Monday, October 31, 2011

Getting healthy

Minnesota State looked like a healthier team during practice on Monday afternoon.

Michael Dorr, Eriah Hayes, Max Gaede and J.P. Burkemper all participated in the workout, although afterward, coach Troy Jutting didn't say who, if any, would be ready to play this weekend at Michigan Tech (now ranked No. 16 in the country). My impression is that Dorr and Hayes are head of the others, which would be huge for the Mavs, but I expect to learn more later in the week.

Meanwhile, Chase Grant, Brett Stern, Danny Heath and Tyler Elbrecht were not on the ice. Elbrecht has had his cast removed from his surgically repaired left arm and tweeted that his doctor "is excited about the progress."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rest up

Like the Mavericks, I'm off today and Saturday, so the blog will be a little quiet over the weekend. If you're looking for a little Friday-morning reading, may I suggest you head on over to Brad Schlossman's North Dakota coverage. He has links to all sorts of happenings around the WCHA. Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mavs in the pros

Former Minnesota State standout Ryan Carter was put on waivers by the Florida Panthers this week but quickly claimed by the New Jersey Devils, who are in need of center help. Carter played in six games for Florida this season with no points and a -1 rating. 

Said Devils coach Pete DeBoer of the 28-year-old Carter: "He's versatile. He plays the game the right way. He plays with energy. I think he can kill penalties. He's one of those guys that can play a role and help us."

As for a few of the other Mavericks in the pros ...

• David Backes, the captain of the St. Louis Blues, has two goals and two assists in nine games.

• Tim Jackman has played in eight games for the Calgary Flames and has no points.
• Travis Morin is the all-time leading scorer in Texas Stars history. That's the top AHL affiliate of Dallas. He has two goals and eight assists in six games this year.

• Jon Kalinski is with the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL but has yet to play due to an injury suffered during the preseason.

• Ben Youds has played four games with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs and has one assist.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sad day for hockey

The University of Alabama-Huntsville today announced that it will be dropping Division I hockey at the end of this season and relegating the sport to club status. It's a sad day for a once-great Division II program that struggled to find permanency in the Division I ranks.

Coach Chris Luongo broke the news to his team on Sunday night, and on Monday the university's interim president, Malcolm Portera, said the main reason for the move is financial. You can read Portera's memo here.

Huntsville has been operating an independent program since the breakup of College Hockey America. While other surviving schools in that conference found places to land (Bemidji State in the WCHA, for example), UAH did not. It was even rejected by the CCHA for membership.

This summer, as college hockey realigned itself for 2013-14 with two new conferences and a merger of sorts between the remaining WCHA and CCHA teams, some college hockey followers implored the WCHA to bring Huntsville into its restructured conference.

I'm not sure how far those talks went, if they went anyplace at all. Portera's memo says the school had discussions with other athletic directors, presidents and commissioners. But if the commitment wasn't there from the UAH powers that be, it's hard to think the WCHA or anyone else in college hockey could have saved the program.

It's too bad. Not only will this leave college hockey with one less program — 57 — but it means the end of program that did some interesting things in its history. The Chargers won two Division II titles in the 1990s and was runner-up twice, playing Bemidji State in all of those games. Huntsville also made the Division I tournament twice as the CHA tournament champion.

Huntsville will play Minnesota State for the last time on Dec. 9-10 in Mankato.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Denver 10, Minnesota State 2 (update)

Minnesota State lost another player to injury on Saturday — freshman defenseman Brett Stern — and sure didn't have the jump it had on Friday, and No. 3 Denver went to town on the Mavericks, hanging 10 goals on the board.

Three Pioneers players had four-point games, as they became the first team to put up double digits against MSU since Feb. 21, 2004 when North Dakota won 10-1.

The Mavericks were being thumped 8-0 before they got a 5x3 power-play goal — their first PPG of the season — in the third period by Jean-Paul LaFontaine. Moments later, LaFontaine assisted on another power-play goal, one by Zach Palmquist. Matt Leitner assisted on both goals. LaFontaine scored two goals in the series and now leads the Mavericks with three.

Both goalies played. Austin Lee was pulled after allowing four goals on 20 shots. Phil Cook came in and allowed six goals on 19 shots.

An idle weekend couldn't come at a better time for MSU, which will return to action Nov. 4-5 at Michigan Tech.

On the bright side, MSU fans, it's only one loss, one sweep. Minnesota State is tied with North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA standings.

UPDATE: Read the USCHO recap and see video of postgame comments by Troy Jutting here.

How 'bout a chat?

If you're watching tonight's Minnesota State-Denver game on Facebook or listening to it on KTOE, why not stick around the PucKato blog for a live chat via Cover It Live? What else are you going to do on a Saturday night?

To paraphrase Elton John: Saturday night's all right for blogging!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pioneers 4, Mavericks 2 (updated)

Denver Post photo
Minnesota State opened its Western Collegiate Hockey Association with a tough, 4-2 loss at third-ranked Denver. Playing without six injured players who were back in Mankato, the Mavericks hung tough, taking a 1-0 lead and tying the game 2-2 early in the third period.

