Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mavs' foes earn WCHA honors

St. Cloud Times
Two St. Cloud State players coming off outstanding weekends against Minnesota State earned WCHA player of the week honors, the league announced on Tuesday.

Huskies forward Drew LeBlanc was named Offensive Player of the Week after a five-point series, including a goal and three assists on Friday. He was the top point producer in the conference last weekend.

Huskies freshman forward Kalle Kossila was named Rookie of the Week after his two-goal, two-assist series. He had a goal and an assist each game and moved up to the top line for Ben Hanowski on Saturday after Hanowski was injured Friday.

The league's Defensive Player of the Week was Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel. Read more on the awards here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mavs get D commitment

According to the USHL, the Mavericks recently got a commitment from defenseman Carter Foguth of the Muskegon Lumberjacks. The third-year junior player appears to be a defensive defenseman, having scored just 12 points in 93 career games (he also has 231 penalty minutes in that stretch). The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is the Jacks' captain and has them off to a great start (8-1-1) this season.

From the USHL release:
“I am very excited for being given the opportunity to play hockey at the college level; the coaching staff and players at the university made me feel welcome and right at home,” Foguth said. “It has been a long journey for my family and I, and I am grateful to have received an immense amount of support from the Mervis family and the Muskegon Lumberjacks.”
Foguth, a native of Fenton, Mich., is now one of four USHLers committed to the Mavericks. The others are forwards Luca Frigo of Omaha and Mike Huntebrinker of Waterloo, as well as defenseman Eli May of Tri-City. Minnesota State also has commitments from three BCHL players: goalie Cole Huggins of Coquitlam, defenseman Sean Flanagan of Salmon Arm and forward Ryan Schwalbe of Salmon Arm; as well as Eden Prairie High defenseman Hunter Warner.

According to Chris Heisenberg's recruiting site, May is like a '14 recruit, Schwalbe could be '13 or '14 and Warner is a '14 or '15.

A look at the recruits' current stats:

Carter Foguth, D: 10 games, 1 goal, 1 assist, +1, 11 PIM
Luca Frigo, F: 7 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, -5, 21 PIM
Eli May, D: 5 games, 0 goals, 2 assists, +1, 0 PIM
Mike Huntebriker, F: Has not played yet due to offseason surgery
Cole Huggins, G: 14 games, 8-3-1 record, 2.09 GAA, .940 SV%
Sean Flanagan, D: 16 games, 1 goal, 5 assists, +/-0, 18 PIM
Ryan Schwalbe, F, 16 games, 1 goal, 3 assists, +/-0, 10 PIM
Hunter Warner, D: 18 games (in fall Elite League), 1 G, 5 A, 51 PIM

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Huskies 5, Mavericks 1 (again)

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Changing the culture: Mike Hastings was hired to change some things about the way MSU hockey is played, and one of those changes has to be the program's penchant for penalties. There's no easy fix there, apparently. Rather it's slow, like evolution. The Mavericks played better than they did Friday night for two periods and trailed 1-0 at that point. But a Chase Grant cross-check 10 seconds into the final period turned into a total unraveling by the visitors. The Huskies went up 2-0 at the 27-second mark and 3-0 38 seconds after that. At that point, Hastings pulled rookie goalie Stephon Williams. Wheels were off. St. Cloud State finished 3 for 7 on the power play.

2. Credit where credit is due: Ryan Faragher was the clear-cut No. 1 star of the game, as the Huskies' sophomore goalie held the Mavericks scoreless until 52 seconds remained in the game. When it was 1-0 in the second period, Faragher made two huge saves, one on a tip-in try by Grant midway through the period and another on a slick backhanded shot by J.P. Burkemper, who had a step on a defender as he rushed into on net. That play happened with 1:50 remaining in the period. Add that game time to the first 1:05 of the third period, and that's quite a turnaround.

3. Mosey on over: Mavericks senior defenseman Evan Mosey scored both of the Mavericks' goals during the series. Each came late in the game when St. Cloud State had it all but won. Mosey now has seven career goals — four coming against St. Cloud! With the offensive talent that MSU has up front, Hastings said that if you had told him that Mosey was going to score two goals in the series, he would have guessed that it was going to be a pretty good weekend for his team.

Deep thought: The series sweep was St. Cloud State’s first over the Mavericks since the 2008-09 season. Saturday’s game was the final regular-season meeting between the two schools as WCHA foes.

Read The Free Press game story here.

Around the WCHA: Cornell 3, Colorado College 2 ... Alaska Anchorage 3, North Dakota 3 (OT) ... Bemidji State 3, Nebraska Omaha 2 ... Wisconsin 2, Minnesota Duluth 2 (OT) ... Denver 5, Michigan Tech 2

Up next: It's Gopher week, with the Mavericks going to Mariucci on Friday and Minnesota coming to Mankato on Saturday.

MSU at St. Cloud State — Game 2

Lines can be found below the live chat ...

21-Grant              18-Leitner           9-Gervais
12-LaFontaine     26-Margonari     25-Hayes
15-Burkemper     23-Blueger         22-McInnis
8-Gaede               29-Zuck             19-Lehrke

16-Elbrecht          17-Mosey
7-Palmquist          2-Nelson
4-Buchanan         28-Jutzi


Scratches: Knowles, Stern

11-Kossila            19-LeBlanc        21-Bertsch
16-Murray            26-Dowd           17-Holka
27-Oliver              8-Thorson          37-Rehkamp
18-Milan               2-Rabey             22-Brodzinski

28-Prochno          14-Jensen
7-Gravel               40-Daly
4-Johnson            12-Prow


Referees: Derek Shepherd, Marco Hunt. Linesmen: Nick Bradshaw, Sam Shikowsky

Friday, October 26, 2012

Huskies 5, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Shinny hockey: The Mavericks didn't do much hitting in the first period on Friday and let some of the WCHA's most skilled players roam free around the rink. Ben Hanowski scored two first-period goals. Nic Dowd gave the Huskies a 3-0 lead just 34 seconds after Hanowski's second, and Drew LeBlanc had a goal and three assists to spoil Mike Hastings' WCHA opener.

2. Major award: Both teams took 5-minute majors in the second period, but neither was able to take advantage with the five-minute power play. Eriah Hayes was called for charging, while St. Cloud's Kevin Gravel was called for checking from behind, which also came with a game misconduct. The Mavericks were already on the PP when Gravel went to the box, but they failed to score on 69 seconds of 5-on-3 play. MSU appeared to score with less than 2 minutes left in the major, but Chase Grant's goal was taken off the board after video replay.

3. No comeback: Minnesota State has come back in the third period in each of its last three games to force overtime, tying twice and winning once. Trailing 3-0 going into the third on Friday, they didn't have the magic this time. St. Cloud quickly got the dagger when Kalle Kossila scored at 1:23 to make it 4-0. Mavericks defenseman Evan Mosey scored his team's lone goal at 8:53, getting assists from Grant and Brett Knowles.

Read The Free Press game story here.

