Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mavs get D commitment

Minnesota State last week received a verbal commitment from defenseman Sean Flanagan of the Salmon Arm SilverBacks of the British Columbia Hockey League. He'll join the Mavericks in 2013.

Flanagan, 20, was a teammate of current MSU freshmen Bryce Gervais and Brett Knowles last year (until they were traded) and is currently a teammate of another future Mav, forward Ryan Schwalbe.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Flanagan spent two seasons in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League before being acquired by Salmon Arm before last season began. He finished 2011-12 with eight goals and 23 assists and was named the team's best defenseman at season's end.

The Mavericks have five players committed for 2013 or beyond, according to Chris Heisenberg's recruiting website. The group includes Flanagan, Schwalbe (2013 or 2014), center Mike Huntebrinker and defensemen Eli May (2014) and Hunter Warner (2014 or 15).

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bruggeman to St. Scholastica

Austin Daily Herald photo
Former Mankato West goaltender Tyler Bruggeman will indeed play college hockey this season, recently committing to play at Division III St. Scholastica in Duluth, according to the Austin Bruins' website.

Bruggeman, a high school teammate of Minnesota State forward Corey Leivermann, helped Mankato West get to the Minnesota state tournament as a junior in 2008.

From there, he bounced around junior hockey in both the USHL and NHL, going from Fargo to Fairbanks to St. Louis (where he had an outstanding season and playoff run in 2010) to Des Moines to Austin over four seasons.

This last season with the Bruins, an NAHL team, he went 27-10-4 with a .922 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average.

Breaking down the roster

Classes started at Minnesota State today, so it seems like a good time to take a look at the Mavericks' roster for the upcoming season.

Most of the players have been in Mankato since the last weekend of July, and they spent August working out, skating and team building. Coaches are allowed to do individual and small-group practices now that school is in session, and they'll get two hours a week on the ice with their teams starting in mid-September. Full practices can begin Oct. 6, and MSU will have an exhibition game the next day.

A few nuggets from the roster:

Here are the freshmen, with their jersey numbers:

4—Nick Buchanan, D
9—Bryce Gervais, F
14—Taylor Herndon, F
23—Teddy Blueger, F
24—Brett Knowles, F
26—Dylan Margonari, F
28—Jon Jutzi, D
35—Stephon Williams, G

It doesn't look like any of the returning players made any changes to their numbers this year.

Here is the breakdown of where the players are from. They represent three countries (four, if you count Evan Karambelas being born in Greece), as well as 14 U.S. states and Canadian provinces.

United States (20)
Minnesota (7)—Zach Palmquist, Max Gaede, Corey Leivermann, Zach Lehrke, Charlie Thauwald, Eriah Hayes, Brett Stern
Illinois (3)—Tyler Elbrecht, Evan Mosey, Phil Cook
Alaska (2)—Eli Zuck, Stephon Williams
Oklahoma (2)—Taylor Herndon, Chase Grant
Wisconsin (1)—Josh Nelson
Michigan (1)—Jean-Paul LaFontaine
Missouri (1)—J.P. Burkemper
California (1)—Matt Leitner
Massachusetts (1)—Johnny McInnis
Pennsylvania (1)—Dylan Margonari

Canada (6)
British Columbia  (3)—Nick Buchanan, Brett Knowles, Evan Karambelas
Saskatchewan (1)—Bryce Gervais
Alberta (1)—Mat Knoll
Ontario (1)—Jon Jutzi

Latvia (1)
Teddy Blueger

So how did these players get here? What leagues did they play in before coming to MSU?

United States Hockey League (12)
Palmquist*, Gaede*, Leivermann*, LaFontaine, Burkemper, Leitner, Lehrke*, Grant, Hayes*, Margonari, Stern*, Williams

North American Hockey League (7)
Nelson, Herndon, Elbrecht, Mosey, Thauwald*, Cook, Karambelas

British Columbia Hockey League (5)
Buchanan, Gervais, Knowles, Jutzi, Zuck

Alberta Junior Hockey League (2)
Knoll, McInnis

Prep (1)

* Played Minnesota high school hockey before going to junior league.

There are five seniors (Elbrecht, Mosey, Cook, Hayes, Zuck), five juniors (Leivermann, Nelson, Burkemper, Lehrke, McInnis), nine sophomores (Palmquist, Gaede, Knoll, LaFontaine, Leitner, Thauwald, Grant,** Stern, Karambelas**) to go along with the eight freshmen on the team.

** Redshirted (Karambelas in 10-11 and Grant in 11-12 (medical))

Monday, August 13, 2012

Going off the grid

PucKato is going on vacation for a week and will return the week of Aug. 20.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Backes, Brownlee and a Hastings meet 'n' greet

It was a beautiful night out at the Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery on Tuesday night where new Minnesota State men's hockey coach Mike Hastings had a meet-and-greet with members of the Greater Mankato business community. The Greater Mankato Growth Business After Hours event featured music by former MSU captain and budding Canadian country music star Chad Brownlee. Another former captain and current captain of the St. Louis Blues, David Backes was also there.

A few highlights from the event:

• Minnesota State President Richard Davenport told the crowd that 10 minutes into a "clandestine" meeting with Hastings during the coaching search, he knew Hastings was the right man for the job.

• Hastings continued the theme of community that he began talking about the day he was hired. "We're committed to this community," he said. "It's something we want to be a part of." He said the commitment shown to him by Davenport and the university is "something other programs want to get." Of course, talking to a group of mostly business owners and leaders, he said, "We do need your help."