"The kids played hard, they played real hard," coach Troy Jutting said in a phone interview after the game. "I'm really proud of the kids' effort. They battled hard."

But in the when-it-rains-it-pours category, the Mavericks suffered another injury. Chase Grant went out with a lower-body injury, and Jutting said he might be out for awhile. He certainly won't play Saturday.

"It's unreal," Jutting said. "Five games into the season, and we can't dress a full roster."

Here are stories by the Denver Post and USCHO.

Here's a period-by-period recap of the game:

Jean-Paul LaFontaine put back his own rebound after a big Evan Mosey shot from the point to give Minnesota State a 1-0 lead over Denver. Justin Jokinen also assisted on the play. Each team went scoreless on one power play during the period, and MSU goalie Austin Lee stopped 12 shots, including three big-time saves.

Luke Salazar scored two goals in the second period to give Denver a 2-1 lead. On the tying goal, Jason Zucker took a shot that was blocked right to Salazar, catching Austin Lee out of position for an easy goal. The second came with 48.2 seconds left in the period. Salazar got behind the defense after the Mavericks went scoreless for the third time on the power play (but nearly scored with a shot off the post). They are 0 for 20 now this season. Shots were 10-7 for Denver in the frame.

The Mavericks quickly tied the game when Zach Lehrke scored from Adam Mueller at the 1:17 mark. Like the Mavericks, the Pioneers came into the game scoreless on the power play. But Denver finally scored with the man advantage at 6:18 when Drew Shore fired a shot through traffic from the right circle. Minnesota State did have a 4x3 power play but couldn't do much with it. Nick Shore sealed the game with an empty-net goal in the final minute. Denver outshot MSU 16-10 in the period, so 38-25 for the game.

Read the boxscore here.

Friday morning skate

Good morning, hockey fans. I'm back in Mankato this weekend covering the marathon, so I'll be keeping tabs on MSU's games remotely. I'll be listening in to Mike Sullivan's radio broadcast on KTOE and, in all likelihood, watching the free webcast of the game on Facebook Saturday night. I'll be posting updates on Twitter throughout the weekend and might try to put together a live chat on the blog on Saturday during the game. Be sure to check in.

Let's move on to today's hockey coverage ...

The Mavericks, of course, will open WCHA play very short-handed with six injured players stuck back in Mankato. But, based on his comments earlier this week, Denver coach George Gwozdecky isn't looking past the Mavs. He, too, remembers that his team had a lead for just 2:25 in last year's playoff series.

"Minnesota State has the rap of being ... one of bottom-half dwellers (in the WCHA)," Gwozdecky said. "But if you look at how they've played the last few years, there's no team that works harder, there's no team that's better coached. They're physical, they play with a great amount of intensity. They're a tough team to play, whether it's at their house or on the road."

More on the series from The Free Press here.

While much gets made about players leaving early, here's a story on Denver being led by a couple of fifth-year seniors, Dustin Jackson and John Ryder. And if you haven't seen it yet, check out Mike Chambers' excellent three-part series on the Pioneers' Jesse Martin, whose neck was broken in a game last year, and his road to recovery.

Going around the rest of the WCHA ...

North Dakota at Wisconsin: The Sioux head to Madison wondering why it's getting little offensive production from its bottom two lines. The Badgers have questions, too, like why they can't seem to win in overtime (Wisco is 0-9-14 in OT, dating back to the '07-08 season).

Alaska-Anchorage at Nebraska-Omaha: A week after the Seawolves beat the red Mavericks in a nonconference tournament, they'll meet again for conference points. Anchorage is red-hot, and one reason is junior Daniel Naslund, who has seven points in four games. Omaha, meanwhile, is 1-3-0 but says it's too early to panic.

Michigan Tech at Bemidji State: The 4-0-0 Huskies will try to stay in first place in the WCHA this weekend. Part of the reason for their good start is one of new coach Mel Pearson's first recruits, Riley Sweeney. At 1-3-0 and 0-2-0 in conference play, Beavers, needless to say, are taking Tech pretty seriously.

New Hampshire at St. Cloud State: The Huskies have another tough nonconference series (they were swept at Northern Michigan a week ago). Not sure why they're not playing a conference series yet; they'll be the last to play a WCHA opponent next week. Anyway, here's a story on St. Cloud's backup goalie.

Minnesota Duluth at Providence: The Bulldogs are heading east after getting swept by the Gophers a week ago. A couple of freshmen are off to good starts for the defending national champs.

Vermont at Minnesota: The Gophers also step out of WCHA play. They will try to remain unbeaten as they host Vermont. Finnish sophomore Erik Haula is off to a great start with five goals and four assists already.

More WCHA stuff at USCHO, INCH and College Hockey News.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Skeleton crew

The hits just keep on coming for MSU.

