Monday, September 29, 2014

Minnesota State ranked 13th

The first college hockey rankings were released on Monday, and Minnesota State came in at No. 13 in both the USCHO poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey rankings.

Here are the rankings:

1. Minnesota (36 first-place votes)
2. North Dakota (2)
3. Providence (2)
4. Boston College
5. Union (9)
6. Colgate
7. St. Cloud State
8. Michigan
9. Ferris State
10. Wisconsin
11. Miami
12. Notre Dame
13. Minnesota State
14. Cornell
15. Quinnipiac
16. Northeastern
17. UMass-Lowell
18. Denver
19. New Hampshire
20. Boston University

20 others receiving votes including WCHA teams Michigan Tech, Bowling Green and Alaska

USA Today/USA Hockey
1. Minnesota (32)
2. North Dakota (1)
3. Providence
4. Boston College
5. Colgate
6. St. Cloud State
7. Michigan
8. Union
9. Miami
T-10. Ferris State
T-10. Notre Dame
12. Wisconsin
13. Minnesota State
14. Cornell
15. Denver

12 others receiving votes including Michigan Tech

WCHA coaches, media pick Minnesota State

The Free Press' second annual WCHA Preseason Coaches Poll was released on Monday, and Minnesota State is the overwhelming choice to win the MacNaughton Cup.

The media who cover the league agreed, voting the Mavericks first in the Bemidji Pioneer media poll.

The coaches gave MSU nine of 10 first-place votes and also picked freshman forwards C.J. Franklin and Brad McClure as Co-Preseason Rookies of the Year.

Ferris State goaltender C.J. Motte was tabbed as Preseason Player of the Year, edging out MSU forward Matt Leitner. Leitner was the media's pick for Preseason Player of the Year.

Here's a look at both polls:

2014-15 Mankato Free Press WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Coaches’ Poll
Rk           Team (1st place votes)          Points
1.            Minnesota State (9)                       81          
2.            Ferris State (1)                                  67
3.            Michigan Tech                                  64
4.            Bowling Green                                 57
5.            Alaska                                                  44
6.            Northern Michigan                         40
7.            Alaska Anchorage                           38
8.            Bemidji State                                    33
9.            Lake Superior State                        17
10.          Alabama Huntsville                           9
Predicted order of finish. Based on a 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale. Coaches could not vote for their own teams.

Preseason WCHA Player of the Year: C.J. Motte, Sr., G, Ferris State (4 votes)
Others receiving votes: Matt Leitner, Sr., F, Minnesota State (3); Jean-Paul LaFontaine, Sr., F, Minnesota State (1); Scott Allen, Sr., F, Alaska Anchorage (1), Colton Parayko, Jr. D, Alaska (1)

Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year: C.J. Franklin, F, Minnesota State and Brad McClure, F, Minnesota State (4 votes each)
Others receiving votes: Brett Beauvais, D, Bemidji State (1), Oliver Mantha, G, Alaska Anchorage (1)

Preseason All-WCHA Team

Forwards: Tyler Morley, Jr., Alaska; Jean-Paul LaFontaine, Sr., Minnesota State; Matt Leitner, Sr., Minnesota State
Defensemen: Colton Parayko, Jr., Alaska; Zach Palmquist, Sr., Minnesota State
Goaltender: C.J. Motte, Sr., Ferris State

Others receiving votes: Forwards—Scott Allen, Sr., Alaska Anchorage; Blake Tatchell, Jr., Alaska Anchorage; Justin Buzzeo, Sr., Ferris State; David Johnstone, Sr., Michigan Tech; Tanner Kero, Sr., Michigan Tech; Alex Petan, Jr., Michigan Tech; Blake Pietila, Sr., Michigan Tech. Defensemen—Austin Coldwell, Sr., Alaska Anchorage; Matt Prapavessis, Sr., Bemidji State; Jason Binkley, Sr., Ferris State; Shane Hanna, So., Michigan Tech. Goaltenders—Cole Huggins, So., Minnesota State.

2014-15 Bemidji Pioneer WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Media Poll
Rk           Team (1st place votes)          Points
1.            Minnesota State (23)                  256          
2.            Ferris State (4)                               226
3.            Bowling Green                               180
4.            Michigan Tech                                178
5.            Alaska                                                163
6.            Alaska Anchorage                         128
7.            Northern Michigan                       112
8.            Bemidji State                                  101
9.            Lake Superior State                        60
10.          Alabama Huntsville                         26
Predicted order of finish. Based on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale.

