Friday, July 21, 2017

New coach for Nanooks

Lance West, an assistant coach for Alaska the last nine years, was promoted to head coach of the Nanooks on Wednesday, replacing Dallas Ferguson, who stepped down earlier this month to become the coach of the major junior-level Calgary Hitmen.

West, who played at Alabama-Huntsville, was an assistant for Ferguson's entire head coaching stint in Alaska.

Alaska's press release says nothing about West being an interim coach, although the release about Ferguson leaving mentions that the school would be seeking an interim coach. Also, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story refers to West as an interim coach.

Alaska's is the third coaching change in the WCHA this offseason as Northern Michigan fired Walt Kyle and hired Grant Potulny and Michigan Tech's Mel Pearson left for Michigan and was replaced by Joe Shawhan.

Here's what season each WCHA head coach is going into:

Bob Daniels, Ferris State, 26th
Tom Serratore, Bemidji State, 17th
Chris Bergeron, Bowling Green, 8th
Mike Hastings, Minnesota State, 6th
Matt Thomas, Alaska Anchorage, 5th
Mike Corbett, Alabama Huntsville, 5th
Damon Whitten, Lake Superior State, 4th
Grant Potulny, Northern Michigan, 1st
Joe Shawhan, Michigan Tech, 1st
Lance West, Alaska, 1st

Thursday, July 20, 2017

WCHA women seek crowdsourcing funds

Despite the loss of a major program, North Dakota, this offseason, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association women's conference is alive and well, commissioner Katie Million says.

However, with belt-tightening around the league's seven remaining programs, which includes Minnesota State, the conference is looking for creative ways to help cover certain conference costs, including operations, its postseason championship tournament and postgraduate scholarships.

"We wanted to do something that eases the pain to each of our schools," Million said.

On Thursday, the WCHA announced a crowdfunding campaign through the website RallyMe to solicit donations to cover various costs "aimed at enhancing the student-athlete experience," according to a press release.

The league hopes to raise more than $140,000 by mid-March. Goals include $50,000 for league operations, $25,000 for the Final Faceoff tournament and $7,500 for its postseason scholarship.

"The conference is not in a state of desperation," Million said in a phone interview. "But we were looking for innovative, creative and, even more so, progressive moves to help the overall league."

The league is also seeking funding for its postseason awards banquet (goal: $25,000), regular-season and postseason championship trophies ($5,000 each), monthly and weekly player awards ($6,000) and television production ($20,000).

Since the WCHA is a nonprofit organization, donations through the RallyMe site are tax-deductible. RallyMe is a site used by several athletes, teams and organizations — including governing bodies such as USA Hockey — to raise funds for sports endeavors and causes. The league's RallyMe page is

Read more about the WCHA's campaign in The Free Press here.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mavericks to play on Hockey Day Minnesota

Minnesota State will be featured on Hockey Day Minnesota, playing a televised game at St. Cloud State on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Fox Sports North, in conjunction with the Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Hockey and St. Cloud's organizing committee, announced the schedule for the 12th annual event on Wednesday.

The lineup includes high school and women's college games outdoors on Lake George, followed by the Mavericks and the Huskies from the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center at 5 p.m. and then the Wild vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Minnesota State's game, which will air on FSN-Plus, will be the second of the season against St. Cloud State. The rivals also will meet in Mankato on Oct. 7 to kick off the season.

Following is the Wells Fargo Hockey Day Minnesota schedule:

10 a.m. St. Cloud vs. St. Cloud Cathedral (high school boys), Lake George, St. Cloud

1 p.m. St. Cloud State vs. Minnesota Duluth (college women), Lake George, St. Cloud

4:30 p.m. Moorhead vs Centennial (high school boys), Lake George, St. Cloud

5 p.m. Minnesota State vs. St. Cloud State (college men), Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, St. Cloud

8 p.m. Minnesota Wild vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Grad transfer to help Mavs in goal

Minnesota State is adding another goaltender to the roster for 2017-18, as Boston University's Connor LaCouvee will be joining the Mavericks as a graduate transfer.

LaCouvee has one year of eligibility remaining and will be able to play immediately since he will have graduated from BU and will be attending MSU as a grad student.

I got a chance to talk with LaCouvee this week, and you can read his comments in my story here.

That will, at least for one year, help fill the hole left by highly touted recruit Matiss Kivlenieks, who opted to sign an NHL contract rather than play college hockey.

The 6-foot-0, 196-pound LaCouvee played in 32 games in three seasons for the Terriers — 19 as a sophomore — and had a record of 14-9-5, a .905 save percentage and a 2.80 goals-against average. The Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, native played in just five games last year, starting four.

It will be interesting to see if he'll be in goal when the Mavericks play at Boston U in October, but surely he'll be competing for the starting job with Jason Pawloski and Aaron Nelson.

