The college hockey season begins in a month, and I've taken the last of my long vacations for the year. A few things happened while I was away, so here an ICYMI ...
Former Minnesota State player Jake Brenk will be the next alum to skate in the NHL. Only he will be there as a referee. Brenk, who played at MSU from 2001-05 and had 48 points in 125 college games, never made it to the big leagues as a player, despite being a fifth-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2001, but did play five years of pro hockey in North America and Europe before putting on the stripes. The 33-year-old from Detroit Lakes worked his way up as an official on junior hockey and the minor leagues, including the CHL, ECHL and AHL.
Matt Leitner didn't sign with an NHL team when last season ended, but he has been invited to the Florida Panthers' rookie camp on a tryout basis. The camp begins Friday.
Two more players who wrapped up their Maverick career last spring, signed with the ECHL's Toledo Walleye recently: Jean-Paul LaFontaine and Max Gaede.
Eriah Hayes, who was not re-signed by the San Jose Sharks and ended up agreeing to terms with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, is getting a tryout chance with the St. Louis Blues, the Wolves' parent club.
The MSU men's hockey team is looking for a new certified athletic trainer after Masa Takaiwa left to take a position as massage therapist for the NHL's Dallas Stars.
Minnesota State last week received a commitment from forward Nick Rivera of the Omaha Lancers. Rivera. The California native is beginning his second year in the USHL, following a 14-goal, 14-assist season a year ago. Prior to that he played in the NAHL with the Wenatchee Wild, where former Mav Chris Clark was (and still is) an assistant coach. Rivera considered a leader and high-character player, as well. He's the third player on Omaha's current roster to commit to MSU, joining Josh French and Michael Bigelbach.
Here is a Q&A with former Mavericks captain Johnny McInnis, who plays with the ECHL's Orlando Solar Bears. His college days do come up.
Speaking of Q&As, the NAHL's Minot Minotauros have three Mankato natives on their roster this year: West grads Derek Frentz and Max Mettler and East grad Grayson Gavin. Click on their names to get to know a little more about these players with college-hockey dreams.