• Brownlee? He played a brilliant set, just him and acoustic guitar with songs off his two albums as well as some covers — including a country-fried version of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." In February, Brownlee toured Canada opening eight shows for Dierks Bentley. "I remember driving around in my truck in Mankato listening to a Dierks Bentley album," Brownlee said.

Brownlee played golf with Backes, Hastings and the rest of the MSU staff on Tuesday and said Hastings "seems like a good guy. I don't know a lot about of him, but he sure is passionate. That's what I like about him."

• Backes? He has some history with Hastings that goes back to 2003 when he played for the Lincoln Stars and Hastings coached the Omaha Lancers. The two teams met in the USHL finals that year. The result? "I have a ring from that series," Backes said with a laugh. Aside from the trash talk, Backes endorsed the Hastings hire. "We talked about ... ideology of hockey and how to grow the program," he said. "And (Hastings is) spot on."

More to come ...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's official: Jutting is new UNO assistant (updated)

Nebraska Omaha announced on Tuesday that ex-Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting is the hockey team's newest assistant. Read the UNO release here.

Omaha coach Dean Blais said in the release: "We are fortunate that we have been able to add someone of Troy's experience to our staff. After so many games coaching against us, he knows our program and our players. Just as important, he knows the WCHA and what it takes to be successful there. I think he can help us as we compete for league and national championships."

Jutting takes the spot previously held by Brian Renfrew, however, he will also go to a bench that the last three seasons had his own successor at MSU, Mike Hastings, making for a bit of a coach swap between the purple Mavericks and the red Mavericks.

Jutting was the head coach at Minnesota State for 12 years and spent the previous 10 as an assistant. He also played for MSU, meaning this will be his first college coaching job away from his alma mater.

UPDATE: Jutting told the Omaha World-Herald: "I'm very excited and looking forward to it. Coach Blais is one of the best, if not the best, in college hockey, and there's a great group of kids there. It's a program that's definitely on the rise. I hope I can be a valuable addition to the coaching staff."

Said Blais: "It really helps that he's familiar with the league. He did a good job of recruiting and coaching in the heart of University of Minnesota territory, where Minnesota kind of hand-picked its guys. Then you've got North Dakota, Wisconsin and St. Cloud State to go against, and Bemidji State is in there now, too."

Read more here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Coach swap! Jutting to Omaha?

Word around the Twitter world on Wednesday was that former Minnesota State men's hockey coach Troy Jutting will be going to Nebraska Omaha to be an assistant coach for Dean Blais (news first floated by @Mavpuck and @UWChuckSchwartz). After communicating with a couple of Mankato sources, indications are that this is indeed happening. A call to Jutting was not returned.

Jutting would not directly be taking the place of Mike Hastings, the man who is replacing him as head coach at MSU. Omaha hired Steve Johnson away from St. Cloud State for that job earlier this summer. Instead, Jutting would take the spot vacated by Brian Renfrew, who announced over the weekend that he was leaving UNO to take an NHL scouting job. Still, if this happens, there is some irony in the fact that Hastings and Jutting essentially would be swapping spots on the the benches of the purple and red Mavericks.

In response to Renfrew's departure, Blais told the Omaha World-Herald on Sunday that, given the timing, "We'll look for just the best available coach no matter the position (of expertise). At this time of year, you just find the best guy available. We all share in the position responsibilities and specialty teams. There are good people out there who are willing to move."

Considering it's already August and school is starting soon (almost all of MSU's players, for example, are already in Mankato and doing preseason workouts), Blais certainly could do a lot worse than add a two-time WCHA coach of the year to his staff. Jutting was reassigned from his coaching position in April and has since been working as a special assistant to MSU President Richard Davenport.

Minnesota State probably would be thrilled if Jutting takes the Omaha job. It would allow the university to wipe most of his 2012-13 salary off the books. When the school reassigned him in April, it had to pay him for the remainder of his contract, which expires June 30, 2013 and created the special assistant job for him. He was due about $160,000 for the final year of the deal. Combined with Hastings' $225,000 salary, that's a lot of dough invested in hockey coaches for this year.

Oh by the way, Minnesota State and Nebraska Omaha will play each other this season Dec. 14-15 in Omaha.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New rules — hands off

The NCAA announced on Wednesday that the Playing Rules Oversight Panel earlier this month approved the new rules proposals for hockey. The rules include making all hand passes illegal. Previously, hand passes were allowed in the defensive zone.

Any hand pass will cause a stoppage in play, and a faceoff will take place in the offending team's defensive zone. If a team commits a hand pass in its own end, it will not be allowed to make a line change during the stoppage.

Other rules include:

• Allowing some displacement of the goal post as long as the posts say in contact with the pegs or pins. A goal can be allowed in that situation if the posts are displaced by a defending player and if the referee determines that the puck would have entered the net during the play regardless of the posts' positions.

• A puck that ricochets into the net off an attacking player's skate will be allowed, unless it's determined that the puck was intentionally kicked. This rule seems to get tweaked one way or another every two years, but, according to the NCAA, the rules committee "believes this clarification removes any judgment or doubt for on-ice officials." We'll see.

• Conferences will be allowed to play 4 on 4 during overtime, similar to what the NHL does during the regulars season, if they choose.

• The two-referee, two-linesman system will be mandatory for men's hockey starting in 2013-14. The WCHA currently uses that system.

• Goal judges will be recommended but not required for NCAA games.

What do you think?