Around the WCHA: Cornell 2, Colorado College 0 ... Wisconsin 2, Minnesota Duluth 0 ... North Dakota 4, Alaska Anchorage 1 ... Bemidji State 3, Nebraska Omaha 3 (OT) ... Denver 5, Michigan Tech 1 ... Minnesota 2, U.S. Under-18 Team 2 (OT, exhibition)

St. Cloud State 5, Minnesota State 1 (final)

Tonight's lines can be found below the live chat ...

21-Grant              18-Leitner           9-Gervais
12-LaFontaine     26-Margonari     25-Hayes
24-Knowles         23-Blueger         22-McInnis
8-Gaede               29-Zuck             19-Lehrke

16-Elbrecht          17-Mosey
7-Palmquist          2-Nelson
27-Stern               28-Jutzi


Extras on trip: Burkemper, Buchanan

10-Hanowksi       19-LeBlanc        21-Bertsch
16-Murray            26-Dowd           17-Holka
11-Kossila            13-Morley          22-Brodzinski
27-Oliver              8-Thorson          37-Rehkamp

28-Prochno          14-Jensen
7-Gravel               40-Daly
2-Rabey               12-Prow


Referees: Derek Shepherd, Marco Hunt. Linesmen: Nick Bradshaw, Sam Shikowsky

Friday morning skate

The Mavericks are in St. Cloud for their Western Collegiate Hockey Association opener, and they're hoping to keep their unbeaten start going for at least a little longer.

Minnesota State has found out that it has some comeback in it this year, rallying for two ties and an overtime win already in their first four games (last season, they didn't win a game when trailing after two periods, going 0-18-1). Players are crediting their conditioning for the way they have been able to finish strong. But the team played with fire a bit during its second-period slumps last weekend against RPI, something they can't keep doing, coach Mike Hastings said.

"At this point, it hasn't cost us a game yet," Hastings said. "But we're about out of bullets."

Don't expect much for lineup changes after last week's tie and win, including in goal where Phil Cook is expected to start his third game in a row and fourth this season.

This will be the final regular-season matchup between the Mavericks and the Huskies as conference opponents, as the latter will move into the upstart National Collegiate Hockey Conference next year.

As for St. Cloud State, the team has gotten a strong start from freshman Mike Brodzinski. The St. Cloud Times also takes a peek at Hastings, an SCSU alum who also started his coaching career there.

Going around the rest of the WCHA ...

Wisconsin at Minnesota Duluth: The Badgers are working with a new forechecking system this season, something the coaches decided to implement based on their returning forwards and some careful study. ... The Bulldogs, meanwhile, will open their final season in the WCHA by celebrating its last McNaughton Cup-winning team. The 1993 team was the third UMD team to win the league title.

Alaska Anchorage at North Dakota: The Seawolves haven't won very often in Grand Forks, but they're hoping to catch UND at a good time — early in the season. ... As for North Dakota, it will put a full lineup on the ice for the first time since last February, finally overcoming injuries and suspensions.

Bemidji State at Nebraska Omaha: The Beavers are hoping to do this weekend something only 17 other college hockey programs have done: win their 1,000th game. ... Omaha might not be a bad place to give that a try since BSU has been somewhat of a thorn in the red Mavericks' sides in recent history.

Michigan Tech at Denver: The Huskies split with Minnesota last weekend made many college hockey observers take notice. ... As for the Pioneers, they will try to fill the void in Denver as hockey fans (and pro players) ride out the NHL lockout.

Colorado College at Cornell: The Tigers won't start league play until next week (the WCHA schedule can drive you nuts, can't it?) but still face a difficult assignment as they head to New York to play the always-tough Big Red.

Canisius at Minnesota (Sunday only): The Gophers will take on the U.S. Under-18 team in an exhibition game tonight before hosting the Golden Griffins.

USCHO also did a league preview.

Check back on the blog later for MSU's official lineup and a live, in-game chat.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Minnesota State 'uni watch' (updated)

The Mavericks wore a new throwback/alternate jersey on Saturday night, and it may have been one of the best ones MSU has had since it started using third jerseys a few years ago. Here is this year's third jersey, followed by a collection of several of the team's past alternates. I'm missing one for sure (gold jersey with Minnesota State and the player's number on the front;  Thanks to alert reader Travis Schneider of Danube, I have a picture of the gold one and one other very special jersey (see below). Are there others I'm forgetting?

Tyler Elbrecht gets set to go on the ice Saturday night against RPI.
David Backes in the 1980 Division II national championship-inspired design.

Rylan Galiardi in the uniforms designed after the 1991 NCAA Division III runners up.

Old-school style but not a true throwback, with patch to honor 40 years of MSU hockey.

Gray-and-purple alternate from a few years ago.

Here is the gold version of that style. (Thanks, Travis Schneider!)

Last season's camouflage jerseys worn just once, against the U.S. national team. 

Then there is this one from 1999-2000, MSU's first year in the WCHA. What more can you say? (Thanks again, Travis!)

Meanwhile, here is this year's MSU women's home jersey, which is outstanding!

Monday, October 22, 2012

MSU women ranked, men get (more) votes

For the first time since Nov. 28, 2005, the Minnesota State women's hockey team are in the national top  10 rankings by U.S. College Hockey Online. Following their tie (and shootout victory) and win over Minnesota Duluth over the weekend, the Mavericks are ranked 10th in the country. They are 4-2-2. Minnesota is No. 1, and MSU will play No. 5 Mercyhurst in a nonconference series this weekend in Erie, Pa. The only other WCHA team in the top 10 is No. 8 North Dakota, against whom Minnesota State split a series earlier this season.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota State men's team — at 2-0-2, one of just two undefeated teams in the WCHA (Denver is the other) — is not in the USCHO top 20, but it is getting more votes than it did last week. With 39 points, MSU is essentially ranked No. 22 (officially among the others receiving votes), which puts them a couple of spots ahead of this week's opponent, St. Cloud State (12 points), as well as other WCHA programs like Omaha (28), Michigan Tech (16) and Wisconsin (10).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mavericks 4, Engineers 3 (OT)

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Purple Hayes: Eriah Hayes scored the game-winning goal just 69 seconds into overtime, showing quick reaction to swat at the puck that squirted to him on Matt Leitner's faceoff win. It was the second big goal Hayes, the senior forward and co-captain, has scored already this short season. His late goal a week earlier at Alabama Huntsville helped the Mavericks salvage a tie. Minnesota State is 2-0-2, yet to lose so far in the Mike Hastings era. The Mavericks have played three straight overtime games (as has RPI).

2. Late arriving? No worries: For the second straight game, the Mavericks had a rather ugly second period and were trailing going into the third period. The Engineers scored a power-play goal in each of the first two periods and led 2-0. MSU goalie Phil Cook (30 saves total, 17 in the second period) continued his more-than-solid play to keep it that close. But Minnesota awoke in the third, as they did on Friday, as Johnny McInnis and Eli Zuck tied the game with goals in the first 3:39. Freshman center Dylan Margonari (pictured) gave the Mavericks a 3-2 lead with 5:05 remaining in the game with a fabulous goal (hoping to find video of that one soon), but it didn't stand as the game-winner, as RPI's Matt Neal tied the game with 1:36 remaining and an extra attacker on the ice.

