Friday, April 30, 2010

Leivermann out for weekend

Corey Leivermann will sit out the first two games of the USHL's Clark Cup championship series, as he is still suffering the effects of the hit he took in a playoff game in Omaha on April 17.

Leivermann's Fargo Force team is playing the Green Bay Gamblers in a best-of-five-games series, starting tonight (Friday) and Saturday in Green Bay, Wis.

In a phone conversation on Friday afternoon, Leivermann said he has started skating but still feels "woozy" at times. Besides suffering a concussion, he said needed more than 25 stitches to close the cut on his head and had those removed recently.

"I'm feeling a lot better," he said from his Green Bay hotel room. "I'm not playing tonight or tomorrow, but I'm still hoping for Game 3. ... It's been tough. I've been skating in the mornings by myself. I watch practice but I want to be out there."

Game 3 will take place on May 7 in Fargo, N.D.

Chase Grant feature

With the USHL's Clark Cup championship series about to begin tonight, here's a Fargo Forum feature on Fargo Force captain and future Minnesota State player Chase Grant. The MSU coaching staff is very excited about Grant coming in (among other players) and feel like he's going to be a versatile forward for the Mavericks for the next four seasons.

Grant led the Force with 28 goals this season and been pretty clutch in the USHL playoffs, too. Three of his seven goals have been game-winners. Most impressive was his hat-trick performance in a win last week when two current and future teammates, Corey Leivermann and Matt Leitner, were out of the lineup.

The best-of-five championship series begins tonight for the first of two games in Green Bay. Game 2 will take place on Saturday. The series will move to Fargo on May 7-8. If necessary, Game 5 will take place on May 12 in Green Bay.

I'm not sure of Leivermann's status for this series.

(Fargo Forum photo)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Murdock returning to juniors

It appears that Minnesota State freshman goaltender Kevin Murdock is going to leave school and return to the junior level where he has a year of eligibility remaining. Whether he returns to MSU after that for his final three seasons or transfers to another school is unknown at this time.

"We want what's best for 'Doc,'" coach Troy Jutting said on Tuesday.

Although you never know how a goaltending situation will work out over time, Murdock likely sees the writing on the wall after ending up as the Mavericks' No. 3 goaltender behind fellow freshman Phil Cook and redshirt sophomore Austin Lee over the second half of last season.

A highly touted goalie out of Shattuck-St. Mary's and the USHL, the 19-year-old Murdock played in just five games for the Mavericks last season, going 1-3-1 with a .895 save percentage and a 3.46 goals-against average. He last played on Nov. 21. A few weeks later, both Cook and Lee were ahead of him on the depth chart, and, by playoff time, Cook was the team's No. 1 starter.

"We have a lot of confidence in Phil and Austin," Jutting said. "(Murdock's) still young. He'll have a chance to go somewhere next year where he can play 40 games."

The Mavericks will be looking for a third-string goaltender, but I wouldn't expect Mankato native Tyler Bruggeman to fit that bill (per some reader comments below) for the same reason that Murdock is leaving -- he wouldn't want to sit on the bench for the next three years. It sounds like Bruggeman plans to play another season of junior hockey, either in St. Louis again or in the USHL, with the hopes of attracting a college team.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bruggeman leads St. Louis

Mankato's Tyler Bruggeman had a 24-save shutout on Monday to give the St. Louis Bandits a 5-0 victory over the Topeka Roadrunners and a berth into the North American Hockey League's Robertson Cup Championship, which will be held May 4-9 in Wenatchee, Wash. The game was the fifth and deciding game of the NAHL's South Division finals.

In nine playoff games, Bruggeman is 6-3 with a .933 save percentage and a 1.65 goals-against average.

MSU recruits lead Fargo (updated)

Even with Mankato's Corey Leivermann still out from the hit he took a week earlier, the Fargo Force advanced to the USHL Clark Cup finals. In Saturday's series-clinching victory over Omaha, three Minnesota State recruits scored four goals. Chase Grant scored the game-winning goal as part of a three-goal third period (he also assisted on a goal). Matt Leitner added two goals, including an empty-netter, and J.P. Burkemper scored in the second period.

Grant is the Force's leading playoff scorer with seven goals and five assists in 12 games. Leitner has eight goals and three assists. Leivermann had four goals and two assists before his injury. Burkemper has a goal and two assists in five games.

