Thursday, May 20, 2010

Murdock not alone

Kevin Murdock isn't the only WCHA goalie who is going back to junior hockey next season. Minnesota Duluth's Brady Hjelle apparently is doing the same.

Like Murdock, Hjelle split time early in the season but eventually lost out on the No. 1 job, as Kenny Reiter played all of the Bulldogs' playoff games. Unlike Murdock, who was a freshman last season and played in just five games, Hjelle was a sophomore and played in 19 games last season. However, Hjelle was splitting time with a fellow sophomore and had a freshman, Aaron Crandall, also competing for the job.

Hjelle is expected to play with the USHL's Cedar Rapids team where he also played in 2007-08.

Comparing Murdock and Hjelle:

Kevin Murdock:  5 games, 1-3-1, .895 sv%, 3.46 gaa
Brady Hjelle:  19 games, 9-7-1, .898 sv%, 2.85 gaa

Hjelle won two games against MSU early last season, including a head-to-head game against Murdock. Duluth won 3-2 that night, scoring three power-play goals. MSU had a 2-0 lead and got into some penalty trouble after that. The game-winner was a 5x3 goal. Hjelle made 26 saves that night, and Murdock made 27.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Harold Paulsen: Unknown legend (updated)

When I arrived at work on Friday afternoon, I was handed an obituary and asked if I knew anything about Harold Paulsen. I didn't but upon reading it, I wish I had.

Harold Paulsen died on Tuesday in Mankato. He was 91 years old. He had lived in Mankato since 1962 when he began working as a physical education professor at what was then known as Mankato State College.

Updates with links can be found below.

But Paulsen's legacy dates back more than 20 years earlier when he played hockey at the University of Minnesota. In 1940, two Gophers players had All-American seasons and led the team to the UAA tournament championship, which also served as the national championship. One of those players was John Mariucci, who would go on to become the U's legendary coach and get his name attached to the Gophers' hockey arena.

The other was "Babe" Paulsen.

A year later, Paulsen succeeded Mariucci as team captain. After that, World War II prevented him from playing in the Olympics or the NHL. From there, he went on to coach high school hockey at Roseau and Thief River Falls and then was asked to start the program at Michigan State University. He coached the Spartans for two years, going 6-25 before stepping down. 

An Iron Ranger from Virginia, Paulsen earned his doctorate from the University of Michigan and was the athletic director at Slippery Rock College in Pennsylvania. In 1962, he, his wife, Clara, and their three kids moved to Mankato. In 2001, Paulsen was honored as one of the Gopher hockey program's 50 "Legends on Ice."

Word around Mankato is that Paulsen was quite the handball player, too, and played the game well into his 70s.

You can read more about Paulsen in Saturday's edition of The Free Press. ... Also, read his Free Press obituary here, and some info from U.S. College Hockey Online here and here. PucKato will stay on the lookout for more stories on Paulsen's passing.

(University of Minnesota photo)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mavericks' '10-11 schedule released

The Minnesota State men's hockey team will open the 2010-11 season with an exhibition game against British Columbia on Monday, Oct. 4 and start the regular season four days later with a nonconference series against St. Lawrence. The WCHA season will open a week later with the Mavericks going to Michigan Tech.

Some interesting notes on the schedule:

• There will be no home-and-home series this year. Minnesota will come to Mankato for two games Dec. 3-4, and the Mavericks will go to St. Cloud State Jan 28-29.

• Nonconference opponents include St. Lawrence and American International at home and road trips to UMass-Lowell and the Notre Dame tournament in Chicago on Jan. 1-2 (Boston U and Brown are the other teams at the tournament)

• MSU will play eight straight road games that will keep them out of Mankato for the month of November. The road swing includes three flights -- Anchorage, Denver and Lowell -- surrounding the first trip to Nebraska-Omaha as a WCHA rival. It gets no easier when the Mavs return, either, as they will host Minnesota and North Dakota.