3. As advertised: The Mavericks freshman class sure looks the part already. Margonari is a bull out on the ice, and it's easy to see why Hastings has him centering one of the top two lines. Teddy Blueger had an important faceoff win that led to McInnis' goal (he has a goal and two assists on the year), while defenseman Jon Jutzi's took the shot that McInnis redirected. Bryce Gervais had the big game-tying goal on Friday, and Brett Knowles had an assist that night. We'll find out next week how the young fellas can hang in the WCHA.

Deep thought: Another one for the MSU women's team, which defeated Minnesota Duluth 1-0 on a 28-save performance by goaltender Danielle Butters. Butters has played in every game this season and has a .942 save percentage and a 1.84 goals-against average. Tracy McCann scored the game-winning goal at 11:34 of the third period. She leads MSU in scoring with six goals and five assists in eight games. The Mavericks have their first four-game unbeaten streak since early in the 2010 season. Minnesota State is now 4-2-2 (2-2-2 in the WCHA).

Read The Free Press' game story here.

Around the WCHA: Minnesota 3, Michigan Tech 2 ... Alaska Anchorage 6, Merrimack 3 ... St. Cloud State 4, Alabama Huntsville 0 ... Bemidji State 5, Lake Superior 0 ... Northern Michigan 2, Nebraska Omaha 1 ... Denver 5, Air Force 2 ... UMass-Lowell 3, Colorado College 1 ... North Dakota at Alaska (late)

Up next: MSU opens WCHA play at St. Cloud State Friday and Saturday.

MSU vs. RPI — Game 2

Lines can be found below the live chat ...

12-LaFontaine     18-Leitner           25-Hayes
21-Grant              26-Margonari      9-Gervais
24-Knowles         23-Blueger          22-McInnis
8-Gaede               29-Zuck              19-Lehrke

16-Elbrecht          17-Mosey
7-Palmquist          2-Nelson
27-Stern               28-Jutzi                


Scratches: Buchanan, Burkemper, Herndon, Knoll, Leivermann, Thauwald

22-Lee               12-Rogic              7-Schroeder
19-Zalewski       23-Higgs             28-Tinordi
9-Neal                15-Laliberte        39-Haggerty
17-Bubela          26-Miller             25-Commers

3-Leboeuf          29-Bailen
5-Curadi            10-Leonard
24-Bradley        11-Dolan


Referees: Don Adam, Timm Walsh. Linesmen: Matt Tyree, Brandon Polich

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mavericks 3, Engineers 3 (OT)

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. It's how you finish: The first 50 minutes of Friday's game were pretty ugly for the home team, as Minnesota State trailed 2-1 and was getting outshot 20-12 after the first two periods and then fell behind 3-1 at 7:19 of the third. But the Mavericks woke up and scored a pair of late goals to salvage the tie. Johnny McInnis (pictured) scored a goal with 9:22 to play, and freshman Bryce Gervais tied it up with 3:04 to go. McInnis had a solid game, as he also assisted on rookie Teddy Blueger's first-period power-play goal and had a team-leading four shots on goal.

2. A bit boxed up: Against Alabama Huntsville last week, Minnesota State committed just six penalties in the series. Against a strong, defensive RPI team, they went to the box eight times. Nothing horrible (RPI did the same) but certainly less than ideal. Chase Grant was called for three penalties, including two that negated MSU power plays. The Engineers scored two power play goals and got robbed on a couple of other Grade A chances by goaltender Phil Cook. Cook finished with 26 saves, including 11 the second period.

3. Hastings' home debut: The game, of course, was the first official home game for new MSU coach Mike Hastings. Hastings hasn't lost yet (1-0-2), but he didn't seem too pleased with the way Friday's game went overall, especially in front of the home crowd (announced at 3,266). "It's not a rainy day, it's not gloom and doom," he said. "But we have to be better and take responsibility — from the head coach on down."

Deep thought: Speaking of third-period heroics, the MSU women's team came from behind to tie Minnesota Duluth and then claim an extra WCHA point with a shootout win on Friday at All Seasons Arena. Trailing 3-0, the Mavericks got goals from Casey Hirsch, Tracy McCann and Kathleen Rogan in the final 9:14. Rogan's game-tying goal came with an extra attacker on the ice with 11 seconds to play. MSU is now 3-2-2.

Read The Free Press game story here.

Up next: The Mavericks and the Engineers play at 7:07 p.m. Saturday.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 5, Minnesota 3 ... Notre Dame 4, Minnesota Duluth 1 ... St. Cloud State 8, Alabama Huntsville 3 ... Lake Superior 2, Bemidji State 0 ... Nebraska Omaha 5, Northern Michigan 2 ... Colorado College 6, Air Force 2 ... North Dakota 5, Alaska Anchorage 0 ... Denver 5, UMass-Lowell 1

MSU vs. RPI — Game 1

Tonight's lines can be found below the live chat. With some changes to Cover It Live, The Free Press is exploring some new options for live chats. I'll be experimenting with ScribbleLive tonight. Let's see what happens. You can also find updates at Twitter.

21-Grant              18-Leitner         9-Gervais
12-LaFontaine     26-Margonari    25-Hayes
24-Knowles         23-Blueger        22-McInnis
19-Lehrke            29-Zuck            8-Gaede

16-Elbrecht          17-Mosey
7-Palmquist          2-Nelson
27-Stern               28-Jutzi                


Scratches: Buchanan, Burkemper, Herndon, Knoll, Leivermann, Thauwald

22-Lee               12-Rogic              7-Schroeder
19-Zalewski       23-Higgs             28-Tinordi
9-Neal                15-Laliberte        39-Haggerty
17-Bubela          26-Miller             14-Burgdoerfer

3-Leboeuf          29-Bailen
5-Curadi            10-Leonard
24-Bradley        11-Dolan


Referees: Don Adam, Timm Walsh. Linesmen: Matt Tyree, Brandon Polich

Friday-morning skate

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Minnesota State opens its home schedule tonight against Rensselaer. It's a matchup of two similar teams. Both are 1-0-1. Both had just 12 wins last season. And both were led last year by young players.

One player who wasn't there for the Mavericks last year was Chase Grant (pictured). He made quite the return from a season-ending hip injury by recording a hat trick a week ago, proving that he needs to be a key contributor to the team this year.

The link also has the MSU gameday preview. Some notes from that: Phil Cook will get the start in goal tonight, but coach Mike Hastings did not commit to a Saturday starter (Stephon Williams played the second game a week ago at Huntsville). ... Injured centers Dylan Margonari and Eli Zuck will be back in the lineup tonight. Margonari will skate between Eriah Hayes and Jean-Paul LaFontaine. ... Official lines will be posted later today.