The Mavericks also recently received a commitment from Holy Family Catholic and Sioux Falls Stampede goalie Jaxon Stauber. The son of former Gopher and Hobey Baker winner Robb Stauber likely is a year or two away from joining MSU.

Friday, June 23, 2017

NHL wants more college hockey programs

On Friday, prior to the NHL draft in Chicago, the NHL announced an initiative to grow college hockey, helping five schools with feasibility studies to add men's and women's programs. The first program to undertake such a study will be the University of Illinois, a Big Ten school that hasn't had varsity hockey since the 1940s.

Adding a program is an expensive proposition, Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman admitted during a news conference streamed online. The last schools to add varsity hockey, of course, were Penn State and Arizona State. The former was made possible with a $102 million donation from Terry Pegula, which included funding for an arena for men's and women's hockey. The latter is still looking for a proper rink but got $32 million in seed money to start a men's program.

Whitman sure sounded like someone interested in having hockey at his school. Illinois certainly makes sense as it is in a state that produces a lot of hockey players and is crazy about its Blackhawks. It would give the Big Ten an eighth program, too, joining Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and (starting this season) Notre Dame. (Of those schools, only Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State have women's hockey.)

We'll see what happens, but it seems like a good step in trying to grow a sport that should keep growing. What other schools might take the NHL up on its study? What schools would you like to see add hockey?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rivera, brothers to play in Maccabiah Games

Minnesota State sophomore-to-be Nick Rivera will be playing for the United States in the 20th World Maccabiah Games in Israel next month. Joining Rivera on the roster are his brothers, Luke and Jacob. They will leave for training camp on Saturday and then head to Jerusalem next week before starting playing on July 5.

You can read more about Rivera's interest in the event and about the Games themselves in my Free Press article here.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Michigan Tech names coach

While I was out last week ...

Michigan Tech filled the final coaching opening in college hockey by hiring assistant Joe Shawhan to replace the departed Mel Pearson.

Shawhan was an assistant under Pearson, now the Michigan coach, since 2014 and worked wth the Huskies' goaltenders and defensemen.

He's had 10 years of college coaching experience, including stops at Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State, and another 10 in junior hockey. As head coach/GM for the Soo Indians from 1995-2005, he became the winningest coach in the history of the North American Hockey League (474-162-43).

Shawhan was a goaltender for Lake Superior State from 1982 to 1987 and is a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He finished his college degree at Northern Michigan.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Kivlenieks skips college for NHL

One of Minnesota State's prized recruits for 2017, goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks, has opted to sign with the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets rather than go to college. Columbus announced the signing on Thursday.

The USHL Player of the Year and Goaltender of the Year recently completed his junior hockey career, losing 2-1 in overtime of the decisive fifth game of the USHL's Clark Cup playoffs. The Chicago Steel won the championship, defeating Kivlenieks' Sioux City Musketeers.

There has been speculation since late in his phenomenal season that NHL teams were interested in Kivlenieks and that they might woo him before he ever set foot on the Minnesota State campus.

The Mavericks, don't forget, still have Jason Pawloski, who will be a junior. For all of MSU's inconsistency in goal, he finished last season with good numbers, going 4-2 with a .937 save percentage and a 1.52 goals-against average in the team's last six games. For the season, which included a gap between mid-December and mid-February in which he didn't play, Pawloski was 8-5-2, .920, 2.10. 

Then there's Aaron Nelson, the former third-stringer, who got a stretch of starts in January and February and put some real pressure on the other goalies. He'll be a senior. The Mavericks certainly will be on the lookout for a goalie they can bring in late. 

Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

MSU recruits win USHL title

The Chicago Steel won the USHL Clark Cup as the legaue's tournament champions on Tuesday night, defeating the Sioux City Musketeers 2-1 in overtime of the decisive fifth game.

The Steel had three future Minnesota State players on the roster, including two who are coming to Mankato next fall: Jake Jaremko, Reggie Lutz and Wyatt Aamodt.

Jaremko and Lutz, forwards from Elk River, will be freshmen next season. Jaremko had 13 points (5-8) in the USHL playoffs, which ranked fourth. Lutz had 12 points, including 7 goals. Aamodt, a defenseman from Hermantown, was a scratch during the playoffs.

Sioux City goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks is also an Minnesota State recruit. The USHL player and goalie of the year finished the postseason with an 8-5 record (two OT losses), a .925 save percentage and a 2.08 goals-against average.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Mavericks name team award winners

Minnesota State announced its team award winners on Thursday. No real surprises on the list. Here's a look (plus some Puckato comments):

Most Valuable Player: Marc Michaelis, freshman forward. Hard to quibble too much with this choice. He led MSU and the WCHA (overall games) in scoring and was the league's rookie of the year as well as a first-team all-conference pick. Puckato would have given strong consideration to C.J. Franklin and Daniel Brickley for this award, too.