Add Mike Dorr's name to the growing list of injured players who won't be going to Denver this weekend. The Mavericks will get Zach Lehrke and Josh Nelson back. But the list of those staying behind looks like this: Dorr, Tyler Elbrecht, J.P. Burkemper, Max Gaede, Danny Heath and Eriah Hayes. Yikes!

The Mavericks will have enough players to field an full team — 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies —but will take no extra skaters (third-string goalie Evan Karambelas will make the trip ... hey, if needed, can he skate out?).

"We've got 20 guys we can put on the ice," coach Troy Jutting said. "All those guys are hockey players. They've all been players. We're going to go play hockey."

The short-handed Mavericks will be playing the nation's third-ranked team and conference-favorite. Also, they have not won in Denver since 2003, going 0-12-2 since then, including two close losses in the WCHA playoffs last March. Remember: The Pioneers led those games a total of 2:25, but it was enough time to sweep.

"There's nobody who's going to go into that game who thinks we can win more than me," Jutting said. "We're not just going out there for a plane ride, that's for sure."

If the Mavericks can survive the weekend health-wise and perhaps come out of it with some points, they will get the next weekend off before resuming play Nov. 4-5 at Michigan Tech. Jutting said he hopes some of the injured players may be ready for that series but made no assurances.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Free hockey

Saturday's game between Minnesota State and Denver will be available for free online on the Denver Pioneers' official Facebook page. Fans must have an individual Facebook account and must be logged in to view the game. The game begins at 8:07 pm. More information here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

River Hawks 4, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Trouble in River City: This was hardly a way to not only open a home schedule but to get ready to go to league-favorite and third-ranked Denver next weekend. Minnesota State was swept by a team that won just five games a season ago. The Mavericks have scored just five goals in four games and they're 0 for 17 on the power play for the season. Coach Troy Jutting said his team worked harder Saturday than it did on Friday, but it still had trouble creating scoring chances or even getting its offense going at all at times. Like Friday's game Saturday's hinged on a five-minute major penalty. On Friday, MSU failed to score when it had the unlimited power play. Saturday, Lowell scored twice when it had the advantage.

2. M*A*S*H unit: Eriah Hayes was called for cross-checking in the final seconds of the second period and when the third started he was replaced in the penalty box by Charlie Thauwald. Hayes was taken out of the game with an upper body injury, so add his name to the quickly growing list of banged-up players. J.P. Burkemper, Tyler Elbrecht, Max Gaede, Danny Heath, Zach Lehrke and Josh Nelson all were scratched Saturday with various ailments. "That's well over a quarter of a roster not playing now," Jutting said. The Mavericks were also missing Mike Louwerse, who was called for checking from behind — a major and a game misconduct with about five minutes left in the first period. "It's so frustrating because of all the injuries," Jutting said. "You still gotta go out and compete, but when it rains it pours right now.

3. Hello? Veterans? Justin Jokinen scored the Mavericks' lone goal but the other seniors on the team have been invisible through four games this season. Forwards Mike Dorr, Joe Schiller, Mike Louwerse and Adam Mueller have no points. Defenseman Cameron Cooper has one goal. Juniors? Hayes, Eli Zuck and Evan Mosey each have one assist.

Deep thought: Thauwald, a freshman from Rochester, had a good game. The 6-foot-3, 225 pound right wing threw his body around and looks like a player who can wow the crowd with some big hits for the next four years.

Quote of the night: "We know never to underestimate another team. We know we have to come out and play Maverick hockey." – MSU senior forward Justin Jokinen

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 3, Wisconsin 2 (ot) ... Colorado College 6, Bemidji State 4 ... Minnesota 5, Minnesota Duluth 4 ... Boston University 4, Denver 3 ... Northern Michigan 3, St. Cloud State 2 ... Alaska-Anchorage 6, Mercyhurst 2 ... North Dakota 3, Maine 3 (ot) ... Nebraska-Omaha at Alaska

MSU vs UMass-Lowell, Game 2

Tonight's lines are below the live blog. There are some changes for the Mavericks. Besides line shuffling,  Adam Mueller and Charlie Thauwald are in and Zach Lehrke and Josh Nelson are out. Mike Louwerse is listed as a defenseman, although I doubt he's actually playing D. Phil Cook will start in goal.

12-LaFontaine ... 25-Hayes ... 23-Dorr
24-Mueller ... 26-Schiller ... 14-Jokinen
21-Grant ... 18-Leitner ... 22-McInnis
11-Leivermann ... 29-Zuck ... 20-Thauwald

27-Stern ... 17-Mosey
3-Cooper ... 7-Knoll
7-Palmquist ... 9-Louwerse


10-Vallorani ... 16-Wetmore ... 29-Arnold
17-Ferreira ... 12-Holmstrom ... 14-Pendenza
23-Wilson ... 11-Buco ... 9-Wallin
18-Budd ... 5-McCoy ... 8-Wright

6-Furlong ... 3-Ruhwedel
28-Suter ... 4-Corcoran
2-Lyles ... 27-Kamrass


Scratches: Burkemper, Elbrecht, Gaede, Heath, Lehrke, Nelson

Friday, October 14, 2011

River Hawks 4, Mavericks 2

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Out-everythinged: UMass-Lowell beat Minnesota State all over the ice on Friday night. If you had to guess which team was the five-win team last year, you wouldn't have picked the River Hawks. Sure the Mavericks had depth issues on D and again gave up a lot of shots, but it was the lack of hustle and urgency up front that killed them. Lots of sloppiness. Lots of impatience. Lots of turnovers. Not the way you want to play in your home opener.