As for the RPI Engineers, they had a good start to the year with a win and a tie against Ferris State. There are high hopes for sophomore forwards Jacob Laliberte and Matt Neal, who suffered through some injuries last year. Meanwhile, RPI coach Seth Appert also says that his team and Minnesota State are similar.

Going around the WCHA ...

Led by freshman goalie Matt McNeely Minnesota Duluth had a nice win on Thursday night, beating No. 9 Notre Dame 3-1 on the road.

Minnesota begins its final season in the WCHA before moving to the Big Ten when it plays a series at Michigan Tech. It's the only league series of the weekend. Gophers coach Don Lucia needs just one win to reach 600 for his long and successful coaching career, but he insists he's still the small-town guy from northern Minnesota. The Star Tribune has a WCHA preview here. The Huskies, meanwhile, are awaiting the near-unanimous No. 1 team in the nation.

St. Cloud State hosts Alabama Huntsville, the team that Minnesota State beat and tied a week ago. The Huskies are excited about the start for freshman Jimmy Murray. Huntsville, meanwhile, is hoping it made a good impression on WCHA officials during last week's series against MSU.

Bemidji State hosts Lake Superior in what will be a battle of league foes next year when Lake Superior joins the WCHA. It's also a series between a pair of old rivals.

Nebraska Omaha hosts Northern Michigan, the team that upset Wisconsin twice last weekend. Omaha's coaches certainly took note of what the Wildcats did, and assistant Troy Jutting calls Northern a "salt-of-the-earth hockey team" (How come he didn't give me quotes like that?)

Colorado College plays at Air Force and hosts UMass-Lowell, and those nonconference teams will also play at Denver, which opens its season this weekend. The Gazette has a good story about three CC players whose fathers played in the NHL. Also, the Tigers-Falcons matchup is always a big one in Colorado, while Air Force would love to win a "state championship" this weekend.

Meanwhile, Denver freshman Nolan Zajac is the fourth and final Zajac brother to play college hockey. Two of his brothers played at North Dakota (including New Jersey Devils star Travis) and another was at Union. Their dad, Tom, played college hockey at DU.

North Dakota and Alaska Anchorage are playing in Fairbanks' Alaska Gold Rush Tournament, and  No. 2 UND arrived there extremely short-handed due to injuries and suspensions.

Wisconsin doesn't play this weekend but it score a big win or loss from the NCAA as it awaits a ruling on the eligibility of freshman Nic Kerdiles.

More WCHA weekend previews here, here and here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Home opener approaching

Student tickets were distributed on Wednesday, and there seems to be a little more buzz about this weekend's Minnesota State men's hockey home opener than there was for the Mavericks' exhibition game a couple of weeks ago.

Hockey is definitely on the mind now that MSU has played a couple of games, getting that win and tie at Alabama Huntsville last weekend. In my Wednesday Free Press column, I wrote about how that series was just the first step it Mike Hastings' attempt to change the culture of the program. No easy task but one that seems to be taking place.

As for this weekend's series against RPI, the Mavericks appear to be healthier than they were a week ago. Freshman Dylan Margonari and senior Eli Zuck will be back in the lineup, which should help bolster the middle of MSU lineup. Margonari has been skating with Eriah Hayes and Jean-Paul LaFontaine in practice this week, and during his radio show on Wednesday night, Hastings said the group has been dominant.

Looking ahead to Friday, I will have a feature story in the Free Press on Chase Grant's triumphant return to the MSU lineup after missing nearly all of last season with an injury and subsequent surgery.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hockey Night in Mankato

A friend of mine has been clamoring for Minnesota State to do something like this for 12 years. Sounds like it could be a cool thing, especially on Mankato Marathon weekend. 

WCHA happenings (updated)

Bob Gathany/
It was an interesting opening weekend in the WCHA, whose teams went 9-6-2 in nonconference play over the weekend. That mark included Minnesota State's win and tie at Alabama Huntsville.

There's a nice photo gallery from the Mavericks' Saturday game against the Chargers here.

Minnesota swept Michigan State in impressive fashion, and Colorado College swept Clarkson. But Wisconsin and St. Cloud State were both beaten twice, somewhat surprisingly, by Northern Michigan and New Hampshire, respectively.

Minnesota Duluth (playing Ohio State) and Michigan Tech (Lake Superior State) split their first series, while Alaska Anchorage had a win over Canisius and a tie with Air Force in its tournament.

Nebraska Omaha beat Army then lost to Notre Dame in the Icebreaker tournament, which appeared to be played in front of literally dozens of people in Kansas City over the weekend. I'm all for trying to grow the sport of college hockey, but I'd rather see an opening-weekend tournament that also showcases the sport's fans. 

The more interesting news came off the ice, as WCHA referee Peter Friesema was arrested on Saturday and caused the Anchorage airport to be evacuated for allegedly making a joke about a bomb. Read the story here. Friesema had officiated the Anchorage tournament. The WCHA is expected to make a statement on the matter later today. UPDATE: The WCHA has suspended Friesema indefinitely, pending an investigation.

In Omaha, UNO has finally proposed its on-campus hockey arena, a 7,500-seat building that would also house the red Mavericks' basketball and volleyball teams. Costs are being estimated at $65 million to $80 million, and the school is hoping to finance it privately. Read more here.

Finally, the MSU women's hockey team continued its strong start to the season by sweeping Lindenwood in Mankato. The Mavericks are 3-2-1 and have head coach Eric Means back from suspension and their leading scorer from two years ago, Kathleen Rogan, back after an injury caused her to miss nearly a full calendar year of hockey. Check out my game story from Saturday here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mavericks 2, Chargers 2 (OT)

Eriah Hayes' goal with 2:14 remaining in the third period forced overtime and helped Minnesota State salvage a 2-2 tie with Alabama Huntsville on Saturday night.

The star of the game was Chargers goaltender John Griggs who stopped 51 of 53 shots and had 90 saves for the weekend. Perhaps it was no big deal that his predecessor transfered to North Dakota when it appeared that UAH's program was on the chopping block.

Hayes redirected in a shot by Zach Palmquist, and Evan Mosey had the assist. Johnny McInnis scored MSU's other goal with help from Teddy Blueger and Brett Stern. That goal made it 1-1 in the second period.

"For me, we still found a way to tie the game," coach Mike Hastings said in a phone call afterward. "I'm going to look at the positive."

Freshman goalie Stephon Williams made his collegiate debut and stopped 22 shots, including four in overtime. Both Huntsville goals were even-strength.

The Mavericks had 21 shots on goal in the third period and finished 0 for 6 on the power play.

"We've got to focus on getting a little bit dirty, getting to the dirty areas and getting those second and third (scoring) opportunities," Hastings said. "When you go oh-for on the power play, that can come back to bite you."

All in all, it sounds like a decent debut for coach Mike Hastings with a win and a tie on the road. Minnesota State (1-0-1) will return to Mankato and host Rensselaer on Friday and Saturday night.

More here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mavericks 4, Chargers 1

It might have been Mike Hastings' official debut as Minnesota State men's hockey coach, but it was also Chase Grant's official return.

