Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seawolves are still the 'rival'

Bemidji State is obviously very excited about joining the WCHA and opening its new arena, so much so that it has already unveiled its 2010-11 schedule (by the way, MSU won't go to Bemidji that year but will host the Beavers on Feb. 4-5, 2011.

In the Bemidji Pioneer story about the schedule, it was revealed how the WCHA is scheduling for a 12-team league. Basically, teams will continue to have playing partners or "rivals," whom they will always play four times a year and there will be a rotation of partners every year into four-team pods. That means a team will play three conference teams four times (home and away) and the other eight teams twice (half at home, half on the road), keeping the conference schedule at 28 games.

According to the story, Beavers coach Tom Serratore said the cleanest option was chosen to develop a five-year schedule. "Basically, the traditional travel partners will remain the same, with the addition of BSU being paired with (Nebraska-Omaha)," he said.

This will probably be disappointing to Minnesota State fans. The Mavericks have been paired with Alaska-Anchorage in the last scheduling arrangement. That was probably fair since they were the last two teams to join the league. But, unlike most of the other partners, there is no real rivalry with the Seawolves.

Nothing against Anchorage, but MSU should be paired with one of the new teams. Not only have the Mavericks supported Bemidji and Omaha by playing them regularly over the years, but there is a natural rivalry with them. Bemidji State was a longtime Division II hockey rival, while Omaha competed in the old North Central Conference with MSU (as well as St. Cloud and North Dakota) in other sports for many years. Also, there's the Spirit of the Maverick trophy series between MSU and UNO to think about.

What do I think?

Since the WCHA preseason polls were released on Tuesday, I've been asked what I think of the results. Well, since I participated in the media poll, I might has well put my ballot out there.

I put the Mavericks seventh on my list but considered putting them higher based on the experience factor, which I wrote about in my column in Wednesday's Free Press. Because there are so many veterans with so many college games under their belts, I think this team has a chance to move up into the upper division. There are no superstars in that group -- although defenseman Kurt Davis was an All-WCHA pick last year and forward Kael Mouillierat easily could have been -- and the big mystery, of course, is the goaltending. By the way, I'll be tackling the goalie situation in Thursday's paper.

Anyway, here are my picks.

1. Denver
2. North Dakota
3. Wisconsin
4. Minnesota
5. St. Cloud State
6. Minnesota-Duluth
7. Minnesota State
8. Colorado College
9. Alaska-Anchorage
10. Michigan Tech

Player of the year: Jordan Schroeder, F, Minnesota
Rookie of the year: Mike Lee, G, St. Cloud State

All-WCHA first team: Forwards-Schroeder; Ryan Lasch, SCSU; Mouillierat; Defensemen-Chay Genoway, UND; Patrick Wiercioch, DU; Goalie-Marc Cheverie, DU

This is never an easy task and it will probably be rendered meaningless in about two weeks. I think Denver should be No. 1 in the conference with North Dakota 1B. From there, I think Minnesota and Wisconsin should be grouped together, followed by a mash of St. Cloud, Duluth, MSU and Colorado College. Although I do think CC is in for a tumble, you could take those four teams and pull them out of hat for your predictions. Finally, Anchorage and Tech are grouped at the bottom.

Meet the Mavericks

The Minnesota State men's hockey season kicks off Saturday night, but you can meet the team, as well as the Mavericks women's team, on Thursday night at a Face-Off Dinner sponsored by the MSU Blue Line Club.

The event will take place at the City Center Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn) in downtown Mankato. There will be a social at 6 p.m. with dinner and a program starting at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $50 for adults and $25 for youth 12 and under. For more information, go here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here come the polls!

The polls are out, and Minnesota State has been picked to finish seventh or eighth in the WCHA, depending on who's been asked. Denver is the clear choice to win the league.

First, the annual Grand Forks Herald coaches poll, now in its 39th year:

1. Denver (8 first-place votes) 80 points
2. North Dakota (2) 70
3. Wisconsin 61
4. Minnesota 58
5. St. Cloud State 55
6. Minnesota Duluth 37
7. Minnesota State 34
8. Colorado College 26
9. Alaska-Anchorage 20
10. Michigan Tech 9

Player of the year: Ryan Lasch, SCSU (3), Jordan Schroeder, UM (3), Chay Genoway, UND (2), Rhet Rakhshani, DU (1), Patrick Wiercioch (1).

Rookie of the year: Mike Lee, SCSU (5), Nick Leddy, UM (2), Dylan Olsen, UMD (2), Matt Donovan, DU (1).

Meanwhile, the media poll, looked quite similar, with the only difference being a flip-flop of MSU and CC:

1. Denver (23 first-place votes) 248 points
2. North Dakota (1) 205
3. Wisconsin 190
4. Minnesota (1) 186
5. St. Cloud State 152
6. Minnesota Duluth 118
7. Colorado College 101
8. Minnesota State 88
9. Alaska-Anchorage 57
10. Michigan Tech 30

Player of the year: Jordan Schroeder, UM

Rookie of the year: Mike Lee, SCSU

All-WCHA: Forwards -- Schroeder, Ryan Lasch, SCSU; Justin Fontaine, UMD; Rhett Rakhshani, DU (tie). Defensemen -- Patrick Wiercioch, DU; Chay Genoway, UND. Goalie -- Marc Cheverie, DU

Monday, September 28, 2009

And your captains are ...

