Friday, May 31, 2013

Buckeyes' loss is Mavericks' gain
Minnesota State landed a prized recruit on Thursday, as Zach Stepan opted for the Mavericks after decommitting from Ohio State, U.S. Hockey Report reported. Apparently, Stepan, who signed with OSU in November, decided not to be a Buckeye after that school fired coach Mark Osiecki last month.

So who is Zach Stepan? A 5-foot-11, 165-pound center from Faribault, he was third in the United States Hockey League in scoring this past season with 78 points, including 32 goals. The 19-year-old was a third-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators last summer after his second season on the Shattuck-St. Mary's prep team where he was teammates with MSU's Teddy Blueger. He compiled 129 points in two seasons for that team.

He is the cousin of another Shattuck product, the New York Rangers' Derek Stepan, who played college hockey at Wisconsin.

In an article on the Predators' website, Nashville assistant general manager Paul Fenton said: "When Zach Stepan was available in the draft we knew we had a very intelligent, two-way player that we couldn't pass up. He thinks through the game and sees the ice better than a lot of players that were available at that point."

The only two players in the USHL with more points than Stepan this season were his teammates Taylor Cammarata and Justin Kloos, both of whom are Minnesota recruits. Stepan was also third in the USHL in shots on goal with 221 in 56 games.

That's a pretty darn good get for the Mavericks and coach Mike Hastings. I hope to have more on this in the near future.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

UAH coach quits; UAA AD fired

Wednesday was a newsy day for the WCHA (we can stop calling it the "new" WCHA, right?) and not necessarily a good one for the schools involved.

In the afternoon, Alabama Huntsville announced that coach Kurt Kleinendorst has resigned after one year on the job. Remember, he got the position just before last season started after Chris Luongo stepped down. However, despite helping get the Chargers into a more stable situation with WCHA membership (even with a ) college hockey is not Kleinendorst's passion. Previously, he was a head coach in the AHL and an NHL assistant and scout.

"This has been a great experience for me — my first in collegiate sports," he said in a UAH press release. "I've grown to really respect the college game. This is just about me being true to myself, and my passion is for pro hockey."

Huntsville went 3-21-1 last year as a D1 independent last season, including a loss and a tie against Minnesota State. It will be interesting to see who the Chargers hire to take the program into the WCHA.

Meanwhile, in Anchorage, Alaska, the folks there were on Day 61 without a Seawolves hockey coach (still shooting for June 15!), and they decided to fire athletic director Steve Cobb due to distractions caused by criticism of Cobb, UAA Chancellor Tom Case said in a press release.

It's a mess in Anchorage. Dave Shyiak was fired as head coach on March 29, and the search since then has been a circus. First, four finalists were brought on campus for interviews in late April/early May. But an outcry from boosters and alumni — including a vote of no-confidence in Cobb by the Alaska State Hockey Association — caused the search to be suspended and restarted. Since then, there was an open forum for interested and passionate parties to express their views on the program and even a letter from Alaska's governor telling UAA to "take a stand" on athletic issues. Oh, did I mention that it came out that Shyiak had been accused of hitting a player with a hockey stick and that there had been an investigation into that by Cobb two years ago?


As for Cobb, he's going down swinging. Besides threatening a lawsuit, he got out the flamethrower, saying University of Alaska President "Patrick Gamble may be mentally ill." He said Gamble has given the university to a lobbyist and "a few local scoundrels," which is "by definition insane and I intend to prove it in court."

Cobb has not been afraid to speak his mind. When six teams broke away from the WCHA two years ago to form the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, Cobb called their plan a "sneaky back-door deal."

So which program — Huntsville or Anchorage — is more stable right now? Two years ago, Huntsville's program was on the brink of elimination, only to get a last-second reprieve. Financial commitments and a spot in a conference have righted the ship, even though it's looking for its fourth coach in five years. Then there's Anchorage, which has bungled its coaching search after firing Shyiak following eight losing seasons.
Read more here:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mid-May news, notes

Minnesota State unveiled its 2013-14 schedule on Tuesday (you can see the full slate of games in this blog's right-hand column). After playing a TBA exhibition game at home during the first week, the Mavericks will open the season Oct. 11-12 at Providence. I'm guessing that will be a matchup of a couple of ranked team; should be a good one. Their home opener is the following week (Oct. 18-19) against Connecticut. MSU will begin the "new" WCHA season Nov. 1-2 at Bemidji State.

When the Mavericks take the ice at the Verizon Wireless Center in five months, expect to see some changes to the arena. The most significant change will be the size of the rink, which will go from Olympic-size (200x100) to one that is at or closer to the width of an NHL sheet (200x85). There also will be much-needed new boards and safer glass and a new floor and ice-making system. Preliminary work is underway but the main renovation is scheduled to begin sometime in June. Other changes officials hope to have in place by the start of the season include modernized concessions and new (purple) seats. For sure, the seating around the narrowed rink will need to be reconfigured.

Connecticut will come to Mankato with a new coach, having recently hired Boston College assistant Mike Cavanaugh. That's one of several coaching changes we've seen this spring, including Denver (Jim Montgomery) and Ohio State (Steve Rohlik). Maine and Alaska Anchorage are still searching for their new coaches, and the long wait (especially at the mess that is UAA right now, certainly gets one thinking about how well Minnesota State's search went 13 months ago.

At Anchorage, not only did the school suspend and then restart its coaching search process after interviewing four finalists following complaints from alumni and others in the hockey community, but now there is a report that recently fired coach Dave Shyiak has been accused of violently striking one of his players with a hockey stick during a practice.