Grant, who was a medical redshirt last season after a hip injury and subsequent surgery took him off the ice after just five games, was in full strength Friday night, netting a hat trick and assisting on another goal in MSU's season-opening victory over Alabama Huntsville on Friday.

Before a packed house of more than 5,100 fans who received free tickets to the game, Grant scored three power-play goals and assisted on Matt Leitner's short-handed goal. Leitner also had a four-point game, assisting on all three of Grant's goals.

"I told (Grant) after the game, 'It's really good to have you back,'" Hastings said in a phone interview afterward. "It's great for him, and Matt Leitner was really good again."

The Mavericks outshot the Chargers 41-25, including an 18-2 advantage in the first period, thanks to four power plays (MSU finished 3 for 7 on the PP). But they led just 1-0 and had a 2-1 lead after two periods. 

Hastings called it a "sandwich game" in which he liked how his new team started and how it finished but wasn't crazy about the middle. Grant and Leitner scored their goals about three minutes apart midway through the third period.

Phil Cool Cook got the start in goal and made 24 saves. Hastings said he made a couple of crucial stops in the second period when Cook had 17 saves.

Read more here. Check out some of MSU's postgame video here.

Minnesota State at Alabama Huntsville

Check the @puckato Twitter feed for updates on tonight's game. There will also be a recap on the blog later tonight. ... Here are tonight's MSU lines:

21-Grant              18-Leitner         9-Gervais
12-LaFontaine     19-Lehrke         25-Hayes
15-Burkemper      23-Blueger       22-McInnis
8-Gaede               24-Knowles      11-Leivermann

16-Elbrecht          17-Mosey
27-Stern               7-Palmquist
28-Jutzi                2-Nelson


Scratches on trip: Thauwald, Buchanan
Back in Kato: Herndon, Karambelas, Knoll (inj.), Margonari (inj.), Zuck (inj.)

Friday morning skate

Finally, it's gameday!

Unfortunately, PucKato remains back in Mankato while the Mavericks are in Huntsville, Ala., for their first series of the season and first series for new coach Mike Hastings. I'll be monitoring the game from the radio and will tweet some updates throughout the day as well as post some recaps afterward.

The Mavericks' linechart will look a little different than the exhibition game, as senior Eli Zuck and freshman Dylan Margonari were left behind with injuries. The top two lines will look the same, with J.P. Burkemper taking Margonari's spot on the third line. The fourth most likely will include the combination of Max Gaede, Brett Knowles and Corey Leivermann, with Charlie Thauwald going as the extra forward.

Defensively, all seven healthy defensemen are on the trip, with freshman Nick Buchanan as the extra. Hastings suggested senior Phil Cook is the likely starter in goal tonight but did not commit to a Saturday starter. Freshman Stephon Williams is on the trip.

Read more about the Mavericks, Hastings and preview the Huntsville series here.

The Chargers, meanwhile, are a program that was on the chopping block a year ago only to be given an 11th-hour reprieve. They're still without a conference affiliation but would love to make a good impression on the WCHA this weekend. Reportedly, WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod will be at tonight's game, and tickets are free, even though MSU is the only Division I team playing at Huntsville this season.

Going around the rest of the WCHA ...

Minnesota opens the season by hosting future Big Ten brethren Michigan State. The Gophers appear to be great, but there are questions in goal, where Kent Patterson must be replaced.

St. Cloud State begins the year at New Hampshire in a matchup of teams that had similar seasons a year ago.

Wisconsin will meet Northern Michigan halfway, playing a series in Green Bay, Wis. For the Badgers, sophomore defenseman Jake McCabe has some big skates to fill.

Minnesota Duluth hosts Ohio State, and the Bulldogs have all kinds of holes to fill after the departure of so much talent to graduation and early departures. Among those tough tasks is replacing Kenny Reiter in goal. Two-year backup Aaron Crandall will get the nod, but the Buckeyes' Brady Hjelle might have had that job had he not transfered from UMD.

Colorado College opens the season by hosting Clarkson, and the Tigers are hoping to have another strong start to the season like they did last year — while avoiding the late-year collapse that took place in February.

Nebraska Omaha will play in the IceBreaker Tournament in Kansas City with Army tonight and Notre Dame or Maine on Saturday. Red Mavericks coach Dean Blais believes his team might have the best defensive corps in the WCHA this season.

Alaska Anchorage will host Canisius and Air Force in the Kendall Hockey Classic to open the season.

Michigan Tech opened the season with a 4-2 loss Thursday night at Lake Superior State; the two teams will play again on Saturday night in Houghton, Mich.

North Dakota and Bemidji State are still in exhibition mode and will play the U.S. Under-18 team today and Saturday, respectively. Denver does not play this weekend.

Other coverage includes WCHA previews by USCHO, Inside College Hockey and College Hockey News. The latter also has a Q&A with Mike Hastings, and you can read USCHO's Minnesota State preview here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Purple Hayes

Pat Christman/The Free Press
First of all, I love this photo by Pat Christman, which was taken during Minnesota State's media day on Oct. 4. It makes Mavericks senior Eriah Hayes look bigger than life but also shows that he's in the spotlight now.

Hayes is a co-captain (along with second-year C-wearer Tyler Elbrecht) this season, and the 6-foot-4 winger will be a key to MSU's success. There are a lot of good, young players on the team, with some proven sophomore scorers and a lot of excitement and potential in the rookie class. Hayes is charged with leading and, in some ways, nurturing that group, but he's also trying to find more consistency in his game in his final season of college hockey.

That consistency won't just make the Mavericks a better team this season but could also set Hayes up for the start of a career in the pro game after graduation.

Read my Free Press feature on Hayes here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Looking at the Mavs: Goaltenders

Listening to the WCHA conference call on Tuesday morning, netminding was a common theme. With only a couple of exceptions, goaltending is going to be a big question mark for a lot of teams — a lot of good teams — this season.

For Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings, that question chiefly depends on the ability of Phil Cook. Cook, a senior, is the only real known commodity on the roster when it comes to the goalie position. After Cook, there is sophomore Evan Karambelas and freshman Stephon Williams, a player who MSU coaches were excited about when he committed and signed with the school.

Cook's career numbers are solid. Over three season's he's played in 63 games and has a .900 save percentage and a 3.04 goals against average. His record over that span is 25-27-6. Last season, he had some games early in the year in which he struggled mightily. But after Christmas, he went on a nice run that included a 3-0 home shutout of Wisconsin and a pair of unlucky 2-1 losses. By playoff time, Austin Lee (who ended up getting voted team MVP after the season), was the No. 1 guy.

Hastings has hinted that Cook will get the first shot in goal on Friday night. The new coach wants to rely on his seniors, and Cook usually is the first player mentioned after captains Tyler Elbrecht and Eriah Hayes. Cook is capable — he's athletic and competitive and teammates seem to like playing in front of him — but can he be consistent?