Fargo will face the Green Bay Gamblers this week, although a starting date has yet to be determined. No word yet if Leivermann will be healthy enough to play in the finals.

UPDATE: The USHL finals will begin on Friday in Green Bay. Leivermann's status still appears to be up in the air.

"Corey wasn't only excited for the team winning but because he might get a chance to play in the finals," Force coach Steve Johnson said. "But that's still uncertain. He'll get involved in some activity this week and we'll see from there."

Meanwhile, in the NAHL, Mankato native Tyler Bruggeman and the St. Louis Bandits will be playing a deciding fifth game against the Topeka Roadrunners Monday night, with the winner advancing to the Robertson Cup championship tournament May 4-9 in Wenatchee, Wash.

Topeka won 4-1 on Saturday, with Bruggeman stopping 33 of 36 shots. On Friday, Bruggeman made 29 saves in a 4-1 St. Louis win.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Okotoks announces McInnis commitment

The Okotoks Oilers officially announced forward John McInnis' commitment to Minnesota State. Here is a quote from GM/coach Garry Van Hereweghe:

“John has developed into one of the purest goal scorers I have had the pleasure of coaching. He has a quick release that rarely misses the net. Going into next season his scoring touch will be very difficult to replace.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fargo wins without Leivermann, Leitner

Corey Leivermann was out with injuries, and Matt Leitner was out with a suspension. But it was another Minnesota State recruit who led the Fargo Force over the Omaha Lancers in the USHL playoffs on Wednesday night. Force captain Chase Grant had a hat trick to lead the Force to the 4-3 victory, giving them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five-games series.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Leivermann update (and other stuff)

Corey Leivermann returned to Fargo on Tuesday, and The Forum caught up with him at practice. The story also has comments from Leivermann's dad, Bruce. I talked to Bruce after my column was filed on Monday night and he made similar comments. He was very upset that Omaha's C.J. Ludwig taunted Corey and the Force players, basically while a stretcher was being brought onto the ice. You can see some of that in the video of the hit below the story.

The Force and the Lancers continue their series tonight in Fargo. While everybody's expecting more fireworks, none of the principle characters will be in the game. Leivermann is out for the series with his injuries, Ludwig was suspended for three games and Matt Leitner -- another MSU recruit -- got a one-game suspension for leaving the locker room after being given a game misconduct for his own taunting actions following his empty-net goal and before the hit on Leivermann.

In Tuesday's column, I also mention former West goalie, Tyler Bruggeman, who is having an outstanding run through the North American Hockey League playoffs for the St. Louis Bandits.

A commenter on this blog recently asked about David Backes' status for the upcoming World Championships. Apparently, the ex-Mav was invited to play in the tournament but declined. That's not too surprising considering played in the Olympics and is ready for a break. He has played in the last couple of Worlds, so he's hoping a longer break might help him snap out of what's become a notoriously slow start come fall.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Leivermann injured (updated)

Minnesota State recruit and Mankato native Corey Leivermann was injured during Saturday night's USHL playoff game between Fargo and Omaha. Leivermann scored the game-winning goal that night, but shortly after teammate and fellow MSU recruit Matt Leitner scored an empty-net goal, Leivermann was checked hard and had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher.

He needed stitches and suffered a concussion and spent the night in an Omaha hospital. He was released from the hospital on Sunday evening. On Monday, he was home in Mankato and was planning to rejoin his team on Tuesday. However, he will be out for the rest of the  West Division Finals, which continue on Wednesday in Fargo.

Omaha's C.J. Ludwig was given a match penalty for intent to injure as well as a game misconduct for charging. He was suspended for three games, however, Leitner was also suspended for one game.

"There is no doubt we're going to miss Corey for the rest of the series, but we're just glad he's OK," Force coach Steve Johnson said in the Fargo Forum. "Now it's the job of the rest of our team to pick things up, and to pick them up for Corey."

Leivermann had six points, including four goals, in playoff action this season.

Read more about Leivermann in Tuesday's edition of The Free Press.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Carter named to U.S. national team

Former MSU hockey standout Ryan Carter was named to the U.S. National Team that will play in the World Championships next month in Germany.

USA Hockey named the roster's first 12 players on Thursday.

The 26-year-old Carter, who left the Mavericks in 2006, finished his fourth season with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks. The center played in 38 games, scoring four goals and assisting on five others. Two of his goals came in the Ducks' season finale.