• With Omaha and Bemidji State now in the league, MSU will play four conference games (two home, two away) against Anchorage, Denver and Colorado College; single home series against Minnesota, North Dakota, Bemidji and Duluth and single road series at Tech, Omaha, Wisconsin and St. Cloud.

• Three of the Mavericks' final WCHA series will be played at home.

Here is the schedule:

Oct. 4          British Columbia (exhibition)
Oct. 8-9       St. Lawrence
Oct. 15-16   @ Michigan Tech
Oct. 22-23   Colorado College
Oct. 29-30   @ Alaska-Anchorage
Nov. 5-6      @ Nebraska-Omaha
Nov. 12-13  @ Denver
Nov. 26-27  @ Massachusetts-Lowell
Dec. 3-4       Minnesota
Dec. 10-11   North Dakota
Jan. 1-2        @ Shillelagh Tournament, Chicago
Jan. 7-8        American International
Jan. 14-15    Denver
Jan. 21-22    @ Wisconsin
Jan. 28-29    @ St. Cloud State
Feb. 4-5       Bemidji State
Feb. 11-12   @ Colorado College
Feb. 18-19   Minnesota Duluth
Mar. 4-5       Alaska-Anchorage
Mar. 11-13   WCHA first round
Mar. 17-19   WCHA Final Five

Fargo fall to Gamblers in USHL finals

The Fargo Force had a third-period lead but couldn't hold on in the decisive Game 5 of the USHL Clark Cup finals on Wednesday night. The Green Bay Gamblers clinched the championship with a 5-3 victory, and the Force were the runners-up for the second year in a row.

Minnesota State recruit Matt Leitner gave Fargo a 3-2 lead at 4:42 of the third period (it was his 10th goal of the playoffs), but Green Bay scored three unanswered goals, including an empty-netter, over the final 10 1/2 minutes in front of a sellout crowd of nearly 8,500 people. The Force were playing without two of their top players, MSU recruits Corey Leivermann and Chase Grant. Another future Maverick, J.P. Burkemper had an assist and was +2 in the game.

Fargo won the first two games of the series in Green Bay and was 49 seconds away from winning Game 3 and the title on Friday in Fargo before the Gamblers tied the game and eventually won in triple-overtime. Green Bay then won the next night in Fargo, which forced Wednesday's game.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

MSU men and women announce recruits

The Minnesota State men's hockey team finally announced the three recruits who have signed national letters of intent since the signing period began about a month ago. No surprises there, as J.P. Burkemper, John McInnis and Josh Nelson joined the five players who signed with the Mavericks during the early signing period in November.

In Tuesday's Free Press, I had a story on the women's hockey team's recruits. That team announced three recruits that, with another recruit coming, will bring next fall's freshman class to a whopping 11 players.

Coach Eric Means was hired one year ago today (May 11), and, not only were most of the current players already gone for the summer, but he was able to bring in just one new player, Lauren Smith, who ended up being the team's second-leading scorer and will be the top returner next year. Means will have a much bigger impact on building his roster this year with seven players graduating and that big recruiting class coming in.

"That's half the roster," Means said. "Half the roster will have changed in a year. We'll be young, but I really like the players we have coming in, and I like the players who are returning, too."

Monday, May 10, 2010

St. Louis is done; one more game for Fargo

Tyler Bruggeman's St. Louis Bandits didn't make it to the finals of the Robertson Cup championship over the weekend in Wenatchee, Wash. The Bandits lost on Saturday to Wenatchee, however, Bruggeman did not play in (and did not appear to dress for) that game after starting St. Louis' first three games in the tournament. The North Mankato resident and West graduate went 1-2 in those games, allowing 10 goals (including four power-play goals) and stopping 86.8 percent of the shots he faced.

Meanwhile, in  Fargo on Saturday, the Green Bay knotted the Clark Cup championship series with the Fargo Force (or as one blogger called them, the MSU-Mankato JV) to force a decisive Game 5 on Wednesday night in Green Bay. Not only does it appear that Mankato's Corey Leivermann will miss the game but so will another MSU recruit and Force captain Chase Grant, who suffered a knee injury early in Game 4.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday morning stuff

PucKato took Friday off but there was quite a bit of hockey news over the last few days that deserves mentioning ...