Preseason WCHA Player of the Year: Matt Leitner, Sr., F, Minnesota State

Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year: Mark Friedman, D, Bowling Green

Preseason All-WCHA Team

Forwards: Tyler Morley, Jr., Alaska; Jean-Paul LaFontaine, Sr., Minnesota State; Matt Leitner, Sr., Minnesota State
Defensemen: Colton Parayko, Jr., Alaska; Shane Hanna, So., Michigan Tech
Goaltender: C.J. Motte, Sr., Ferris State

Jack Hittinger, Bemidji Pioneer; Shane Frederick, Mankato Free Press; Tim O’Donnell, Fairbanks News-Miner; Jerry Taylor, ABC 10 UP sports director; Geof Morris, UAH; Michael Napier, UAH; Drew Evans, BGSU; Bruce Cech, Alaska Nanooks radio play-by-play; Chris Dilks, SBN College Hockey; Kevin Kurtt, Let’s Play Hockey Magazine; George Sipple, Detroit Free Press; Kurt Haider, Alaska-Anchorage radio play-by-play; Kevin Gordon, BGSU; Ryan Steig, Marquette Daily Mining Journal; Mike Sullivan, Minnesota State radio play by play; Greg Buckner, Big Rapids Pioneer; Scott Williams, Lakeland Sports & KBUN Bemidji; Ryan Satkowiak, Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune; Justin Bradford, Penalty Box Radio Nashville; John Wagner, Toledo Blade; Dave Danis, Northern Michigan radio play by play; Brian Halverson, Minnesota Hockey Magazine; Lee Benson, Lakeland Public TV sports director; David Tuttle, Alaska-Anchorage color commentator; Rob Roos, Sault Ste. Marie Evening News; Brandon Veale, The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Introducing the captains

Minnesota State announced its leadership for the 2014-15 season, and it's an interesting group. Three seniors, one sophomore. Three defensemen, one forward. Two players who had captain experience last season, two newbies. Here they are:

C-Chase Grant
C-Brett Stern
A-Zach Palmquist
Carter Foguth
Stern started last season as an alternate captain. Grant was given an "A" for his jersey partway through the season. Coach Mike Hastings has talked about grooming leadership for the future, which may be why you're seeing Foguth, just a sophomore, emerging in such a role. There seems to be a lot of respect for him.

Warner signs with Wild

Hunter Warner, the Minnesota State recruit from Eden Prairie who opted to take the major junior route this summer, has signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Wild.

Warner, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman who played for the USHL's Fargo Force last season, went undrafted in his final year of eligibility this summer but was invited to the Wild's development camp.

After that, he opted to go to to the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League. With something clearly in the works with the Wild, that move makes even more sense.

Warner played with the Wild in the Traverse City prospects tournament prior to training camp opening and signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Wild on Tuesday. He currently is participating in the Wild's camp.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

MSU releases promotional schedule

Minnesota State put out its promotional schedule for it's men's hockey home games this season, and there appears to be a few good ones, including giveaways, contests and ticket deals. Here's the schedule:

Oct. 5 vs. Trinity Western (exhibition) — $5 youth tickets

Oct. 18 vs. Minnesota Duluth — Hockey Night in Mankato presented by Snell (4:30-7 p.m. live band, food and beverages, games and prizes) ... First 1,000 fans will receive a WCHA playoff champion mini replica banner ... $16,000 Puck Shot presented by Pepsi

Oct. 24 vs. Alabama Huntsville — Pucks for Paws Night benefitting Athletes for Animals and the Blue Earth Nicollet County Humane Society ... First 2,000 fans will receive a David Backes poster

Oct. 25 vs. Alabama Huntsville — MAHA Night ... Skate with the Mavericks following the game

Nov. 7 vs. Bemidji State — Maverick Pregame Party Special ($30 adults/$20 for youth and includes game ticket, 2 beverages of choice and unlimited selected food items from 6-7 p.m.)

Nov. 8 vs. Bemidji State — $5 Kids Night (purchase at Verizon Wireless Center ticket office)

Dec. 5-6 vs. Alaska — Cyber Monday Special ... $5 tickets (purchase online at

Dec. 12-13 vs. Princeton — Family 4-Pack ... $40 includes 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs, 4 pops (purchase at Verizon Wireless Center ticket office) ... Dec. 13 game has $16,000 Puck Shot presented by Pepsi

Jan. 9-10 vs. Lake Superior State — Maverick Pregame Party Special ($30 adults/$20 for youth and includes game ticket, 2 beverages of choice and unlimited selected food items from 6-7 p.m.) ... Jan. 10 game, first 1,000 fans get a free T-shirt, presented by Wells Fargo

Jan. 30 vs. Ferris State — $5 Kids Night (purchase at Verizon Wireless Center ticket office)

Jan. 31 vs. Ferris State — Saluting Our Heroes Night

Feb. 6-7 vs. Alaska Anchorage — BOGO Night: Buy One, Get One Free (purchase tickets at Verizon Wireless Center) ... Feb. 7 game features postgame autographs, presented by Buffalo Wild Wings.

Feb. 27 vs. Michigan Tech — Student Appreciation Night ... Maverick Pregame Party Special ($30 adults/$20 for youth and includes game ticket, 2 beverages of choice and unlimited selected food items from 6-7 p.m.)