The World Championships will be held May 7-23 in Cologne, Gelsenkirchen and Mannheim, Germany.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New recruit? Signing period begins

The signing period for men's and women's hockey began today, but it looks to be a fairly quiet one for the Minnesota State men right now. The Mavericks made their big splash during the early signing period in November when they five recruits, including Fargo Force stars Corey Leivermann (Mankato's own), Chase Grant and Matt Leitner, along with USHL forwards Zach Lehrke and Josh Berge (Mick's brother). Previously, defenseman Danny Heath had signed with MSU.

During this period, expect another Fargo forward, J.P. Burkemper, to sign, along with Fairbanks Ice Dogs (NAHL) defenseman Josh Nelson.

According to Chris Heisenberg's college hockey recruiting database, Minnesota State this week got a commitment from John McInnis of the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Okotoks Oilers. McInnis, 20, is, according to his Oilers profile, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound center from Boston. He had 42 goals and 73 points in 58 games this past season. 

While I have yet to find another confirmation of that commitment, it looks like a good one for the Mavericks. However, putting 2 and 2 together, I'm guessing that securing McInnis -- who appears to be a big, skilled, scoring centerman (sound familiar) -- probably means that Tyler Pitlick is indeed gone.

As for other MSU recruits, the Mavericks have four others who will join the team in 2011 -- Max Gaede, Brett Stern, J.P. Lafontaine and Zach Palmquist. I wouldn't expect any of them to sign until next November at the earliest.

Meanwhile, I'm expecting coach Eric Means and the MSU women's team to announce a very large class of recruits for this fall. Seven of the 19 skaters (non-goalies) who saw ice time this season are graduating.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

BC topples Wisco

Well, the team that came into the Frozen Four the quietest certainly left the loudest as Boston College claimed the national championship with a 5-0 drubbing of Wisconsin.

RIT was the Cinderella story. Miami had the tear-jerking story. Wisconsin had the Hobey. BC? Well, the Eagles were steady all season and put a literal stamp on the old cliche, "playing your best hockey at the end of the year." That may be boring for sportswriters and casual observers, but it sure got the job done.

The Eagles were really the first team to shut down the Badgers' offense all year, not only shutting them out but limiting to just 20 shots on goal and blocking 17 shots. Wisconsin was shut out twice earlier this season but had 28 shots against Duluth and 37 against St. Cloud State in the Final Five semifinals.

The championship teetered on a play in the second period when Badgers forward Michael Davies had a clear breakaway. Just when he was set to fire, the puck bounced over his stick and he never got the shot off. A goal there would have tied the game 1-1.

As much as Wisconsin looked out of sync much of the night, BC deserves credit for causing that disruption, playing an impressive game at both ends of the rink.

Eagles coach Jerry York has built quite the dynasty. This was BC's second title in three years and third since 2001. It was also the Eagles' sixth appearance in the national-title game since 2000.

Some good stories on the winners can be found here. More solid coverage from the losing locker room can be found here.

Well, that's the end of the college hockey season. But that's not the end of it for PucKato. There will still be more coverage on the blog in the offseason, including updates on some locals still playing in the junior league playoffs. So keep checking back.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mavs help West to 'Challenge' win

Zach Harrison is fast, but he wasn't quite the fastest player on the ice during the Frozen Four Skills Challenge on Friday night in Detroit.

Harrison, the Minnesota State senior and his MSU women's team counterpart, Ashley Young, helped the West defeat the East in the competition. (Thanks to Western College Hockey blogger Chris Dilks, who is in the Motor City, for passing on the MSU results on to PucKato.)

Harrison was the fastest skater in his heat with a time of 15.47 seconds, but he lost in the final to Oswego State's Neil Musselwhite. Harrison apparently participated in a speed skate between periods of the Boston College-Miami game on Thursday to promote the Friday event. Harrison also scored a goal during the penalty-shot competition, beating goalie Andrew Braithwaite of Merrimack.

As for Young, she participated in the puck-control relay, with the three-team West falling to the East. She was also stopped by St. Lawrence's Brittony Chartier on her penalty shot.