Karambelas has made just one non-exhibition appearance for the Mavericks, replacing Cook against Alaska Anchorage last Thanksgiving-time and ending up getting a six-save, come-from-behind tie out of the deal. Is he a player in line to compete for a starting job or is he resigned to be a No. 3 goalie?

Williams, a Fairbanks, Alaska, native, is a player that had an outside shot at getting drafted last summer but was passed over. After a solid regular season in the USHL last year, he backstopped Waterloo's run to the Clark Cup finals. It seems like he's the goalie of the future for the Mavs; how soon that future begins remains to be seen.

Minnesota State goaltenders (2011-12 stats)
Phil Cook, jr. (17 games, 7-8-0, .887 SV%, 3.07 GAA)
Evan Karambelas, so. (1 game, 0-0-1, 1.000 SV%, 0.00 GAA)
Stephon Williams, fr.

Hastings joins elite club

The annual WCHA preseason coaches conference call on Tuesday had a few themes. Goaltending was a big one. Outdoor games was another (Minnesota and Wisconsin will play one in Chicago, Nebraska Omaha will host one against North Dakota, Michigan Tech will play in the Great Lakes Invitational, which is lated to be outdoors in Detroit this season). Crappy cellphone coverage and lousy speaker phones was one more (conference calls sure sounded a lot better in the days of land lines).

But nearly every coach started his statement by welcoming Mike Hastings to their exclusive club of WCHA coaches. That was the focus of my Free Press column on Wednesday, and you can read that here. I also covered some of the other highlights of those kind words for the new MSU coach on Twitter yesterday.

It's amazing how small the college hockey world is and how many connections Hastings has with those coaches. He worked as an assistant for Minnesota's Don Lucia and Nebraska Omaha's Dean Blais (Lucia said he is proud to now have three former assistants in the league — Hastings, St. Cloud State's Bob Motzko and Colorado College's Scott Owens). Wisconsin's Mike Eaves was an assistant at SCSU when Hastings played there. Hastings and Bemidji State's Tom Serratore were assistants together at St. Cloud for a year. Motzko talked about being classmates with Hastings there. Owens talked about competing with Hastings when they were both successful USHL coaches, Owens with Des Moines and Hastings with Omaha.

Although it didn't come up on Tuesday, Motzko went head to head with Hastings in the USHL, as did North Dakota's Dave Hakstol. Certainly, all of the coaches ran into Hastings at one point or another as they attempted to recruit his junior players in Omaha.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Looking at the Mavs: defensemen

The following is a glance at Minnesota State's players for the 2012-13 season. Today focuses on the defensemen.

Minnesota State has six veteran defenseman on its roster this season, as well as a pair of freshmen who add more size to the back end.

Senior Tyler Elbrecht is the leader of the group and of the team, sharing captain duties with forward Eriah Hayes. Elbrecht missed a big chunk of the first half of last season with a broken arm, and it was devastating for the Mavericks. I even argued that he could have been the team MVP after looking at the Mavericks' record and stats with him in the lineup vs. with him out. Elbrecht is the team's most physical defenseman and, as he showed during Sunday's exhibition game, he's always eager to defend his teammates.

Another senior, Evan Mosey, played in every game last year and has some offensive ability. As a senior, the Mavericks undoubtedly will be counting on some leadership from him as well. Junior Josh Nelson was one of MSU's most improved players a year ago after some struggles early in the season.

Sophomore Zach Palmquist is a player and jumped in on the power play as a freshman without too much transition at all. He played in every game and compiled 19 points, tops among D-men and sixth on the team. Based on what the Mavs showed on Sunday, 6-foot-2 freshman Jon Jutzi is poised to be a power-play staple as well. Hastings has had good things to say about Jutzi since the day he was hired (I wonder if that was a player he was looking at when he was recruiting for Nebraska Omaha).

The 6-3, 205-pound Buchanan is a good-sized defensive defenseman, as is sophomore Brett Stern, whom Elbrecht has dubbed his "Mini-Me." Stern had some injury issues last season and played in just 19 games. The Mavericks can't afford to have too many health problems on defense, as they are down to just seven right  now. Sophomore Mat Knoll — who was voted MSU's most-improved player last year — is out indefinitely with eye issues. He has had one eye surgery and has another one scheduled for next month.

Danny Heath would have been a junior this year. He played in just five career games, including two last year. But concussions forced him to quit the game. He remains involved with the team as a student-assistant (perhaps he's the next Mike Hastings).

Minnesota State defensemen (2011-12 stats)
Zach Palmquist, so. (38 games, 6-13—19)
Evan Mosey, sr. (38 games, 2-8—10)
Tyler Elbrecht, sr. (25 games, 1-5—6)
Josh Nelson, jr. (32 games, 1-5—6)
Mat Knoll, so. (25 games, 1-1—2)
Brett Stern, so. (19 games, 0-1—1)
Nick Buchanan, fr.
Jon Jutzi, fr.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Looking at the Mavs: Forwards

The following is a glance at Minnesota State's players for the 2012-13 season. Today focuses on the forwards.

Minnesota State returns its top four scoring forwards from a year ago in Matt Leitner, Jean Paul LaFontaine, Eriah Hayes and Zach Lehrke. Last season, Leitner, LaFontaine and Hayes played together most of the season and were an excellent group, but that trio was broken up for Sunday's exhibition game.

With the talented Leitner centering Chase Grant and freshman Bryce Gervais, and the underrated Lehrke taking the spot between LaFontaine (an all-WCHA rookie team pick last year) and Hayes, the Mavericks look like they have some real offensive depth up front.

"We've got four lines that all can put the puck in the net," Leitner said after his four-point game against Lethbridge. "As a team we feel we can throw anybody out there."

Having Grant back from a season lost to injury certainly helps (he had 20 points as a freshman in '10-11), and this year's rookie class of Gervais, Teddy Blueger, Brett Knowles and Dylan Margonari has been highly touted since they signed their NLIs last November. Gervais had a three-point game in the exhibition, and Blueger, a second-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer, showed some flash, including a pretty no-look pass to set up a power play goal. But it was the lesser-hyped Margonari who turned some heads, as he showed some speed and a pretty shot for a goal before leaving the game with a minor injury.

The 6-4, 210-pound Hayes is playing for his senior season as well as for what's to follow (he'll be a free agent); everything points to him being be motivated by both prospects. Johnny McInnis took a big step forward last year, earning and then keeping a spot as a solid two-way player. J.P. Burkemper has shown promise in the past when he's been healthy (he was held out Sunday to rest a minor injury).

Coach Mike Hastings said on Sunday that, when healthy, the Mavericks have enough depth to play four lines. Who will fill in the lineup? The Lethbridge game began with Margonari, Max Gaede and senior Eli Zuck on the fourth line, with Mankato native Corey Leivermann, Charlie Thauwald and Taylor Herndon not getting in the game until the second period.