2. First goals: Mavericks freshman defenseman Zach Palmquist and rookie forward Jean-Paul LaFontaine scored the first goals of their college careers. Palmquist gave the Mavericks a 1-0 lead at the 6:21 mark. LaFontaine made it 4-2 with 3:17 to play after Austin Lee (33 saves) was pulled for an extra attacker. If the scoreboard was correct at the time, LaFontaine's goal was MSU's second shot of the third period. They were outshot 37-27 — 17-11 in the first period and 10-5 in the third.

3. Power outage: The game hinged on Lowell's lone penalty — Josh Holmstrom's five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind with 3:06 left in the second period. The Mavericks trailed 2-1 at the time but just couldn't muster much on the power play. It was a primo chance to take over the game again and it just didn't happen. MSU was credited with four shots on goal during the power play, and I saw none during the last two minutes, which were also the first two minutes of the third period.

Deep thought: Norm Bazin won in his coaching debut with the River Hawks, a team that had five wins a season ago and was swept by the Mavericks at Thanksgiving. Bazin, a Lowell grad, was a longtime assistant at Colorado College.

Quote of the night: "We gotta figure it out pretty quick if we're going to compete." — MSU junior forward Eriah Hayes.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 2, Wisconsin 1 (OT) ... Denver 4, Boston College 2 ... Northern Michigan 5, St. Cloud State 2 ... Minnesota 5, Minnesota Duluth 4 (OT) ... North Dakota 3, Maine 1 ... Alaska-Anchorage 3, Nebraska-Omaha 0 (NC) ... Colorado College 3, Bemidji State 1

MSU-UMass-Lowell live blog

Tonight's lines posted below the live blog

23-Dorr ... 26-Schiller ... 14-Jokinen
21-Grant ... 19-Lehrke ... 9-Louwerse
12-LaFontaine ... 18-Leitner ... 25-Hayes
22-McInnis ... Zuck ... 11-Leivermann

3-Cooper ... 7-Palmquist
27-Stern ... 17-Mosey
2-Nelson ... 10-Knoll


Scratches: Elbrecht (inj.), Burkemper (inj.), Gaede (inj.), Heath (inj.), Mueller, Thauwald

10-Vallorani ... 16-Wetmore ... 29-Arnold
17-Ferreira ... 12-Holmstrom ... 14-Pendenza
23-Wilson ... 11-Buco ... 9-Wallin
18-Budd ... 26-Brickler ... 8-Wright

6-Furlong ... 3-Ruhwedel
28-Suter ... 15-Eiserman
2-Lyles ... 27-Kamrass


Referees: Brad Shepherd, Todd Anderson

Friday morning skate

Photo by Pat Christman/The Free Press
Good morning. It's hockey day in Mankato as the Mavericks get set to open their home season against UMass-Lowell. Here's a look around the WCHA this weekend, starting with MSU:

Last week, The Free Press featured co-captain Tyler Elbrecht; today co-captain Mike Dorr is the focus. Dorr, a senior forward, says Mankato and MSU feel like home to him, even though he still gets labeled as the player who can't commit. He committed to Minnesota Duluth as a 16-year-old, decommitted, went to Minnesota and transferred to Minnesota State after one semester with the Gophers.  Over the last year and a half, Dorr has 17 goals and 25 assists in 62 games. Even more is expected of him this year.

"I'm happy where I'm at," he said, "and I'm glad with the road I took. No regrets."

As for this weekend's series, Minnesota State has shuffled the lineup a bit due to the numerous injuries suffered last weekend. Expect an all-senior line of Dorr, Joe Schiller and Justin Jokinen, and senior Austin Lee likely will get the start in goal. Not sure if we'll see a forward playing defense, although a couple practiced there his week. Check back later for full lines.

For the River Hawks, they are starting a new era after last season's five-win campaign (a year that included two home losses to MSU). New coach Norm Bazin, a Lowell alum and former Colorado College assistant is the man in charge now.

Going around the WCHA, six teams begin conference play:

Minnesota at Minnesota Duluth: The Gophers call themselves a work in progress as they head north to play the national champs. Meanwhile, the Star Tribune picks Minnesota to finish fourth in the league, one spot ahead of UMD (with MSU last). ... For the Bulldogs, Duluth native Keegan Flaherty is trying to get his team started on a good note.