The Mavericks named their captains on Friday and they are:

C-Geoff Irwin, senior forward
A-Kael Mouillierat, senior forward
A-Channing Boe, junior defenseman

A little trivia: Irwin (12 goals, 16 assists) and Mouillierat (17, 13) are MSU's top two returning forwards in the points department. ... The are also the current team leaders in career points (Mouillierat has 67, Irwin has 60) ... Only fellow senior Zach Harrison has played in more career games (113, Irwin and Mouillierat each have played in 106) ... Irwin hails from Victoria, British Columbia. The last time a Maverick from Canada wore the 'C' was in 2006-07 when Chad Brownlee shared it with Travis Morin (FIXED).

Preseason boot camp

Free Press higher ed reporter Robb Murray had this story in today's paper about the Mavericks' use of a Minnesota State ROTC program designed for team building and leadership training.

The ROTC offers it to many groups on campus, but the Mavericks were one of the first to try the full program. It included a day of paintball, a rappelling session and a leadership reaction course.

The team was using the experience, along with its preseason practices and workouts, to determine who will be this season's captains. With the season officially starting on Saturday with a first practice/exhibition game, we should find out who those players are very soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

MSU women picked seventh

The WCHA women's preseason coaches poll was released today, and Minnesota State was picked to finish seventh in the eight-team league. This seems a little surprising for coach Eric Means' new team, as it graduated just one player -- although that player just happened to be Maggie Fisher, the school's all-time leading scorer -- from a team that finished in a tie for fifth place and made an impressive playoff push. I also think that MSU has a chance to make some hay as there will be more parity in the league this year with several teams missing Olympians. No matter, here are the results:

WCHA Coaches Pre-Season Poll
1. Wisconsin (6 first place votes) 48 points
2. Minnesota (2) 43
3. Minnesota Duluth 38
4. St. Cloud State 29
5. Ohio State 23
6. North Dakota 20
7. Minnesota State 16
8. Bemidji State 7
(Coaches could not vote for their own teams in poll and points were awarded on a 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 system)

Player of year: Brooke Ammerman, Wisconsin (5 votes); Natalie Spooner, Ohio State (2); Saara Tuominen, Minnesota Duluth (1)

Rookie of year: Brianna Decker, Wisconsin (6 votes); Hokey Langan, Ohio State (1); Jennifer Hars, Minnesota Duluth (1)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Looking ahead ...

OK, so it's time to really start honing in on this coming hockey, but there is news on the recruiting front as the Mavericks recently got a commitment from Chase Grant of the Fargo Force.

That makes three forwards on the Force roster who will be coming to MSU next season, the others being Matt Leitner and Mankato native Corey Leivermann. Grant is an Oklahoma City native (like former Mavs captain Mick Berge and another 2010 freshman, Josh Berge (Mick's brother). Listed at 5-11, 195 pounds, Grant had 10 goals, 18 assists and 58 penalty minutes in 57 games last season.

Minnesota State has six commitments for 2010-11 and beyond, including the Force trio, Berge, forward Zach Lehrke and defensemen Danny Heath and Zach Palmquist.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Means era about to begin

The MSU women's hockey team will have its first official practice of the season on Saturday morning, but new coach Eric Means has been working nonstop since getting hired in May, recruiting, transitioning from men's hockey to women's hockey and getting his first team ready for the upcoming season.

Here's today's Free Press story on Means and the upcoming season.

Means has expressed the desire to put a more competitive team on the ice, not only one that competes hard in games but in practice. Specifically, he talked about speed, hard work and getting after loose pucks. Sounds a lot like the type of teams he tried to help build down the hall with the MSU men's program.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Preseason pondering

Starting today, men's hockey coaches and players could be on the ice together with pucks for two hours a week until practice officially begins on Oct. 3. Minnesota State was indeed out there today, and they'll have to be ready for that start date, as they will play an exhibition game that night at the Verizon Wireless Center (boy, I'm going to have to get used to writing that).

People have hockey on the mind, as there has been at least one WCHA preseason prediction put together as well as some preseason awards (link fixed).

I've been asked to participate in a preseason media poll, and my picks are due next week.

What do you all think? How do you think the WCHA season will shake out? Where will MSU finish? Who are the players to watch? Let's hear from you.

Zacharias, Tormey sign

Ex-Minnesota State hockey goalies Mike Zacharias and Dan Tormey signed pro contracts with ECHL teams.

Zacharias signed with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign, and Tormey signed with the Toledo Walleye, a new team in the ECHL.

Ontario is an affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, while Toledo has an affiliation with the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.