Saturday, May 26, 2012

He did it again

The Associated Press
Ryan Carter is suddenly a goal scorer for the New Jersey Devils. The former Minnesota State player scored the game's first goal on Friday night, and the Devils went on to defeat the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime to advance to the Stanley Cup finals against the Los Angeles Kings. The Devils and the Kings will begin their series on Wednesday.

For Carter he is hoping to get his name on the world's most famous trophy for the second time, having won it with the Anaheim Ducks in 2008. As I've pointed out several times, Carter was a bit player that season, getting just 2:45 of ice time in the finals — enough to get his name on the trophy and his day with the Cup, which he brought to Mankato for a few hours (he also took it to St. Paul and his hometown of White Bear Lake that day).

Despite being a fourth-liner, Carter has been much more of a factor in the playoffs this season. He has four goals, including three against the Rangers, the Devils' arch rival. He also has two assists and is +6 in 17 playoff games.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ryan Carter, No. 1 star (and other stuff)

The Associated Press
On a team with Zach Parise, Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk and other superstars, it was former Minnesota State player Ryan Carter who was the hero of Game 5 Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. Carter scored the game-winning goal, breaking a 3-3 tie with 4:24 remaining in the third period to give the New Jersey Devils an eventual 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers and a 3-2 lead in the series. Carter, a fourth liner who was cross-checked in the throat by his nemesis, the Rangers' (and former Gopher) Stu Bickel in Game 4, has three goals in the playoffs. Read an excellent post-game story on Carter's night here.

Carter wasn't the only former Mav celebrating on Wednesday night. In the ECHL, Trevor Bruess' and Rylan Galiardi's Florida Everblades won the Kelly Cup as that league's champions, beating the Las Vegas Wranglers (with Channing Boe and Joe Schiller).

Meanwhile in the USHL, the Green Bay Gamblers won the Clark Cup on Wednesday night, beating the Waterloo Black Hawks in the decisive fifth game. Waterloo goalie and future Maverick Stephon Williams  stopped 28 of 32 shots in the 5-2 loss.

The Free Press
Back to Carter, I always thought his early departure was one of the biggest blows to Minnesota State's long-term development as a program — maybe second to Grant Stevenson.

Carter left MSU following his sophomore season. It was the same year All-American David Backes departed. The difference was Backes, a junior, was a high draft pick of the St. Louis Blues, and leaving early seemed inevitable. Carter's signing was a shocker. At the time, MSU coach Troy Jutting called it a "punch to the gut."

But it was hard to blame Carter for leaving.

He was coming off a 19-goal, 35-point season (34 goals, 58 points in 76 career games), and was good in all areas of the ice. He had a cannon shot on the power play, was good on the kill and I'm trying to think if the Mavericks have had a better faceoff man since he left. After playing two years of junior hockey and two years of college hockey, the undrafted forward was 22 years old. He admittedly never thought he'd have such a chance after two seasons and had to wonder if another opportunity like the Anaheim Ducks offered him would come along again.

The Free Press
As an NHL player, Carter has been a survivor, moving up and down from the minors to the majors, getting waived. He's played for the Ducks (winning a Stanley Cup in 2008), Hurricanes, Panthers and Devils. The Devils signed him in October after Florida let him go just seven games into the season. The main reason for the pickup: Devils coach Peter DeBoer, who was with the Panthers last year, really liked Carter. It's amazing what can happen to a player when a coach believes in him.

Carter has carved out an identity as a fourth-line grinder and sometimes fighter. But he played in a career-high 65 NHL games during the regular season. He had four goals and four assists and 84 penalty minutes. In the playoffs, he has five points, including three goals, including a big game-tying goal a week ago in an eventual Game 2 win against the Rangers.

Of course, none was bigger than the one he scored Wednesday night.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Penticton wins RBC Cup

The Penticton Vees, which have two Minnesota State recruits amid a wealth of other future college-hockey talent, captured the RBC Cup as Canada's Junior A national champions on Sunday.