Wisconsin at Michigan Tech: The Badgers have high hopes for talented sophomore Mark Zengerle and not just in the assist department. also features a WCHA preview (the Mavericks are — surprise! — 11th) and a good column by Andy Baggot about the breakup of the league. ... As for the Huskies, these will be the first league games for new coach Mel Pearson.

Bemidji State at Colorado College: The Beavers hit the road after an impressive opening weekend when they split at Miami. Lots of good coverage from Bemidji Pioneer writer Eric Stromgren here. ... As for the Tigers, these will be the first games of the year, kicking off a season that comes with high expectations.

Others playing nonconference games:

North Dakota vs. Maine: Sioux goalie Aaron Dell set a record for wins last year but he's being pushed by senior Brad Eidsness, who lost the starting job to Dell last year.

Denver at Boston College, Boston University: Speaking of goalies, Adam Murray is the man in Denver, at least until injured Sam Brittain comes back — if he comes back — from a knee injury.

St. Cloud State at Northern Michigan: For the Huskies, Jared Festler is showing he has the kind of shot that scores goals — and breaks glass.

Nebraska-Omaha and Alaska-Anchorage in Fairbanks tournament: Omaha will play the two Alaska schools, while Anchorage will play Omaha and Mercyhurst. For the red Mavericks, freshman Josh Archibald, just 17, looks like the real deal. ... Meanwhile, a Seawolves sophomore said he needed to add fitness to his game after a solid rookie year.

WCHA weekly previews at USCHO and College Hockey News.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Elbrecht to have surgery, Lee honored

Tyler Elbrecht
Had a chance to talk with Tyler Elbrecht today. He had an old-school plaster cast on his left arm that went from his hand, past his elbow and halfway up his upper arm. The junior defenseman and co-captain broke both bones in his lower arm (the ulna and radius) when he was hit into the boards in the first game of last weekend's series at RPI. "Snapped them both," he said.

Elbrecht will have surgery on Friday to repair the broken arm, getting metal plates put on the bones. He said he hopes to be out 6-8 at weeks but said he will not rush it. He wants to be fully healed before he gets back in a game. Six weeks would be the Minnesota series on the first weekend of December. Eight weeks would get him games before Christmas. But since he hasn't had the surgery yet no one was giving a specific timeline for his return.

"When he's healthy and ready to go, that's when we'll get him back," coach Troy Jutting said. "It's not going to be tomorrow."

Elbrecht said he'll play the part of the "so called pom-pom guy" and be the team's top cheerleader until he can play again.

Mavericks coaches and players talked about how physical the RPI series was, and they came out of it pretty banged up. Besides Elbrecht, forwards Max Gaede and J.P. Burkemper and defenseman Danny Heath suffered upper body injuries and will not play in this weekend's games against UMass-Lowell. Coach Troy Jutting said the lineup is still being tweaked for the weekend but forwards Eli Zuck and Charlie Thauwald were getting some work on defense. The Mavericks are thin and experienced back there, that's for sure. Stay tuned.

Austin Lee
Meanwhile, I should have had this on Tuesday but better late than never: Goaltender Austin Lee was named WCHA co-defensive player of the week for his 36-save shutout performance on Friday. It was the second time Lee has been honored by the league in his career.

Lee shared the award with Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson. Offensive player of the week went to Alaska-Anchorage's Mickey Spencer, and the rookie of the week was Michigan Tech's Blake Pietila.

More hockey stuff in Thursday's hockey notebook in The Free Press.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ranking the Mavericks

Inside College Hockey released its annual Great 58, its power rankings listing every Division I college hockey team, and it puts Minnesota State in at No. 43.

In it's WCHA preview, INCH calls Mike Dorr the league's unsung player but also picks the Mavericks to finish last in the league, saying: "Like another purple team that practices in Mankato, we think the Mavs will be competitive, and get outscored, on most nights.

Meanwhile, this week's USCHO national poll is out and MSU caught a couple of eyes with its split at RPI last weekend, as it received two points amid the "others receiving votes." RPI fell from No. 18 to No. 20. Boston College, which won the Icebreaker at North Dakota last weekend moved up to No. 1, thanks also to Notre Dame's split at Minnesota Duluth.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

RPI 4, MSU 1

Minnesota State scored first but couldn't build on its lead as it settled with a season split against 18th-ranked RPI in Troy, N.Y.

Johnny McInnis, playing for the injured Max Gaede scored the Mavericks' lone goal at the 12:00 mark of the first period. The Engineers outshot the Mavericks 38-32. Phil Cook stopped 34 shots in the loss.

After losing Gaede and Tyler Elbrecht on Friday (during the radio pregame show, coach Troy Jutting said Elbrecht could be out for "a couple months"), MSU lost two more forwards on Saturday. J.P. Burkemper went out with an injury in the first period, and Eriah Hayes was called for a contact-to-the-head penalty in the second period, getting a major and a game misconduct.

"We played with a short bench both nights," Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said. "And in the first games of the year, when you're not in great game shape yet, that's tough.

"But I really liked our compete level all weekend long."