( photo)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hobey Geoffrion

Wisconsin senior tri-captain Blake Geoffrion was named the 2010 Hobey Baker winner on Friday evening. He is the first Badgers player to win the award, which has gone to college hockey's most outstanding player for the last 30 years. Geoffrion wasn't even nominated for WCHA player of the year but should have been. He was simply a great all-around player. Besides scoring 50 points, including 28 goals, he was a phenomenal special teams player, he blocked shots and was a key faceoff man.

Geoffrion was also named a First-Team West All-American on Friday. Here is the list of All-Americans:

First Team

G Ben Scrivens, SR, Cornell (Spruce Grove, Alb.)
D Colby Cohen, JR, Boston University (Villanova, Pa.)
D Brendon Nash, SR, Cornell (Kamloops, B.C.)
F Bobby Butler, SR, New Hampshire (Marlborough, Mass.)
F Gustav Nyquist, SO, Maine (Malmo, Sweden)
F Chase Polacek, JR, Rensselaer (Edina, Minn.)

G Marc Cheverie, JR, Denver (Cole Harbour, N.S.)
D Brendan Smith, JR, Wisconsin (Mimico, Ont.)
D Patrick Weircioch, SO, Denver (Maple Grove, B.C.)
F Blake Geoffrion, SR, Wisconsin (Brentwood, Tenn.)
F Mark Olver, JR , Northern Michigan (Burnaby, B.C.)
F Rhett Rakhshani, SR, Denver (Huntington Beach, Calif.)

Second Team
G Brian Foster, SR, New Hampshire (Pembroke, N.H.)
D Justin Braun, SR, Massachusetts (Vadnais Heights, Minn.)
D Blake Kessel, SO, New Hampshire (Verona, Wis.)
F Sean Backman, SR, Yale (Cos Cob, Conn.)
F Nick Johnson, SR, Sacred Heart (Windsor, Conn.)
F Broc Little, JR, Yale (Rindge, N.H.)

G Cody Reichard, SO, Miami (Celina, Ohio)
D Erik Gustafsson, JR, Northern Michigan (Kvissleby, Sweden)
D Jeff Petry, JR, Michigan State (Farmington Hills, Mich.)
F Jack Connolly, SO, Minnesota-Duluth (Duluth, Minn.)
F Zac Dalpe, SO, Ohio State (Paris, Ont.)
F Matt Read, JR, Bemidji State (Ilderton, Ont.)

Friday morning skate (Frozen Four edition)

Fittingly, the Frozen Four was played on Ford Field, home to the Detroit Lions, on Thursday. Both Wisconsin and Boston College scored the equivalent of a touchdown in their semifinal wins. The Badgers blew away RIT 8-1, while the Eagles stunned Miami 7-1.

Seven different Badgers scored goals and defenseman Brendan Smith had five assists in the romp over the Tigers, ending RIT's Cinderella run through the NCAA tournament.

In the second game, BC handed Miami, one of the top-ranked teams in the country all season long, its worst loss of the year. The Redhawks just can't seem to overcome teams from Boston in the NCAA tournament.

This all sets up a rematch of the 2006 national championship game in which Wisconsin defeated Boston College 2-1.

In North Dakota on Thursday, the state higher education board voted to retire the University controversial Fighting Sioux nickname. The retirement likely will come following the 2010-11 sports season. However, it appears that UND's hockey home, Ralph Engelstad Arena, which has about 3,000 Sioux logos displayed around the building, won't make any changes.

PucKato's prediction: North Dakota won't replace the nickname anytime soon and will just be North Dakota. Perhaps it will even keep the Indianhead logo, much like the state's highway signs and state-trooper cars still do.

Denver goaltender and WCHA player of the year Marc Cheverie signed with the Florida Panthers on Thursday, forgoing his senior season with the Pioneers. He is the third DU player to leave the program with college eligibility remaining.

Apparently there are some reports that Minnesota State's Zach Harrision won the fastest-skater competition at the Frozen Four Skills Competition. The only problem with those reports is that the competition will be held Friday night. My guess is that Harrison was chosen to compete in the fastest-skater competition tonight based off some practice on Thursday. Stay tuned ...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Frozen Four has MSU flavor

Two Minnesota State hockey players will be at the Frozen Four this weekend in Detroit. Men's senior forward Zach Harrison (above) and women's senior forward Ashley Young (right) will be competing in the Frozen Four Skills Challenge on Friday evening at Ford Field.