The Vees defeated the Woodstock Slammers 4-3 with a last-minute goal by Joey Benik, an Andover  native and St. Cloud State commit.

Penticton was down 3-2 early in the third period, and future Maverick Bryce Gervais scored midway through the period to tie the game at 3.

It's been quite a season for the Vees, who won 54 games and had an amazing 42-game winning streak during the season. As loaded as they are, though, they lost their first two games of the RBC Cup tournament before going on a run to take the title.

Coached by former St. Cloud State assistant Fred Harbison, the Vees have a ton of players you'll see in the college game very soon, including Gervais, Benik and Nick Buchanan, a defenseman committed to Minnesota State. Here are the others:

Wade Murphy, Merrimack
Mario Lucia, Notre Dame
Travis St. Denis, Quinnipiac
Troy Stecher, Nebraska Omaha
Mike Reilly, Minnesota
Steven Fogarty, Notre Dame
Logan Johnston, UMass-Lowell
Ryan Reilly, Minnesota
Curtis Loik, Penn State
Cody DePourcq, Denver
D.J. Jones, Army
Connor Reilly, Minnesota

The Reillys are brothers from Chanhassen. Lucia is the son of Minnesota coach Don Lucia and is from Wayzata. Jones is from Plymouth.


Meanwhile in the USHL, Waterloo Black Hawks goalie and MSU commit Stephon Williams had another fine performance, stopping 32 of 33 shots, but he and his team lost 2-0 (with an empty-netter) to the Green Bay Gamblers in Game 2 of the Clark Cup finals on Sunday. The series is tied 1-1. Game 3 is Friday night in Waterloo.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Williams' bare-handed save

Saturday night was a good night for Minnesota State recruits.

Bryce Gervais and Nick Buchanan and the Penticton Vees advanced to the finals of the RBC Cup, Canada's Junior A national championship. The British Columbia/western Canada champs will play the Woodstock Slammers of the Maritime Junior Hockey League at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Meanwhile in the United States Hockey League, the Waterloo Black Hawks won Game 1 of the Clark Cup finals 2-1 over the Green Bay Gamblers in Green Bay behind goalie Stephon Williams' 37-save performance. Game 2 of the best-of-five series takes place Sunday.

You can watch postgame video of Williams here. But be sure to watch the highlight of his bare-handed save from last week's series-clinching win over Lincoln above this post.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Catching up

Here are a few things happening on the college-hockey beat, both in and out of Mankato.

• In case you missed it, money for upgrades to the Verizon Wireless Center were left out of Minnesota's state bonding bill. What will Mankato do? One option, according to Dan Linehan's story in The Free Press, would be to start some of the hockey part of the project anyway, including replacing boards and ice-making equipment. However, the city is not sure whether it would be able to do that before the upcoming season. There's no question that, given the age of the arena, that those fixes have to be done.

• Some news out of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference: the upstart league has hired Joe Novak as its director of hockey operations. Novak is the assistant athletic director at Air Force. He will be in charge of officials, discipline and scheduling. ... Also, there are more rumblings around the NCHC that it will hold its conference championship at Target Center in Minneapolis. How does that affect the WCHA? It could leave the Xcel Energy Center open every other year when the Big Ten is not there. However, the WCHA has a lot to figure out; there seems to be no ideal locations/format right now.

• Former Maverick Ryan Carter is going to the NHL's Eastern Conference Finals with the New Jersey Devils, who defeated the Flyers 3-1 on Tuesday to take the series. Carter played 11 minutes on Tuesday after sitting out Monday's game with food poisoning. Apparently, Carter's playoff mustache and inability to grow a proper playoff beard has been a popular subject around the Jersey dressing room.

• Madison's Andy Baggot reported this week that Wisconsin is losing a couple of players who wil be transferring to Division III programs. One of those players, New Prague's Tyler Lapic, appears to be headed to Gustavus Adolphus after playing in just four games for the Badgers as a freshman.