Former Mavericks forward Ryan Carter scored the lone goal for Team USA in a 2-1 loss to Germany in the first game of the World Championships in Germany. The game was played in front of a record 77,803 people in an indoor soccer stadium. Carter, whose third-period goal tied the game 1-1, has some interesting comments about the experience in this USA Today account, calling the German crowd "the seventh man." Up next for Team USA is a game against Denmark on Monday.

The Green Bay Gamblers defeated the Corey Leivermann-less Fargo Force 4-3 in triple-overtime to stay alive in the USHL's Clark Cup finals on Friday night. Leivermann has been ruled out for the rest of the season. However, MSU recruits Chase Grant (two goals) and Matt Leitner scored Fargo's three goals. The Force will get another chance to close out the series at 7 p.m. tonight.

In Wenatchee, Wash., goalie Tyler Bruggeman and the St. Louis Bandits had Friday off after falling 4-3 to Fairbanks on Thursday in the NAHL's Robertson Cup playoffs. Bruggeman stopped 18 shots in that game, as St. Louis fell to 1-2. The Bandits will play Wenatchee at 7 p.m. tonight. According to the NAHL website, Bismarck is already in Sunday's final (the top two teams will advance out of round-robin play). St. Louis needs a win and a Bismarck win over Fairbanks today to have a tiebreaker chance (if my fuzzy, Saturday-morning math is right).

Ohio State's new coach Mark Osiecki (the former Badgers assistant) hired Minnesota Duluth assistant Steve Rohlik as one of his assistants. It will be interesting to see the domino effect of these hirings. Wisconsin has two assistant spots to fill, and now Duluth has an assistant opening.

In North Dakota, team captain Chay Genoway announced on Thursday that he will be returning next season, getting a medical hardship waiver after missing most of this past season with post-concussion issues. Genoway played in just nine games but was still named third-team all-WCHA because of his impact over that stretch.

In women's hockey, the Minnesota State women announced three new recruits who signed national letters of intent this month. That will bring coach Eric Means' first full recruiting class to a whopping 10 players for next year (seven players signed during the early period in November). The latest group includes goaltender Danielle Butters from London, Ontario, whom Means said will be competing for the No. 1 spot next fall.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mouillierat named Mavs MVP

Minnesota State unveiled its men's hockey postseason awards on Thursday, and senior Kael Mouillierat was voted the team's most valuable player. Ben Youds, Evan Mosey, Jerad Stewart and Rylan Galiardi were also award winners.

Mouillierat had 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points last season. Ten of his goals and 18 of his points came in the final 22 games. He finished his career with 92 points, ranking 10th on the Mavericks' Division I-era scoring list. He also scored nine game-winning goals in his career, which put him seventh on MSU's all-time list.

Youds, a junior, was named the Mavericks' unsung hero award winner. He led MSU in scoring and assists with three goals and 23 assists, all career highs. He is the program's fifth defenseman to lead the team in scoring. Kurt Davis led the Mavs in 2009-10.

Mosey, a freshman defenseman, was named most-improved player. He finished the season with five points in 20 games but went from a player battling for the sixth D spot to a regular and a power-play member by the time the playoffs came around.

Stewart was got the Mr. Hustle Award as the team's hardest worker. He had career highs for goals (13), assists (12) and points (25) during his senior year. He played in all 39 games and scored three game-winners.

Galiardi was the Buffalo Wild Wings Star of the Year, earning the most points in the three-stars-of-the-game voting during home games. The junior forward had 16 points in his last 19 game and finished with 11 goals and 25 points.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bruggeman, Bandits bounce back

The St. Louis Bandits rebounded from Tuesday's tournament-opening loss and defeated the Traverse City North Stars 4-1 on Wednesday, the second day of the North American Hockey League's Robertson Cup championship in Wenatchee, Wash.