Hardest Worker: Max Coatta, sophomore forward. Probably a candidate for most-improved player, too (more on that in a bit), he played in all 39 games, seemingly locking down a job as the kind of third- or fourth-line grinder — responsible and can chip in a few points — that the Mavericks value so much. Puckato would have considered Brickley, Carter Foguth and Jordan Nelson, too.

Most-Improved Player: Ian Scheid, freshman defenseman. As I've written before, this award can have a couple of interpretations — improvement from one year to the next or improvement over the course of a season. Scheid definitely improved as the year went on, but he also had a strong start to an excellent freshman year. He'd definitely get Biggest Surprise Award, if one existed, being a late recruit who scored 24 points and was plus-16, which led the team. Others Puckato would have thought of: Brickley, Coatta, Zeb Knutson and Parker Tuomie.

Unsung Player: Carter Foguth, senior defenseman. Foguth is an anagram for fought, something auto-correct haunted me with regularly. That's appropriate, as Foguth fought as hard as anyone for the Mavericks. No player did the tough, dirty work like he did. He logged a ton of minutes, played through a lot of bumps and bruises — and worse! — with no complaint. He's going to be a tough player to replace. Can't think of another player to consider for this award.

Don Brose Leadership Award: Foguth. I can't argue with the leadership award, as I don't see much behind the scenes, but Foguth was a three-time captain (twice wearing the "C") and highly respected by players and coaches alike, a great example to whoever gets a badge next season (captains have not been announced yet).

Three-Star Award: Parker Tuomie, freshman forward. This award is determined on a point system for the Three Stars of the Game that are announced after each home game. Tuomie was No. 1 twice, No. 2 once and No. 3 three times. Brad McClure was No. 1 three times. Nine others were No. 1 once. Brickley was No. 2 four times. Tuomie came into the season with more hype than Michaelis. It took him a bit longer to get going, but he finished strong, which should bode well for next season.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Mavs' 2017-18 schedule released

The Minnesota State men's hockey team will have a challenging nonconference schedule in 2017-18, one that includes two in-state rivals and a trip east to face a national power.

The Mavericks will begin the regular season on Oct. 7 at home with a nonconference game against St. Cloud State on Oct. 7 and will follow that with a two-game series at Boston University. The Hockey East-member Terriers, some already have predicted, could be among the nation's top five teams to start the season.

Minnesota State will wrap up the home-and-home series with St. Cloud State on Wednesday, Nov. 22, to start a Thanksgiving road trip. The back end of that swing will be a nonconference game at Minnesota Duluth on Saturday, Nov. 25.

The Mavericks will host UMD, last season's national runner-up, on Jan. 23 in a rare Tuesday game.

As for the Mavericks' Western Collegiate Hockey Association schedule, the Mavericks will host Michigan Tech (Oct. 27-28), Bowling Green (Nov. 17-18), Alabama Huntsville (Dec. 15-16), Northern Michigan (Dec. 29-30), Alaska Anchorage (Feb. 2-3), Ferris Sate (Feb. 16-17) and Bemidji State (Feb. 23-24).

On the road, Minnesota State will be making a long post-holidays trip to Alaska, playing at Anchorage and Fairbanks on back-to-back weekends (Jan. 5-6, Jan. 12-13). Other WCHA road games include: Bowling Green (Oct. 20-21), Northern Michigan (Nov. 3-4), Bemidji State (Nov. 10-11), Lake Superior State (Dec. 8-9) and Alabama-Huntsville (Feb. 9-10).

The Mavericks will play 34 regular-season games. Just five of their first 17 games are at home, however, they will be at home for seven of their final nine games.

Minnesota State has scheduled two exhibition games at home: Sunday, Oct. 1 against Regina and Saturday, Jan. 27 against the U.S. National Team Development Program.

Thanks to an alert commenter, I looked into this: Minnesota is not on MSU's schedule in any form (including the now-defunct North Star College Cup) for the first time since the 1996-97 season, which was the Mavericks' first year of Division I.

More information can be found on MSU's press release and the WCHA's composite schedule can be found here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pearson leaving Tech for Michigan

Mel Pearson has been named the new coach at Michigan after six seasons putting Michigan Tech back on the college hockey map.

He'll be formally introduced as the Wolverines' coach today during an afternoon press conference.

Pearson was an assistant coach at Michigan for 23 seasons, helping legendary coach Red Berenson win two national titles and get to the Frozen Four 11 times.

He went to Tech, his alma mater, in 2011, to try to turn around the Huskies' struggling program — no easy task. He did just that, going 118-92-29, including a 75-34-14 record over the last three seasons. The Huskies won the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular-season champions for the first time in 40 years in 2016 and won the league's tournament title this past year. The Huskies went to two NCAA tournaments (the same number as Michigan did), too.