Both players will be competing for the West region. Both the West and the East have eight men (six skaters, two goalies) and eight women, and players will compete in a variety of events. Both Mavs said the weren't certain as to what events they will be competing in, but Harrison, not surprisingly, said he'd probably be in the fastest skater contest, while Young figured to be in one of the shooting events.

Read more about the Challenge here.

Both players said they were told that the Challenge would be televised on ESPNU. However, I have not been able to find the listing. The Hobey Baker Award ceremony, which precedes the Skills Challenge, will be on live at 6 p.m. If anyone has more information on the TV situation, please let PucKato know.

As for the Frozen Four itself, there is plenty of good reading out there. Andy Baggott of the Wisconsin State Journal and continues to provide a ton of outstanding coverage, including this piece on Hobey-hopeful Blake Geoffrion. I've been following Geoffrion's Twitter postings, which has been kind of fun this week.

In other news, Miami appears to be getting tired of getting questions about last season's Frozen Four meltdown, but you can't blame the media for trying to figure out what has made this team so strong this year. ... The story with RIT, of course, is the fact that it hasn't turned into a pumpkin yet. ...  As for Boston College, the Eagles, like the other teams, are curious to see how hockey plays in an indoor football stadium.

The Detroit News has put together a list of more Frozen Four storylines to follow.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pitlick moves up in rankings

Minnesota State freshman forward Tyler Pitlick's future in college hockey may still be in doubt, but his professional future keeps getting brighter. On Wednesday, the NHL's Central Scouting Service released its final rankings of draft-eligible players, and Pitlick moved up three spots, to No. 18, on the list of North American skaters (the CSS has separate lists for goaltenders and European players).

Pitlick ranked 21st when the service put out its mid-season rankings. Just two college-related players are listed ahead of him, North Dakota recruit Derek Forbort (No. 9) and Minnesota recruit Nick Bjugstad (No. 13)

Two Minnesota State recruits are on the list.

Woodbury senior forward Max Gaede jumped up 40 spots from the midterm rankings to No. 104. Gaede, who is expected to join the Mavericks in the fall of 2011, had 19 goals and 17 assists in 25 high school games this past season.

Centennial defenseman Brett Stern is ranked No. 145, a nine-point drop from the midseason. Stern, another 2011 freshman, had nine goals and 16 assists in 25 high school games.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kalinski update (updated)

The Post-Star newspaper of upstate New York recently did a story on former Mav Jon Kalinski (right). I heard a little bit about this last year. According to Tim McManus' article, Kalinski needed major surgery after suffering from compartment syndrome, severe muscle trauma and swelling that could lead to permanent muscle loss. The syndrome was the result of a hit that Kalinski took in his 12th NHL game. Kalinski currently skates on the top line for the Philadelphia Flyers' AHL team, the Adirondack Phantoms, although he has played in 10 NHL games this season.

UPDATE: Thanks to an alert reader, here is more on Kalinski's injury. He did a commercial and website for the medical folks who got him back on the ice.

In other recent MSU alum news, Ryan Carter has had an up-and-down season for the Ducks this year. ... The Times-Leader did a Q&A with Steve Wagner, who actually wanted to be a goaltender at one point.

(Post-Star photo)

Frozen Four viewing, reading

We're just two days away from the Frozen Four, and the excitement is building. The first game on the Ford Field ice rink was played between media and some old-timers. The video gives a pretty good view of what the seating is going to be like at the Detroit Lions football stadium. Read the Detroit Free Press' breakdown of the semifinals here.

The closest local connection to this weekend's games is RIT senior Sean Murphy, who is an Owatonna native. In a recent story about the Cinderella Tigers, Murphy said he turned down Notre Dame in favor of RIT.

RIT will take on WCHA-power Wisconsin (PucKato's pick to win the tourney).'s Badger hockey page has all kinds of stories on the upcoming event, including one on Wisconsin overcoming early departures since their last national title in 2006, and another on captain Blake Geoffrion's surprise spot in the Hobey hat trick.

Miami might be the sentimental favorite to win. Not only were the Redhawks a minute away from last year's title, only to allow two goals and then lose to Boston University in overtime, but they are playing for their late manager, Brendan Burke, son of NHL general manager Brian Burke. Brendan was killed in a car accident on Feb. 5. Sports Illustrated ran one of the best stories I've read in quite some time about Brian Burke and his son prior to the Olympics.

The team that seems to be flying under the radar this week is Boston College. But the Eagles still have players remaining from the 2008 championship.