North Mankato's Tyler Bruggeman stopped 20 of 21 shots, allowing only a first-period goal that put St. Louis down 1-0 midway through the period. The Bandits responded and tied the game 62 seconds later, scoring the first of four unanswered goals.

St. Louis will play Fairbanks on Thursday before getting Friday off. The Bandits will play Wenatchee on Saturday. The round-robin tournament's top two teams will meet for the title on Sunday.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bruggeman, Bandits fall in opener

The St. Louis Bandits' Tyler Bruggeman stopped 28 of 33 shots in a 5-3 loss to the Bismarck Bobcats in the first game of the North American Hockey League's Robertson Cup championship Tuesday afternoon in Wenatchee, Wash. Three of Bismarck's goals were power-play goals, as St. Louis was in the box for 18 minutes. St. Louis will play Traverse City on Wednesday, the second day of round-robin play. Bruggeman, a North Mankato resident and Mankato West graduate, faced 11 shots in each period.

(A little) more on Murdock

I received an e-mail from Kevin Murdock this week confirming that he is indeed going back to junior hockey next season, specifically the USHL's Lincoln Stars, where he played for two seasons before going to Minnesota State -- "unless something changes."

Asked if he would be coming back to Mankato or transferring to another school after a year away from college, he wrote: "as far as coming back to MSU or not, I'm not 100 percent sure ... what I will be doing."

He is finishing the semester (this week is finals week at MSU), which shows that he's at least serious about keeping his college eligibility intact.

My Free Press column today (Tuesday) is about the Murdock situation, playing off a quote of his from the beginning of the 2009-10 season.

Whoever plays the best is going to play. Whoever works the hardest is going to play.

Although Murdock came in to MSU fairly highly touted, coach Troy Jutting made no promises and had a wide-open competition for the top spot. Murdock got an early chance, starting five of the first 12 games and splitting time with Austin Lee. Phil Cook got some mop-up duty early and finally got into the starting mix in December. By then, Murdock was at the bottom of the ladder, and, by playoff time, Cook was the Mavericks' go-to guy.

Some have argued that Murdock deserved another chance to play after November. Perhaps. But I compare the situation to Vikings training camp, which I've covered many times in Mankato. When there's an open spot for a job, you have to take advantage of your reps. Play well, and you move up the depth chart. Fumble the ball, and you move down -- sometimes enough rungs down that you're watching from the sidelines.

That seems to be what happened to Murdock. His last start on Nov. 21 at Alaska-Anchorage was a rough one. Lee was pretty consistent all season, and Cook went on a nice run once he got a chance to start. By January, the order was pretty well set, and, right or wrong, neither Cook nor Lee played poorly enough to create another opening for Murdock to get another stab at the job.

Murdock could have come back and competed for the job again in the fall. Perhaps he would have pulled a Mike Zacharias and eventually grabbed the No. 1 job despite not getting it as a freshman. Then again, he might have remained buried on the depth chart behind Cook for three more years.

Time will tell if the right decisions (by Murdock, by the coaching staff, etc.) were made.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bruggeman is in the zone

Tyler Bruggeman and the St. Louis Bandits are en route to Wenatchee, Wash., for the Robertson Cup championship, which is the North American Hockey League's playoff championship as well as USA Hockey's Junior A Tier I national tournament.

Bruggeman, a goalie from North Mankato and a 2009 West graduate, has been on a tremendous playoff run. But it didn't start out so hot, he said, after a rough outing in the Bandits' first game. For more, read today's story on Bruggeman in The Free Press.

“I couldn’t even tell you what changed,” Bruggeman said. “I just didn’t want to come home and play golf. I just relaxed and let it all happen.”

The Robertson Cup tournament will take place Tuesday through next Sunday. Other Mankato connections in the tournament include: defenseman Josh Nelson, an MSU recruit who plays for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Ryan McKelvie and Chris Clark, who are on the coaching staff of the Wenatchee Wild.

(Photo by Ryan Casey)