RPI scored late in the major and added another power play goal in the third. Last-minute goals in the first and second periods also did the Mavericks in. Also, MSU committed nine more penalties and failed to cash in on a full, 2-minute 5x3 power play.

For the weekend, MSU and RPI combined for 83 penalty minutes.

"It was really intense," Jutting said. "We'll definitely be a better hockey team because of it."

So the Mavericks fall to 1-1 and will return to Mankato to take on UMass-Lowell on Friday and Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center.


Minnesota State and No. 18 Rensselaer will square off again at 6 p.m. today in Troy, N.Y., following Friday's 1-0 Maverick victory. The Mavericks line chart is out, and there are a few changes from last night, due to injuries to Tyler Elbrecht and Max Gaede. Brett Stern and Johnny McInnis will play.

Also, as expected, it looks like Phil Cook will get the start in goal — despite Austin Lee's 36-save performance in the series opener. If Cook plays like Lee did last night, that should bode well for the Mavericks early in the season. The two goaltenders definitely have potential but is the consistency there?

Here are tonight's lines:

Dorr — Schiller — Hayes
Grant — Lehrke — McInnis
Burkemper — Zuck — Jokinen
LaFontaine — Leitner — Louwerse

Stern — Palmquist
Cooper — Heath
Nelson — Mosey


A few other tidbits from the opener: Lee's shutout was just the second season-opening shutout in MSU history. The first one came in 1985 when Ken Hilgert shut out Gustavus 11-0. ... Lehrke was called for two penalties. He committed just one as a freshman and that came in the Mavs' last game of the season. ... Chase Grant also had two of MSU's 11 penalties. ... According to the RPI game notes, the Mavericks blocked 17 shots; freshman D Zach Palmquist was credited with four blocks.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Big win, tough loss

Minnesota State opened the season with a 1-0 victory at No. 18 RPI on Friday night. Austin Lee stopped 36 shots for his first career shutout, and defenseman Cameron Cooper scored the lone goal with 1:22 remaining in the third third period.

All was not well afterward, though, as Tyler Elbrecht, the junior defenseman and co-captain, suffered what the radio broadcast described as an apparent arm injury late in the second period and did not return. Reached by phone after the game, MSU coach Troy Jutting would not detail the injury but did say that Elbrecht is "out for awhile."

"It's a huge loss for us," he said. "We're inexperienced as it is (on defense). Now we're really inexperienced."

Freshman Max Gaede also suffered an injury.

"It was a gutty win," Jutting said. "With the injuries and all of the penalty killing we had to do, it was a gutty win. I'm proud of them."

Yes, the penalties. The Mavericks killed off 10 RPI power plays and were whistled for 11 penalties. The Engineers committed eight penalties. Cooper's goal came in a a 4-on-4 situation. Eriah Hayes had the assist.

Lee had a great night, stopping 17 shots in the third period. The Mavericks finished the game with 20 shots on goal.

You can see the box score here.

Also, check out postgame video (interviews with Lee and Jutting) by The Daily Gazette's Ken Schott here.

Meanwhile, back in Mankato, the Minnesota State women's hockey team improved to 3-0-0 after defeating No. 8 Mercyhurst 3-2 in overtime. Nicole Germaine scored the game-winner in the final minute of OT.

Friday morning skate (updated)

It's hockey day!

The puck drops on the college season today with Minnesota State playing at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the country's 18th-ranked team. Sadly, PucKato will not be in Troy, N.Y., for the games but will try to give you the best coverage it can in spite of being 1,300 miles away.

Getting started, the Mavericks are counting on more production from their forwards, especially knowing they no longer have Kurt Davis and Ben Youds to put up the points. Davis led the team in scoring last year and was tied for the team lead as a sophomore. In between, Youds sat atop the points list. But do they have forwards to carry the load? Senior Mike Louwerse thinks so.

As for tonight's game against the Engineers, the Mavericks' lines will look similar to the way they did in Monday's exhibition game, which they won 3-1. Here are the expected lines:


Extra: McInnis


Extra: Stern

UPDATE: Lee is listed ahead of Cook on the line chart, posted online by MSU this morning and will be the starter tonight. Coach Troy Jutting didn't commit to a starting goaltender on Wednesday but suspected both Lee and Phil Cook would play this weekend. It might depend on Lee's performance tonight.

As for RPI, the Engineers were an NCAA team last year but lost some top-end scoring and goaltending. They're looking to fill those spots.

Going around the WCHA ...

Michigan Tech hosts American International, Bemidji State is at Miami, Wisconsin hosts Northern Michigan and Minnesota hosts Sacred Heart all in two-game series.

The series of the week, though, is in Duluth where Minnesota Duluth will play its first game as defending national champions, and get a tough matchup against No. 1 Notre Dame, the team it beat the Frozen Four semifinals.

In tournament action ...

North Dakota will host the Icebreaker, playing Air Force today and either Boston College or Michigan State on Saturday. Lots of good coverage on the tournament and North Dakota hockey here.

