Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bruess fights, Morin signs and WCHA stuff

Good time for a summer update ...

There are some good pictures and an interview with ex-Maverick Trevor Bruess (pictured, right), following a fight during Washington Capitals summer prospects camp. Read more here. Bruess signed with the Caps following the 2008-09 season and spent most of the season with South Carolina of the ECHL.

Former MSU star Travis Morin signed an NHL contract with the Dallas Stars a couple of weeks ago. Morin's deal is a one-year, two-way deal and comes on the heels of a fine season with the Texas Stars in which he tied for the team lead with 31 assists and had 52 points and helped them reach the Calder Cup finals. Morin, 26, was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2004. If he finally gets a chance in the NHL, it will be a worthy road. After graduating from Minnesota State with 133 points in 151 games, he spent three seasons in the ECHL where he compiled 175 points in 147 games for the South Carolina Stingrays.

It's been a busy week around the WCHA, including news from the league's two newest members, Nebraska-Omaha and Bemidji State. Here are some items of note:

Starting in Minnesota, the Gophers suffered a big blow on Tuesday when sophomores-to-be Nick Leddy and Josh Birkholz decided to leave the program. Leddy, a first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild who was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks last season, signed with Chicago, while Birkholz opted to go the Tyler Pitlick route play major junior with the Everett (Wash.) Silvertips of the Western Hockey League. Birkholz was facing a suspension for a violation of team rules, according to a U of M release. However, he says he's been thinking about the move for awhile. There has been a lot of news this summer about Gophers recruits twisting in the wind, wondering if they'll be coming in this fall or playing a year -- or another year, in some cases -- in of junior hockey first. Some, like Jake Youso, opted to decommit from Minnesota. Looks like there are some openings now.

The list of players leaving WCHA teams early for the pros or major junior just keeps growing. It's at 18 now (see list at right).

Speaking of leaving Minnesota, Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais has hired former Gophers assistant Mike Guentzel as an assistant coach. Guentzel was in the USHL last season, coaching the Des Moines Buccaneers. Before that, he spent a year on the bench at Colorado College. But he's best known as a long-time Gophers assistant, spending 14 years there under Don Lucia and Doug Woog. Interestingly, Guentzel will join Mike Hastings, the man who replaced him on Lucia's staff.

In other assistant coaching news (some of this is old news), Denver's Steve Miller was promoted from assistant coach to associate head coach recently, while Alaska-Anchorage's Regg Simon is leaving to take over for Guentzel job in Des Moines. Getting on the way-back machine, Wisconsin, which has had its own issues with off-season departures, has two new assistant coaches, Gary Shuchuk and Bill Butters. Also, Minnesota-Duluth hired alum Derek Plante for its staff.

In Bemidji, Beavers hockey player Ben Kinne suffered an apparent stroke while working out last week in St. Paul. He is recovering and told the Pioneer Press, "I'm doing good." The junior-to-be has played in 74 games at BSU, scoring 24 points last season. I wonder if the stroke is similar to the one Michigan Techs Malcolm Gwilliam suffered two seasons ago.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The R.J. Report

Stopped by the rink today and ran into ex-Maverick R.J. Linder, who ranks among my favorite players to cover. A real class act. Linder is helping out one of the hockey camps going on, along with a group of current players, including Channing Boe, Andy Sackrison, Cameron Cooper, Mike Louwerse and Evan Mosey.

Linder, who graduated from MSU in 2008, is doing well. The defenseman played 11 games for the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League last season before suffering a serious knee injury and having surgery. He said he plans on returning to Tulsa this season, and signed with the Oilers earlier this month. But, for now, he's skating with the youth players over at All Seasons Arena.

Word around the rink was that David Backes was in Mankato on Monday for the Mavericks' alumni golf outing. PucKato was unable to make it there; hopefully I'll be able to do an update on him down the road.

2010-11 roster released

We're still more than two months away from hockey season, but the Mavericks' 2010-11 roster is out and posted on the MSU website. There are a few items of interest ...

Here are the freshmen and their jersey numbers:

2-Josh Nelson, D
7-John McInnis, F
11-Corey Leivermann, F
13-Danny Heath, F
15-J.P. Burkemper, F
18-Matt Leitner, F
19-Zach Lehrke, F
20-Chase Grant, F
35-Evan Karambelas, G

Here are the veteran number changes:

9-Mike Louwerse (he was 11)
23-Michael Dorr (he was 18)

Other roster notes:

Tyler Pitlick and Kevin Murdock are not the only early departures from the Mavericks. It appears forward Tyler Thompson is no longer on the team. Thompson played in 40 games over two seasons, compiling three goals and three assists. Last year, he played in 18 games with one goal and one assist. Thompson was often injured but, when healthy, often got a chance to play on the top line. However, he never really delivered.