• The USHL's Clark Cup Finals are set and will begin on Saturday. Future Minnesota State goaltender Stephon Williams and the Waterloo Black Hawks will take on the Green Bay Gamblers for the title. Williams is 8-2 in the playoffs with a .925 save percentage and 2.21 goals-against average. He has one shutout.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What's Mike Hastings up to?

I had a chance to sit down with new Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings on Friday morning. Read about what he's been up to in Saturday's Free Press. The story can be found here.

More to come on the blog later. ...

Friday, May 4, 2012

MSU awards: Lee named MVP

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Minnesota State announced its team award winners for the 2011-12 season on Friday, and senior goaltender Austin Lee was named the team's most valuable player.

Lee closed out his career with a 56-save performance in the Mavericks' double-overtime loss to Minnesota Duluth in Game 2 of their WCHA playoff series. Lee won five games during the season and had a .910 save percentage and a 3.07 goals-against average.

Other award winners included:

• Joe Schiller, Unsung Hero and the Don Brose Leadership Award.

• Mat Knoll and Johnny McInnis, tied for the Most Improved Player Award

• Adam Mueller, Hustle Award (hardest worker)

You can read MSU's full release on the award winners here.

So how did PucKato do in his predictions? Well, 2 for 4, not bad. I picked Tyler Elbrecht as MVP and hardest worker but picked Schiller for Unsung Hero and McInnis for Most Improved.

Hastings returns, recruits still playing

New Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings returned to Mankato this week for the first time since his introductory press conference. It's been a whirlwind couple of days for Hastings, who has traveled to the Czech Repbulic, watched games in the U.S. and attended the coaches convention and league meetings in Florida. 

On Thursday, he had meetings with MSU's players, and today his duties include recording radio promos for the Mavericks' season-ticket campaign. He'll also squeeze in a few minutes with yours truly this morning for a full update. ...

A few of Minnesota State's recruits are still playing hockey. Bryce Gervais and Nick Buchanan and the Penticton Vees are getting set to play in the RBC Cup, Canada's national Junior A championship. After winning the British Columbia league and winning the Doyle Cup against the Alberta champ, the Vees are one of five teams still playing north of the border. The tournament begins Saturday and consists of 10 round-robin games, two semifinal games and a championship.

Gervais has six goals and five assists in 15 playoff games for the Vees. That ranks fifth on a team stacked with future college players. Buchanan, a defenseman, has one goal and one assist in the postseason. ...

Meanwhile, the USHL playoffs are down to four teams — Waterloo, Lincoln, Indiana and Green Bay. Waterloo has been led by MSU recruit Stephon Williams, a goalie. Williams is 6-1 in the playoffs with a .919 save percentage and a 2.29 goals-against average. Williams had 32 saves in Wednesday's 5-2 Game 1 conference final victory over Lincoln. ...

In other news, North Dakota announced on Thursday that it is not renewing the contract of associate head coach Cary Eades. This comes as quite a shock in the Grand Forks area. Eades, you may recall, vocally expressed his interest in the MSU job, saying he applied for it. This comes on the heels of UND coach Dave Hakstol's big contract extension. ...

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Wisconsin and Minnesota will play an outdoor game at Chicago's Soldier Field next season. The event will also feature a game between CCHA rivals Notre Dame and Miami. ...

If you're following the Stanley Cup playoffs, you know that David Backes and the St. Louis Blues are down 3-1 to the LA Kings. But Ryan Carter and the New Jersey Devils have a 2-1 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers. ...

Other former Mavericks still alive in the pros include: Tyler Pitlick (Oklahoma City, AHL), Rylan Galiardi (Florida, ECHL), Trevor Bruess (Florida, ECHL), Channing Boe (Las Vegas, ECHL) and Joe Schiller (Las Vegas, ECHL).