Nebraska-Omaha will host the Maverick Stampede, playing Mercyhurst today and either Robert Morris or Colgate on Saturday.

St. Cloud State is in Alaska for Alaska-Anchorage's Kendall Hockey Classic. The Huskies will play Alaska today and Alaska-Anchorage in a nonconference game on Saturday. Anchorage starts off with Clarkson.

Denver and Colorado College will each play one exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 Team.

Check out WCHA previews by College Hockey News and USCHO.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

MSU's off! ... Leitner's in ... Notre Dame decides

The Minnesota State men's hockey team left town early Thursday for their season-opening series at RPI in Troy, N.Y. The Mavericks have never played the Engineers before, but it shapes up to be a competitive series (more on that on Friday). ...

One of the players on the trip is freshman Matt Leitner, who missed all of last season while getting his academics in order. He was a student at MSU but did not practice or work out with the team. Monday's exhibition game against British Columbia was Leitner's first game action in almost 18 months, he said.

Leitner said he achieved a 3.2 GPA in his first year of school, which is great for him and the Mavericks. He has a chance to be the kind of top-line center MSU has lacked in recent years.

You can read more about his thoughts and other MSU happenings (like Mavs women's standout Kathleen Rogan being named WCHA offensive player of the week) in The Free Press' weekly college hockey notebook here. ...

Meanwhile, Notre Dame made it official on Wednesday, announcing that it will join Hockey East in 2013-14. The Irish also announced that all of their home games will be broadcast nationally on Versus (now the NBC Sports Network), a move that, ironically, caused the National Collegiate Hockey Conference to back away from its desire to get Notre Dame.

(This all begs the question: If the NCHC didn't get Notre Dame and didn't get a national TV contract, what the heck did it get to make it worth breaking up the WCHA this summer?)

For now, that appears to be the final domino to fall since Penn State's announcement that it was adding hockey a little more than a year ago — at least in the West. There is speculation that we might see some shuffling in the East, as Hockey East looks for a 12th team. RPI could be a possibility or maybe a new D-I team. Stay tuned. ...

As for the WCHA, I wrote on Wednesday that it and MSU needs to start selling the future. But Kevin Gordon of the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune has already started looking into it. WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod told him that the league is no hurry to expand further (although 10 teams would be preferable to nine/check out the poll to the right) and will continue to play a 28-game league schedule.

McLeod also said the league is looking into how to fit two Alaska teams into the schedule.

Here's where the western teams will be in 2013-14 (as of right now):

Minnesota State
Bemidji State
Michigan Tech
Northern Michigan
Lake Superior State
Ferris State
Bowling Green

BIG 10
Michigan State
Ohio State
Penn State

North Dakota
Colorado College
Minnesota Duluth
St. Cloud State
Nebraska Omaha
Western Michigan

Notre Dame to Hockey East ... Air Force in Atlantic Hockey ... Alabama-Huntsville still independent

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Big 9

Bowling Green has made its decision, and it will indeed join the WCHA in 2013-14, the school announced on Tuesday.

Bowling Green was invited to join the league, along with other CCHA schools after the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference was announced. The Falcons were the last school to make a commitment and even asked the WCHA for a deadline extension to make its decision.

That will put the revamped WCHA at nine teams for 2013-14: Minnesota State, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, Ferris State and Bowling Green.

"The WCHA is a great fit for BGSU," athletic director Greg Christopher said in a press release. "WCHA teams are committed to the highest level of college hockey and competing for championships, just as we are at Bowling Green."

Bowling Green might have been waiting for Notre Dame to make its final decision on a conference landing spot. The Irish are expected to announce on Wednesday that it is joining Hockey East (snubbing the NCHC perhaps?). There were also reports last week that Bowling Green was meeting with members of Atlantic Hockey and the University at Buffalo about possibly starting a new league or keeping the CCHA alive.

So will the WCHA hold at nine teams? Alabama-Huntsville is still looking for a home, and there have been calls by some for the WCHA to help save that program. Meanwhile, Minnesota State-Moorhead is still studying the feasibility of and seeking pledges for adding Division I hockey.

Stay tuned.

Hockey, hockey, hockey ...

Photos by Pat Christman/The Free Press
Lots of coverage of the Minnesota State men's hockey team in today's Free Press, starting with a feature on the Mavericks' Mr. Twitter, Mr. Mantra and Mr. Positivity — Tyler Elbrecht (pictured), one of the team's two captains (Mike Dorr is the other).

From there, we have a position-by-position look at the Mavericks this season. Coach Troy Jutting says he's not afraid to put any of the forwards on the ice this season, which means, some talented players will have to sit in the stands or not make road trips this season. Competition should be good for a team looking for consistency, especially in scoring. Defensively, there are some holes to fill, but the goaltending (pictured) should be solid with both Phil Cook and Austin Lee returning.