There are 27 players on the roster, including 16 forwards (McInnis, Louwerse, Leivermann, Galiardi, Jokinen, Burkemper, Leitner, Lehrke, Grant, Sackrison, Dorr, Mueller, Hayes, Schiller, Peterson, Zuck), eight defensemen (Nelson, Cooper, Youds, Heath, Elbrecht, Mosey, Davis, Boe) and three goalies (Lee, Cook, Karambelas).

The roster has players from 11 different states/provinces, including Minnesota (15-Lee, Cooper, Youds, Louwerse, Leivermann, Jokinen, Lehrke, Sackrison, Davis, Dorr, Mueller, Hayes, Schiller, Peterson, Boe), Wisconsin (1-Nelson), Massachusetts (1-McInnis), Arizona (1-Heath), Missouri (1-Burkemper), Illinois (3-Elbrecht, Mosey, Cook), California (1-Leitner), Oklahoma (1-Grant), Alaska (1-Zuck), Alberta (1-Galiardi) and British Columbia (1-Karambelas).

The two Canadians on the roster -- Galiardi and Karambelas -- both played junior hockey in the U.S. (Alexandria and Topeka, respectively), and there is just one player this year -- McInnis -- whose previous team was from a Canadian junior league (Okotoks, Alberta).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Women's hockey news

Catching up on some items in the women's hockey world ...

Gustavus Adolphus coach Mike Carroll hired Ruthann Kragh as his new assistant coach. Kragh was an assistant at Minnesota State for five years (2001-2005) and the head coach at Bemidji State for three years  (1998-2000). After leaving MSU, she has worked as the registrar at Mankato's Bethany Lutheran College. Kragh, who is married to Bethany baseball coach Ryan Kragh, will replace Andrea Peterson on the Gusties bench. According to Gustavus' release, Kragh will assist Carroll with practice planning, player development and recruiting.

Speaking of former MSU assistants, Dan Lichterman (2003-2007) has stepped down as the head women's coach at Maine to pursue other opportunities. He and his family have moved to the Toronto area. In three seasons with the Black Bears, Lichterman's teams went 15-70-13.

As for the Mavericks, they announced their 2010-11 schedule earlier this month. They will open the season at home on Oct. 8-9 against Niagara.

Getting to the high school (possibly future college) ranks, Mankato East's Savannah Quandt was picked to participate in the USA Hockey Select 15 National Camp in Rochester, N.Y., next week. Quandt will play with and against the best 100 or so 15-year-olds in the country. It's believed that she's the second Mankato player to get chosen for the festival, joining West's Katy Kvasnicka, who went to the event two years ago. Look for more on Quandt's opportunity in The Free Press in the coming days.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hot prospects, more Pitlick talk and Carter waived (updated)

A few Minnesota State hockey players are spending time this summer at NHL prospects camps. That includes players who are free-agent invitees. Here's who's going camping, so far:

Kurt Davis, D, Capitals
Ben Youds, D, Blackhawks
Eriah Hayes, F, Blackhawks
Phil Cook, G, Blackhawks
Rylan Galiardi, F, Coyotes
Justin Jokinen, F, Sabres (draft pick)
Tyler Pitlick, F, Oilers (draft pick/not returning to MSU)

Last summer, D Channing Boe and F Tyler Elbrecht were at camps with Philly and St. Louis. I'll be curious to see if they get another shot to show off. Elbrecht, a St. Louis-area native was at the Blues camp with draft pick Andrew Sackrison and Galiardi.

By the way, Pitlick had some interesting things to say about leaving college on the Oilers website this week, implying that his departure had more to do with academics and focusing on hockey: "For me, a huge thing is, I don't do too well in school. It's tough for me to balance both hockey and school at the same time."

Western College Hockey blogger Chris Dilks answered some questions about Pitlick on an Oilers blog recently, and it's a good read. Interestingly, the questioner accused PucKato of "sour grapes" and called me a "spurned journalist" when I wrote that Pitlick didn't really like the college part of college hockey. No bitterness here. As you can see by the quote above, I was just calling it like I saw it.

Meanwhile, it appears that former Maverick Ryan Carter was put on waivers by the Anaheim Ducks. I'll be curious to see where he lands. There's already some Twitter buzz that the Minnesota Wild, a team that needs centers, might be a good place for him.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Flames sign Jackman

During the last couple of days' flurry of NHL free-agent activity, Minnesota State hockey alum Tim Jackman signed with the Calgary Flames for two years.. This will be Jackman's fifth NHL team since leaving MSU after the 2001-02 season. He spent the last three years with the New York Islanders.

Jackman, 28, has carved out a niche as a grinder, leading the Isles in penalty minutes the last two years and hits in 2008-09. The right wing has just 11 NHL goals and 17 assists in 191 games.

Jackman was the first former Maverick to play in the NHL and, until Tyler Pitlick was drafted No. 31 overall last weekend, was the school's highest-ever draft pick, going No. 38 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2001.