That photo is a sneak preview of my Sunday story about the changes taking place and more that are planned for the future of Minnesota State hockey at the Verizon Wireless Center. But, no, your eyes aren't deceiving you; those are indeed purple seats. Installation of the new, properly colored chairs began to be installed this week. Officials say, by the time the Mavericks play their first exhibition game on Oct. 6, all of the arena's seats will be purple. What a difference that will make.
The WCHA on Wednesday tweeted a link to a page on its website that will keep track of how its teams do in nonconference play. That got me wondering about how many games WCHA teams will play against each of the other five conferences in college hockey. That group, of course, includes two new conferences in the Big 10 and the National Collegiate Hockey Association. WCHA teams play 6-10 nonconference games, depending on how their use they Alaska exemption.
Here's the breakdown:
Big 10: 21 (up to 24, depending on the outcome of tournaments)
NCHC: 21 (23)
ECAC: 15 (16)
Hockey East: 12 (14)
Atlantic Hockey: 7 (8)
Minnesota State will play nonconference games at Providence (HE), home against Connecticut (ECAC), at Minnesota (B1G) and Minnesota Duluth (NCHC) in the first game of the Minnesota Cup with the possibility of playing St. Cloud State (NCHC) or Minnesota in the second game.
Here's who the other WCHA teams play. All are two-game series unless specified as a single game (*). Who has the toughest nonconference schedule?
UAH: @ Northeastern (HE), vs. St. Cloud State (NCHC), @ Wisconsin (B1G), @ Notre Dame (HE), tournament at Notre Dame — Notre Dame* (HE) then Western Michigan (NCHC)/Northeastern* (HE)
UAA: tournament at Anchorage — Quinnipiac* (ECAC) and Air Force* (AH), tournament at Fairbanks — Western Michigan* (NCHC) and Denver* (NCHC), @ Wisconsin (B1G)
UA: tournament at Anchorage — Air Force* (AH) and Quinnipiac* (ECAC), tournament at Fairbanks — Denver* (NCHC) and Western Michigan* (NCHC), vs. Mercyhurst (AH)
BSU: @ St. Cloud State (NCHC), vs. Minnesota (B1G), vs. Miami (NCHC), vs./@ North Dakota (NCHC)
BGSU: @ Union (ECAC), vs./@ Ohio State (B1G), vs. Colgate (ECAC), tournament in Pittsburgh — Boston College* (HE) then Penn State (B1G)/Robert Morris* (AH)
FSU: @ Colgate (ECAC), @ Mercyhurst* (AH), vs. St. Lawrence (ECAC), @ Michigan* (B1G), @ Michigan State* (B1G), tournament at Minneapolis — RPI* (HE) then Colgate (ECAC)/Minnesota* (B1G)
LSSU: vs. Robert Morris (AH), @ Union (ECAC), @ Wisconsin (B1G), @ Notre Dame (HE)
MTU: @ Minnesota Duluth (NCHC), @ Notre Dame (HE), @ Michigan (B1G), vs. Michigan State (B1G), tournament at Detroit —Michigan State* (B1G) then Western Michigan (NCHC)/Michigan* (B1G)
NMU: @ Wisconsin (B1G), vs. Nebraska Omaha (NCHC) @ Western Michigan (NCHC), @ North Dakota (NCHC),
Classes began at Minnesota State University on Monday, which means the students (hockey players included) are in town. What better time to take a closer look at the Mavericks' roster.
Most of MSU's players spent a good chunk of the summer in Mankato. Players are working out and doing some captains practices. I believe 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 on Saturday, Oct. 5, and the Mavericks will have an exhibition game the next day.
Some nuggets from the roster:
Here are the newcomers, with their jersey numbers:
3-Blake Thompson, D
5-Carter Foguth, D 6-Casey Nelson, D
11-Sean Flanagan, D 16-Jordan Nelson, F 17-Michael Huntebrinker, F
25-Zach Stepan, F 34-Cole Huggins, G
(A thank you to the veterans for not changing any of their numbers this year. Although our photographer won't be thrilled that Casey Nelson and Jordan Nelson each will have a 6 on his jersey.)
Here's a breakdown of where the players are from. The team represents three countries as well as 11 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces.
United States (20)
Minnesota (6): Blake Thompson, Zach Palmquist, Max Gaede, Zach Lehrke, Zach Stepan, Brett Stern
Wisconsin (2): Josh Nelson, Casey Nelson
Michigan (2): Carter Foguth, Jean-Paul LaFontaine
Oklahoma (2): Taylor Herndon, Chase Grant
Missouri (2): J.P. Burkemper, Mike Huntebrinker
North Dakota (1): Jordan Nelson
California (1): Matt Leitner
Massachusetts (1): Johnny McInnis
Pennsylvania (1): Dylan Margonari
Colorado (1): Cole Huggins
Alaska (1): Stephon Williams
British Columbia (3): Nick Buchanan, Brett Knowles, Evan Karambelas*,
Saskatchewan (2): Bryce Gervais, Sean Flanagan
Alberta (1): Mat Knoll
Ontario (1): Jon Jutzi
(* Evan Karambelas was born in Greece)
So how did these players get here? What leagues did they play in before coming to MSU?