Finally, there's the game story from Monday's exhibition against British Columbia. It was a pretty sparse crowd at the Verizon Wireless Center but they saw some decent play, including goals by Zach Lehrke, Corey Leivermann and Jean-Paul LaFontaine. Unlike regular-season games, the Mavericks could dress everyone for the exhibition and put different lineups on the ice each period. Only Justin Jokinen, who sat out with a minor injury, didn't play. Third-string goalie Evan Karambelas dressed but didn't play. He is returning from injury.

You can see video of Leivermann's goal off the back of the UBC goalie on KEYC-TV's report from last night. Video here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mavericks 3, Thunderbirds 1

As far as exhibition games go, Monday's was a good one for the Mavericks, a 3-1 win over British Columbia. The last two were a little too close for comfort with a 1-0 win over UBC last year and an overtime win over Lethbridge the year before.

Minnesota State outshot UBC 38-19 and got goals from Zach Lehrke, Corey Leivermann and Jean-Paul LaFontaine.

Lehrke made a nice impression. Besides scoring the game's first goal, he was doing things all over the ice -- blocking shots, stealing the puck for a mini-breakaway, making a smart play on a 2-on-1 turned 3-on-1. Unfortunately for the Mavs, those last two plays resulted in saves.

"Being in my second year helps a lot with confidence," the sophomore Lehrke said. "You know you can do more. I think I had a good summer. I came in stronger, maybe a little faster and a little quicker."

Lehrke had two goals and four assists as a rookie. Leivermann, the Mankato native, had three goals and four assists. His goal, which ended up as the game-winner, was a shot from below the goal line that he caromed off the back of the goalie with 18.7 seconds left in the second period.

LaFontaine completed an all-rookie play, scoring from Matt Leitner and Zach Palmquist just after a power play ended. All three were on the power play together, along with Lehrke and Chase Grant.

More in Tuesday's Free Press, which will be jam-packed with hockey stuff.

MSU exhibition vs. British Columbia (live blog)

It's gameday!

Minnesota State will take the ice for the first time in 2011-12 tonight when they host British Columbia in an exhibition game.

This will be the third game in as many days for BC, which lost to Nebraska-Omaha 4-1 on Saturday and Minnesota 3-0 on Sunday. This is the final exhibition game for WCHA teams, which went 8-0-1 in preseason action over the weekend.

Of course, PucKato will be live blogging from the game, so check back later for that. Lines will be posted when available.

If you're looking for a little Monday Morning Skate, check out my story on the Mavericks kicking off the season with a lot of last season's close losses — including a pesky playoff stretch totaling 2 minutes, 25 seconds — still in their heads.

In other college hockey  happenings, it appears Notre Dame apparently has made a decision and will go to Hockey East in 2013-14. At least that's what the South Bend Tribune is speculating, and why not? The Irish haven't announced it officially, yet but the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is planning on it, announcing over the weekend that it will be an eight-team conference when it starts up.

That, of course, leaves Bowling Green, which has a deadline of Friday to decide on its invitation to the WCHA.

In women's hockey, the Minnesota State women's team opened the season with a sweep of Lindenwood. The Mavericks won 4-3 and 10-2. Sophomore Kathleen Rogan picked up where she left off last year and scored five goals in the series, including four on Saturday. Lauren Barnes, the sophomore transfer from Mercyhurst, had a goal and four assists. Her goal was Friday's game-winner.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Talking about practice

The Mavericks held their first regular-season practice of the season on Saturday morning. It was the first of three practices before Monday's exhibition game against British Columbia (MSU was scheduled to have a Saturday-evening practice and a Sunday practice).

"For a first practice it was very good," coach Troy Jutting said afterward. "The intensity was good. We've got some learning to do, but I thought, in terms of being prepared for practice, that it was very good."

When I showed up to the rink, workers were cleaning up a section of glass that had been shattered during the workout. Apparently, it occurred when defenseman Tyler Elbrecht checked forward J.P. Burkemper into the boards.

Senior defenseman Cameron Cooper said the team's preseason workouts and two-hours/week with coaches over the last couple of weeks prepared them well for Saturday's official start to the season. Indeed, it's somewhat of a crash course, with an exhibition game on Monday and real games next Friday and Saturday.

"I feel like today was really good," Cooper said. "It was a lot better than they've been in the past. But we've been doing something every day. That's helped a lot of the guys. I thought the pace was good. I feel like everyone did their work this summer."

Exhibition season began late Friday night, as Alaska-Anchorage defeated Northern Alberta 7-2. Tonight in the WCHA, Michigan Tech, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota and Denver will play exhibitions. On Sunday, Bemidji State, Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota and Colorado College will be in action. Minnesota State is the only WCHA team playing on Monday. It will be the third game for their opponent, BC, who is playing Omaha tonight and Minnesota on Sunday.

Looking ahead at some MSU coverage, The Free Press will have a early season story in Monday's paper, and Tuesday will be an extravaganza with a season preview, player feature (who will it be?) and coverage of Monday night's game.

Speaking of Monday's game and all other Maverick home games this season, single-game tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Monday at the Verizon Wireless Center box office and through Ticketmaster.