Minnesota State forwards (2011-12 stats)
Matt Leitner, so. (38 games, 11-18—29)
Jean-Paul LaFontaine, so. (38 games, 13-15—28)
Eriah Hayes, sr. (36 games, 13-11—24)
Zach Lehrke, jr. (35 games, 13-10—23)
Johnny McInnis, jr. (37 games, 8-7—15)
Eli Zuck, sr. (35 games, 4-10—14)
Max Gaede, so. (30 games, 3-4—7)
J.P. Burkemper, jr. (17 games, 2-3—5)
Corey Leivermann, jr. (21 games, 1-0—1)
Charlie Thauwald, so. (7 games, 0-1—1)
Chase Grant, so. (5 games, 0-0—0)*
Teddy Blueger, fr.
Bryce Gervais, fr.
Taylor Herndon, fr.
Brett Knowles, fr.
Dylan Margonari, fr.

* = medical redshirt

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Minnesota State 7, Lethbridge 1 (exhibition)

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. A little chemistry: Matt Leitner led the Mavericks in assists and points last season playing most of the year with Jean-Paul LaFontaine and Eriah Hayes. On Sunday, he was placed between Chase Grant and freshman Bryce Gervais (pictured) and showed that he can dish the puck to anybody. Leitner finished with a goal and three assists. Gervais, "a pure goal scorer," according to his new center, finished with two goals and an assist. Grant, back from a medical redshirt season, had two assists. "Obviously when you see a group have some chemistry like 9 (Gervais), 18 (Leitner) and 21 (Grant) had ... it's very positive," coach Mike Hastings said.

2. How good a test? The game was tied 1-1 after one period, but the Mavericks dominated after that. They scored seven unanswered goals and outshot the Pronghorns 65-10 for the game. Goalie Phil Cook stopped five of six shots in the first period. Evan Karambelas got the win, stopping just three shots in the second period. And freshman Stephon Williams had to make just one save in the third, as the Mavericks had a 29-1 advantage over the final 20 minutes. "We have a long ways to go," Hastings said. "I like that we played for 60 minutes, especially the way we finished. Obviously, our power play needs a lot of work." Johnny McInnis scored the lone power play goal. The Mavericks were 1 for 5 with the advantage with 21 shots on net.

3. Quiet crowd: Early October hockey is often a tough sell. Probably tougher when it's an exhibition game at 5 p.m. on a lovely fall Sunday and right in the middle of the now-4-1 Vikings game. No one should be shocked that a crowd of just 1,222 was announced. Still, I thought there would be more students in the crowd as well as more people who wanted to check out Hastings' first game behind the bench. There were a lot of young hockey players there who got free tickets for the game during this weekend's tryouts. The Mavs will be off to Alabama Huntsville next weekend and will return to Mankato Oct. 19-20 to take on RPI.

Deep thought: Freshman Dylan Margonari left the game in the second period with what appeared to be a painful leg injury. Hastings did not have a status report after the game, but Margonari, who scored a pretty goal earlier in the second period, was seen leaving the rink after the game on his own power. It did not appear to be a serious injury.

Read The Free Press game story here.

MSU vs. Lethbridge (updates)

Third period update ... MSU 7, Lethbridge 1 (final)
First a note from the second period: Margonari, who played so well in the second period left the ice in a lot of pain and with some assistance and did not return to the game. Will try to update. ... Johnny McInnis made it a 5-1 game with a power-play goal in the third; he took a nice no-look pass down low from freshman Teddy Blueger for the goal. Leitner also assisted on the play for a three-point game. ... Leitner scored his fourth point by assisting on Gervais' second goal at 13:28 to make it 6-1 and total domination by the Mavericks. ... Senior defenseman Evan Mosey poured it on with a hard-working goal with 8.6 seconds to play. ... Freshman goalie Stephon Williams played in goal for the third period and didn't see a shot until late in the period. Final shots ended up 65-10 for the game, 29-1 in that frame.


Second period update ... MSU 4 Lethbridge 1
The Mavericks started scoring in the second, getting a remarkable wrist shot from senior captain Eriah Hayes just 39 seconds into the frame. The goal was unassisted. ... Less than 4 minutes later, freshman center Dylan Margonari worked hard to get to a loose puck and scored to make it 3-1. Fellow rookie Brett Knowles assisted on the play. Later, Leitner and Gervais hooked up again, this time with Gervais sending a pretty backhand pass across the goal mouth to Leitner to make it 4-1. ... Evan Karambelas played in goal, and it was a yawner as he saw just three shots. The Mavericks had a 20-3 shot advantage that period.


First period update ... MSU 1, Lethbridge 1
Lethbridge got on the board first, scoring at 6:34, after getting shut out 7-0 on Saturday night at Minnesota. ... The Mavericks tied the game on a rebound goal by freshman forward Bryce Gervais at 6:34. Matt Leitner and Chase Grant had assists. ... The Mavericks' first power play group included Leitner, Grant, Gervais, Zach Palmquist and Zach Lehrke. The second group was Jean-Paul LaFontaine, Teddy Blueger, Johnny McInnis, Jon Jutzi and Eriah Hayes. ... Phil Cook was in goal for the first period and stopped five shots. The Mavericks outshot the Pronghorns 15-6.


Pregame notes (5:03 p.m.)
Former Minnesota State player Matt Tyree is making his debut as a WCHA linesman tonight. The St. Peter resident has been officiating in professional hockey for awhile, including in the American Hockey League. ... Talked to MSU's scratches before the game. Burkemper said he could have played if it was a regular-season game. Sounds like Hastings is being cautious with a tweaked hip. ... As for Knoll, he said he could be out for awhile. He has had surgery on one eye for a detached retina and has another eye surgery (the other eye) scheduled for next month. Tough to be down a veteran defenseman right away. ... Former MSU player Jon Kalkinski's brother Devon plays for Lethbridge.


We're still a few hours from game time, but Minnesota State put out its linechart for tonight's exhibition game this afternoon. Since it's an exhibition, there are no limitations on how many players can dress, so the Mavericks have five lines of forwards, seven defensemen and two scratches. Defenseman Mat Knoll is out with an eye injury, but I'm not sure what's up with J.P. Burkemper yet.

Be sure to check back on the blog for updates before, during and after the game, as well as on Twitter.

21-Grant              18-Leitner         9-Gervais
12-LaFontaine     19-Lehrke        25-Hayes
24-Knowles         23-Blueger       22-McInnis
29-Zuck               26-Margonari     8-Gaede
11-Leivermann     14-Herndon     20-Thauwald

16-Elbrecht     17-Mosey
27-Stern            7-Palmquist
4-Buchanan      2-Nelson


Scratches: Knoll, Burkemper

Hastings' MSU debut 25 years in the making

Pat Christman/The Free Press
A little Sunday-morning reading on the first gameday of the hockey season ...

Mike Hastings will make his debut behind the Minnesota State bench tonight. It's a moment that's been 25 years in the making, starting with an injury suffered while playing for St. Cloud State in 1987. The career-ending broken back turned into a student-assistant coaching position, thanks to then-Huskies coach Craig Dahl.

Dahl is one of several influential personalities who helped shape Hastings' coaching career, including Herb Brooks, Don Lucia, Dean Blais, Frank Serratore and Mike Guentzel. But Dahl said Hastings still had to make the most of those opportunities.