United States Hockey League (14)
Foguth, Palmquist, Gaede, LaFontaine, Burkemper, Jor. Nelson, Huntebrinker, Leitner, Lehrke, Grant, Stepan, Margonari, Stern, Williams
North American Hockey League (4)
Josh Nelson, C. Nelson, Herndon, Karambelas
British Columbia Hockey League (6)
Buchanan, Gervais, Flanagan, Knowles, Jutzi, Huggins
Alberta Junior Hockey League (2)
(** Thompson transferred from Minnesota last December. Prior to college, he played in the USHL. He's not eligible to play until after the first semester ends.)
There are four seniors on the roster (Josh Nelson, Lehrke, McInnis, Karambelas), eight juniors (Palmquist, Gaede, Knoll, LaFontaine, Burkemper, Leitner, Grant, Stern), nine sophomores (Thompson, Buchanan, Gervais, Herndon, Blueger, Knowles, Margonari, Jutzi, Williams) and seven freshmen (Forguth, Casey Nelson, Flanagan, Jordan Nelson, Huntebrinker, Stepan, Huggins).
A few days ago, Jason Pawloski, a goaltender who spent last season with the Austin (as in Austin, Minn.) Bruins of the North American Hockey League tweeted that he has committed to play for Minnesota State. The 17-year-old will be moving on to the United States Hockey League this coming season and play for the Indiana Ice. According to an article in the Austin Daily Herald, Pawloski plans to join MSU in two years.
An Omaha native, Pawloski went 17-3-2 last season with a .919 save percentage and a 2.52 goals-against average.
"I'm really excited to play for a Minnesota school," Pawloski told the Daily Herald. "It takes some pressure off, but you still have to play hard or they can take it away."
The Mavericks goaltending situation for this year includes sophomore Stephon Williams, last year's WCHA rookie of the year; senior Evan Karambelas; and freshman Cole Huggins.
On Wednesday, Minnesota State announced that recent graduate and defenseman Tyler Elbrecht has signed a pro contract with the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads. The Steelheads' press release touts Elbrecht as coming from the same college as former Idaho standout Kael Mouillierat.
In the release, Idaho general manager Brad Ralph says: Tyler comes from a great program. He's a big, strong kid who stays home defensively and also sticks up for his teammates. Great character kid. He'll be a strong leader."
Last spring, Eriah Hayes signed with the NHL's San Jose Sharks and completed his season in Worcester of the American Hockey League. He is slated to play for the Sharks in the Young Stars Classic coming up in a couple of weeks in Penticton, British Columbia.
Also this summer, MSU defenseman Evan Mosey opted to continue his career in Europe, signing with HYC Herentals of the Dutch pro league.
No word on the future of Eli Zuck or Phil Cook yet.
In other signings announced recently, former MSU player Rylan Galiardi recently signed with the Sheffield Steelers of Britain's Elite League.
The Verizon Wireless Center hockey rink has been undergoing a transformation this summer, with an updated ice-making system and new floor. The rink itself will be narrower, around 200 feet by 90 feet (it had been an Olympic 200x100), and there will be new boards, glass and benches, along with new seats for spectators. Now if they can just get that jumbotron ...
Free Press photographer Pat Christman stopped by the arena on Tuesday morning, and here are his pictures from the big concrete pour that was taking place:
According to Christman, 300 yards of concrete were poured over the ice-making system. It will take 28 days to cure. The work is part of a $1.4 million project.
Minnesota State incoming freshman Zach Stepan made the first round of cuts at the U.S. Junior National Team Evaluation Camp, which runs through Saturday in Lake Placid, N.Y. The forward scored a goal in a game against Finland on Monday and assisted on a goal against Finland today (Thursday).
The camp began with 44 U.S. players, and the roster was whittled down to 31 on Tuesday. The team, which will compete in the World Junior Tournament Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Sweden, will have a roster of 23 players.
Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald confirmed the names of the referees for the NCHC and the WCHA for this season. While there will be some crossover, the NCHC will be taking eight referees from the WCHA. Here are the refs, according to Schlossman:
Kevin Hall (from CCHA)
Kevin Langseth (from CCHA)
Keith Surgott (from CCHA)
Mark Wilkins (from CCHA)
Rodney Tocco (from CCHA)
Tommy Albindia (from CHL/USHL)
Bobby Lukkason (from USHL)
Brady Johnson (from USHL)
Mike Elam (from USHL)
Derek Shepherd (part-time/going to NCHC)
Brad Shepherd (part-time/going to NCHC)
C.J. Beaurline (from WCHA)
Scott Bokal (from WCHA)
Tom Sterns (from WCHA)
Todd Anderson (from WCHA)
Derek Shepherd (from WCHA)
Brad Shepherd (from WCHA)
Tim Walsh (from WCHA)
Brian Thul (from WCHA)
Andy Thiessen (from AHL/ECHL)
Joe Sullivan (from AHL/ECHL)
Nick Krebsbach (from AHL/ECHL)
Steve Patafie (from AHL)
Dan Dreger (from CHL)
Brian Aaron (from CCHA)
It also sounds like the NCHC is strongly considering using shootouts to break ties after overtime and get rid of goal judges. I'll be curious to see if the WCHA considers one
Michigan Tech announced on Wednesday that Jujhar Khaira is forgoing his final three years of eligibility to sign with the Edmonton Oilers. Khaira had 25 points (6-19) as a freshman to rank third on the team in scoring. Khaira was a third-round draft pick of the Oilers in 2012.