Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Women's race just got tighter

When Eric Means was hired as Minnesota State's women's hockey coach, he said the goal was to establish the Mavericks as the clear-cut No. 4 team in the WCHA and challenge the Big 3 -- Wisconsin, Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth -- from there.

Well, that task just got a little more interesting as Minnesota's mightily talented Lamoureux twins -- Monique and Jocelyne -- announced that they were transferring to North Dakota. The twins, who just finished their freshman season, will have to sit out a year but will likely be members of the U.S. Olympic team next season anyway.

The forwards, who are from Grand Forks, N.D., ranked Nos. 2 and 3 in the WCHA in scoring and ended the Mavericks' season by combining for four goals and two assists in the Gophers' WCHA 7-2 semifinal victory over MSU in the league tournament.

You can read more about their decision here and here.

Minnesota State and North Dakota tied for fifth place in the WCHA last season.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'm back

I've been off for a bit and unable to blog, not that there hasn't been some hockey news going on. Here are a few items of interest ...

As if he wasn't busy enough with the transition between his old job as MSU men's assistant and his new job as the Mavericks' new women's hockey coach, Eric Means had his appendix removed last week. He reported that everything went well.

Both Means and men's coach Troy Jutting are in the process of hiring assistant coaches. I would guess those should get finalized sometime soon.

I ran into two former Mankato West players who spent last season with the USHL's Fargo Force last season, Corey Leivermann and Tyler Bruggeman. Leivermann, an MSU recruit, had a great year with Fargo, which lost in the USHL playoff finals to Indiana. Bruggeman, a goaltender, played in just one game after forgoing his senior year of high school eligibility to move to Fargo. Bruggeman, was recently drafted by the NAHL's Fairbanks Ice Dogs, told me that he learned a lot, and hopes to return to the Force next season. Leivermann will spend another season in Fargo as well.

Both Leivermann and Bruggeman and MSU recruit Matt Leitner received team awards from the Force. Leivermann received the team's most inspirational player award, Leitner was named outstanding forward and Bruggman got the community service award.

More later ...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kemp out at UNO

The "Spirit of the Maverick" series will have a little bit different look next season.

The only coach in Nebraska-Omaha's history, Mike Kemp, has stepped down as the Mavericks coach to become associate athletic director at the school. New UNO athletic director Trev Alberts (the former Nebraska Cornhuskers football player) called the move a promotion, not a demotion, although Kemp was on the hot seat last year.

Kemp, a Gustavus Adolphus graduate, had a 194-223-57 record, including a 15-17-8 mark in 2008-09, which included a school-record 14-game winless streak late in the season. The red Mavericks made one appearance in the NCAA tournament and in nine years in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association never finished higher than fourth.

Some names as possible replaements for Kemp are starting to surface. They include, most prominantly, Minnesota assistant Mike Hastings, who coached the USHL's Omaha Lancers for 14 years, former UNO assistant and current Boston University assistant David Quinn. Other names mentioned include former North Dakota coach Dean Blais and longtime Minnesota assistant and current Colorado College assistant Mike Guentzel.

Another aspect to watch is to see how this affects UNO as a possible 12th team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Coach Means business

Eric Means was introduced as MSU's third women's hockey coach on Monday. His goal? To change the culture of a program that has had just on winning season and one fourth-place finish (both the same year) in its 11-year-history.

Read more here and here.

As for Means' replacement on the men's side. Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said he wants to hire someone ASAP.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Means to be named MSU women's coach

Longtime Minnesota State men's hockey assistant coach Eric Means will be named MSU's new women's hockey head coach during a 4:30 p.m. press conference at the Don Brose Hockey Center at All Seasons Arena, according to sources.

Means, who was one of three finalists for the job, has been a Mavericks assistant for 14 seasons. He will become the women's team's third coach, replacing Jeff Vizenor, who stepped down in January.

More later ...

Friday, May 8, 2009

MSU awards

The Minnesota State men's hockey team had its year-end banquet Thursday night and doled out its team awards. No real surprises here ...

MVP: Mike Zacharias ... The goalie was the Mavericks' best player for the last two years (he was also MVP last year). He ended up setting team records for career save percentage (.910) and goals-against average (2.71) and finished fourth on the team's all-time wins list (45). This season, he stopped at least 30 shots in a game 16 times. Zacharias leaves MSU as arguably the best goalie of the Mavericks' D-I era (he's at least a close second behind Eric Pateman).

Unsung Hero: Kael Mouillierat ... I'm not sure he was all that unsung, although maybe the team considered this to be the MVP runner-up award this year. The junior forward had a breakout second half of the season with 15 goals and nine assists over the last 23 games. He missed some time with injury and suspension and finished the year with a team-high 17 goals and was third on the team with 30 points. Mouillierat also got the Buffalo Wild Wings Star of the Year award for most three-stars-of-the-game selections during this year's home games.

Most Improved Player: Baylor Dieter ... It's hard to argue with this pick, considering the freshman defenseman didn't even get in a game until Jan. 17. By the end of the year he was an every-day D. I often wonder if this award should be for the player who improves the most over the course of the season or for the player who improves the most from the previous year. Dieter's certainly a good choice if you go by the former description. If you go by the latter, I'd probably have to go with Rylan Galiardi.

Mr. Hustle Award (hardest worker): Trevor Bruess ... This is the third year in a row that Bruess got this one. Again, it's hard to argue with the choice. Although his aggressive play got him in trouble -- especially late in the season -- penalty-wise, the emotional and physical Bruess rarely took a shift off, one of the reasons why the Washington Capitals signed him in the offseason.