavericks have five goals in four games -- coach Troy Jutting has switched up the forward lines. Here's how they're expected to look Friday:


Jon Kalsinski and Joel Hanson, the Mavericks top returning scorers from last season, have yet to register a point through four games.

Mike Zacharias will start in goal Friday.

Tickled pink

The Minnesota State women's hockey team's "Skate for the Cure" appeared to be a success Thursday night.

All Seasons Arena was decked out in pink for the game against St. Cloud State, proceeds from which went toward breast cancer research and awareness. Both teams wore pink uniforms -- MSU's were grey with pink numbers, stripes and highlights on the purple bull logo, while St. Cloud's were black with pink everywhere the Huskies normally wear red -- Mavericks coach Jeff Vizenor wore a pink shirt and the referees wore pink- and black-striped shirts.

WCHA Assistant Commissioner Carol LaBelle-Ehrhardt, a breast cancer survivor who has been cancer-free for six months, dropped the ceremonial first puck and said the event nearly brought her to tears. She said she hopes the event can go league-wide next year.

"Even if this only touches three people, it's going to mean something," LaBelle-Ehrhardt said.

There was no charge for the game but donations were collected. There was also a raffle and silent auction to raise money for the Minnesota chapter of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.

By the way, the Mavericks defeated the Huskies 3-2 in overtime on a Kala Buganski rebound goal.

Student ticket update

According to Minnesota State assistant athletic director Tim Marshall, all 1,100 student tickets for next week's game against Minnesota were distributed Thursday. By 7 a.m., students were queued up from the Taylor Center past the Bud Myers Field House. Marshall said all of the free tickets were gone by 2 p.m. According to Ticketmaster, standing room only tickets are available for $22.