Feb. 28 vs. Michigan Tech — Sponsor Appreciation Night

Monday, September 22, 2014

Season's almost here

The Mavericks are practicing. Just two hours a week with coaches (plus captains' practices and conditioning), but they are practicing. The official start day is just 12 days away, and they'll jump right in after that with an exhibition game on Oct. 5 and a trip to Omaha five days later.

Preseason rankings should begin trickling in soon, and the WCHA will release its preseason coaches poll (compiled by yours truly) next week. Where do you think the Mavericks will stand in the conference prognostications? What about the national rankings?

Minnesota State put out its preseason prospectus in recent days. Here are a few highlights going into this season:

* This will be Mike Hastings' third season as head coach. Assistant coach Darren Blue begins this 15th season with the Mavericks, and Todd Knott begins his sixth on the staff.

* Of the nation's active players, Matt Leitner ranks third in career points with 121. He's behind Miami's Austin Czarnik (124) and Minnesota's Kyle Rau (123). His 81 assists rank second behind Czarnik's 87.

* Jean-Paul LaFontaine's 42 career goals rank fifth among active players. He's behind Cody Wydo of Robert Morris (65), Alex Grieve of Bentley (50), Rau (47) and Jonny Brodzinski of St. Cloud State (43). His 26 power-play goals rank first among active players. Rau has 22.

* Minnesota State needs 14 victories to reach 800 in program history. MSU is 786-601-138 since 1969. They are 305-313-77 in the Division I era.

* For the third year in a row, Teddy Blueger, now a junior forward, is the youngest player on MSU's roster (Aug. 15, 1994). Chase Grant (Aug. 17, 1989, is the oldest).

* The Mavericks' 25-player roster is a true melting pot. It includes players from three different countries and 14 different U.S. states and Canadian provinces. The breakdown includes: U.S.--Minnesota (6), North Dakota (2), Michigan (2), Wisconsin (1), South Dakota (1), Pennsylvania (1), Oklahoma (1), Alaska (1), Colorado (1), California (1) and Missouri (1); Canada--British Columbia (3), Saskatchewan (1) and Ontario (1); and Latvia (1).

* In an aside, the MSU women's team's 24-player roster has players from five countries (U.S., Canada, Germany, Norway and Sweden) and nine U.S. states/Canadian provinces (Minnesota, North Dakota, Illinois, Colorado, Arizona, New York, British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario). Ten players are from Minnesota. Put the two teams together and you get six countries, 14 states and four provinces.

Monday, September 8, 2014

WCHA announces office, staff changes

The WCHA on Monday announced that it will be headquartered in a centralized office at Minnesota State University's 7700 France campus in Edina.

This is something new commissioner Bill Robertson said he wanted to do upon being hired. No more dividing the duties between Denver, Madison and St. Paul.

Robertson and women's commissioner Aaron Kemp will share the office, along with league staff, and there will be some staff changes.

The league announced the hiring of two associate commissioners, Matt Hodson and Alyssa Bennett.

Hodson will handle public relations duties and oversee external and internal communications, brand marketing and social media. He has experience working for the San Francisco Giants as well as Stanford University and the University of Minnesota. He replaces longtime PR man Doug Spencer, who had been with the league for 28 years.

Bennett will mange the WCHA's budget and finance, handle vendor contracts, serve as a liaison with member institutions, handle office operations, marketing, social media and manage championships. She replaces Carol LaBelle-Ehrhardt, another longtime league official.

The league also announced that Greg Shepherd will remain on as its supervision of officials.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Jutzi off roster, out of school (updated)

Preseason workouts have begun for the Minnesota State men's hockey team, but they're taking place without junior defenseman Jon Jutzi.

Jutzi was removed from the roster on the MSU website last week, and coach Mike Hastings confirmed on Wednesday that he's off the roster and currently not enrolled at the college.

Hastings said he could not elaborate on the circumstances "because it is a student data privacy issue."

"He is currently off the roster and currently not enrolled in school," Hastings said. "I can't talk about anything other than that."

Reached later via a Twitter message, Jutzi said he's off for "Personal reasons that are going to be held between myself and my family. Every intention on returning to MSU after Christmas."

Hastings said that any future changes to the roster could be discussed if and when they occur.

Jutzi played in all 82 games over the last two seasons and had one goal and 14 assists in those games. Last season he ranked second on the team in blocked shots with 70 and was also plus-5, which ranked fifth on the team and third among defensemen.

The loss hurts the Mavericks' depth at the position, although there remain eight defensemen on the roster (six dress for games), including several regulars from last year: seniors Zach Palmquist and Brett Stern and sophomores Sean Flanagan, Carter Foguth and Casey Nelson.

Juniors Blake Thompson and Nick Buchanan also have experience, and freshman Jaden Schmeisser will be competing for a spots.