"The thing he's got is aptitude for coaching," Dahl said. "He's got the work ethic. He's got the passion. He's got the personality you have to have to be able to recruit. ... I don't take credit. I have him an opportunity. He still had to have the want-to."

Read the entire story on The Free Press website here.

There is also an MSU outlook on the website, although I plan to expand on that this week on the blog.

As for tonight's game, the new Cover It Live pay system has forced us to look for other ways to do live chats.

As of right now, there will be no chat. However, I will be posting updates on Twitter, as well as on the blog. Look for a You Want Answers Q&A blog post — your opportunity to ask me questions about this year's team (or any other pressing matters) — later this week.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hastings' first practice

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Mike Hastings said he woke up Saturday morning, got a cup of coffee and was wished "good luck" by his wife.

Sure, Minnesota State has been going through limited preseason practices since mid-September and Hastings has been on the job since mid-April. But Saturday was the national start day for men's college hockey, and Hastings was going to get two full practices with his team.

"To me it's different," Hastings said.

The Mavericks held a two-hour morning practice at All Seasons Arena and are scheduled to have an evening session on Saturday night.

"It was a good day," Hastings said. "Obviously, there are a lot of things we've got to work on, but the leaders did a good job making sure the guys were ready to go."

All but two players were on the ice Saturday. Missing were senior forward Eriah Hayes, who was excused for a family obligation, and sophomore defenseman Mat Knoll, who is out with an eye injury.

For the rest of the players, some said Saturday gave them a different feeling, too.

"There's been a learning curve (in the preseason)," said sophomore forward Chase Grant, who is returning from a season in which he missed all but five games. "But today there are no excuses. ... I'm not saying (Hastings) is more strict, but expectations are higher."

Junior forward Johnny McInnis said things have been "definitely amped up a bit."

That's true on the practice sheet as well as the season,  as the Mavericks will play an exhibition game at 5:07 p.m. Sunday at the Verizon Wireless Center.

Despite it being the first day of the season, several teams are in action already Saturday night with exhibitions, including WCHA teams Michigan Tech, Minnesota, North Dakota, Denver, Wisconsin and Alaska Anchorage. The Gophers are playing Lethbridge, MSU's opponent on Sunday.

Be sure to check out Sunday's edition of The Free Press for more stories, including a long piece on Hastings' 25-year journey from a student-assistant to head coach of the Mavericks.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Coaches agree, vote Mavs 10th

The 42nd annual (and presumably last) Grand Forks Herald WCHA Coaches Poll was released late Wednesday night, and the coaches agreed with last week's media poll and picked Minnesota State to finish 10th in the 12-team league.

Here are the results of the poll:

1. Minnesota 121 points (11 first-place votes)
2. North Dakota 110 (1)
3. Denver 91
4. St. Cloud State 90
5. Wisconsin 70
6. Minnesota Duluth 69
7. Colorado College 56
8. T-Nebraska Omaha 51
8. T-Michigan Tech 51
10. Minnesota State 37
11. Bemidji State 31
12. Alaska Anchorage 15

Preseason player of the year: Nick Bjugstad, F, Minnesota (8); Mark Zengerle, F, Wisconsin (2); Matt White, F, Omaha (1); Ben Hanowski, F, St. Cloud (1)

Preseason rookie of the year: Rocco Grimaldi, F, North Dakota (7); Mike Reilly, D, Minnesota (3); Nic Kerdiles, F, Wisconsin (1); Andrew Welinski, D, Duluth (1)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Elbrecht, Hayes named MSU captains

Minnesota State announced its captains on Monday, and senior forward Eriah Hayes (right) and senior defenseman Tyler Elbrecht will wear the Cs this season.

Hayes shared the team lead for goals last season, scoring 13, and finished the year with 25 points in 36 games. In three seasons, the La Crescent native has played in 112 games, compiling 32 goals and 28 assists.

Elbrecht, who was a captain last season as well, has played in 101 career games for the Mavericks. The Edwardsville, Ill., native has racked up 19 points for his career.

No real surprise here, especially with Elbrecht serving as a captain last season. Also, new coach Mike Hastings seemed to designate Elbrecht and Hayes as his offseason leaders. However, the team votes for the captains, and that, I'm told, took place in recent days.

This summer, Hastings said that he takes the captaincy very seriously, saying, "I am hard on my captains." Both of those players, based on how they've carried themselves over the last three years, appear to be up to the task.

Preseason poll ... MSU gets votes

The first poll of the season was released on Monday, and Boston College was voted the No. 1 team in the country, followed by Minnesota. Minnesota State received two votes is among the 20 other teams besides the top 20 getting some consideration. (Full disclosure: I am a voter and had the Gophers No. 1; Minnesota State did not appear in my top 20.) Anyway, here is the the first poll:

Team                (First Place)   Record    Pts  Last Week
 1 Boston College            (35)   33-10-1   972    NR
 2 Minnesota                 (12)   28-14-1   937    NR
 3 Michigan                  ( 3)   24-13-4   857    NR
 4 North Dakota                     26-13-3   826    NR
 5 Union                            26- 8-7   789    NR
 6 Cornell                          19- 9-7   631    NR
 7 Massachusetts-Lowell             24-13-1   599    NR
 8 Denver                           25-14-4   566    NR
 9 Miami                            24-15-2   553    NR
10 Western Michigan                 21-14-6   516    NR
11 Ferris State                     26-12-5   472    NR
12 Minnesota-Duluth                 25-10-6   460    NR
13 Boston University                23-15-1   413    NR
14 Notre Dame                       19-18-3   395    NR
15 Maine                            23-14-3   234    NR
16 Michigan State                   19-16-4   219    NR
17 Harvard                          13-10-11  213    NR
18 Wisconsin                        17-18-2   202    NR
19 Air Force                        21-11-7   116    NR
20 Colorado College                 18-16-2    81    NR

Others receiving votes: New Hampshire 78, St. Cloud State
78, Quinnipiac 64, Ohio State 54, Merrimack 43,
Nebraska-Omaha 31, Northern Michigan 25, Massachusetts 13,
Lake Superior 12, Northeastern 11, Providence 8, RIT 6, Yale
6, Michigan Tech 5, Rensselaer 5, Mercyhurst 2, Minnesota
State 2, Niagara 2, Colgate 1, St. Lawrence 1.

The Poll consists of 50 voters, including 28 coaches
from the Division I conferences and 22 beat writers and sports
professionals from across the country. The poll, published weekly
by the Associated Press, is a production of, which
provides in-depth coverage of college hockey.

MSU tickets on sale

Single-game tickets for Minnesota State men's hockey went on sale at 10 a.m. today, according to the Greater Mankato Convention and Visitor's Bureau. The Mavericks' first exhibition game — and first look at new head coach Mike Hastings in action — is in just six days away, as they play Lethbridge at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7. The first regular-season home games are Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19-20 against RPI.

Did you get your tickets today?