Michigan Tech now will be looking for its next coach. It will be the second opening in the WCHA this offseason, as the Huskies' arch-rival, Northern Michigan, also had a change, hiring Grant Potulny last week to replace the fired Walt Kyle.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Northern Michigan hires Potulny

Northern Michigan filled the lone coaching vacancy in the WCHA on Tuesday when it hired Minnesota assistant Grant Potulny as its new coach. Potulny, 37, a Grand Forks, N.D., native, played for the Gophers, winning a national championship in 2002 and '03, and has been an assistant to Don Lucia for the past eight seasons.

Potulny will be the third head coach in Wildcats history, replacing Walt Kyle, who was let go in March.

Northern Michigan was one of several coaching openings in college hockey this offseason. Michigan and Niagara remain open, and many eyes are on the Michigan job. If longtime Wolverines assistant and current Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson lands that gig, that will leave another void in the WCHA. There has been conflicting speculation about Michigan's interest in Pearson. Pearson, naturally, says he's got it pretty good at Tech right now.

Here are the coaching changes in college hockey:

Team                              New coach               Replaces
Northern Michigan         Grant Potulny          Walt Kyle
Michigan State               Danton Cole             Tom Anastos
Nebraska Omaha            Mike Gabinet           Dean Blais
RPI                                 Dave Smith              Seth Appert
Canisius                          Trevor Large*          Dave Smith
Michigan                        ???                            Red Berenson
Niagara                           ???                            Dave Burkholder

* Interim

Kolstad coming home

North Dakota made the stunning, budget-slashing decision last month to drop it's women's hockey program. That left several players twisting in the wind, wondering what their future in the sport will be. One player already has announced her intention to move on, though.

Mankato native Rebekah Kolstad will come home and play her final two seasons of hockey at Minnesota State. She signed with MSU on Monday before returning to Grand Forks, N.D., for the remainder of her semester.

Kolstad has played in every game over two seasons with the Fighting Hawks but saw a big jump in her point production this past season. At 5-foot-10, she will add some significant size to the Mavericks' lineup.

Kolstad said it's not an easy time for players to transfer. Many schools' rosters are fairly full, as are their scholarship commitments. Minnesota State did have space and money for her, she said. Could more North Dakota players end up at MSU? Kolstad wasn't sure, but she hoped so.

North Dakota's move leaves the WCHA with seven teams. The Fighting Hawks were 16-16-6 and in fourth place in the league last season. The Mavericks were eighth at 7-26-4.

North Dakota also cut men's and women's swimming in order to control costs at a time when the university is in some financial trouble. Minnesota State, on the other hand, appears committed to women's hockey. The upgrades to the Verizon Center facility, which included equal space for men and women, are just two years old. And, recently, MSU athletic director Kevin Buisman said that recent commitments made to men's coach Mike Hastings for in cost-of-attendance aid for players and other improvements would also benefit the women's team.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Brickley named to U.S. team

It's been quite a week for Minnesota State defenseman Daniel Brickley.

Last week, he was named a college hockey All-American, and a few days later, he was asked to put on an American jersey.

Brickley was one of 15 players named Thursday to the initial roster of United States men's national team that will compete in next month's International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship in Germany and France.

"It's an honor," Brickley said, "not just to put the jersey on but to represent my country. I hope to represent it really well and come home a winner."

Brickley, a Sandy, Utah, native, is one of three college players on the roster. The others are Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen and Boston University forward Jordan Greenway. The rest of the roster is made up of National Hockey League players.

Brickley said he was surprised by both honors. On Friday, he was named Second Team West All-American by the American Hockey Coaches Association. That followed a sophomore season in which he was the top-scoring defenseman in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with 31 points, including a team-leading 23 assists, and was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year.

He said he received the invitation from USA Hockey assistant executive director of hockey operations Jim Johannson a few days before Thursday's announcement.

"Yeah, I was very surprised," Brickley said. "I didn't think anything about it, but I was glad to have the opportunity to go. ... It's pretty exciting news."

Brickley will leave for the World Championships on April 29. Team USA will play an exhibition game against Italy in Milan, Italy on May 2 and begin tournament play May 5 against Germany in Cologne, Germany. The championships run through May 21.

Brickely will become the third Minnesota State player to play in the World Championships. The others were David Backes and Ryan Carter, who played in a combined five championships.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

USHL's best are MSU-bound

It's no secret that Minnesota State is excited about its incoming freshman class. The hype surrounding that group was ramped up even more on Wednesday when the United States Hockey League announced its major awards and three of the five honors went to two future Mavericks.

The USHL's Player of the Year and Goaltender of the Year awards went to Matiss Kivlenieks of the Sioux City Musketeers, and the league's Defenseman of the Year award went to Connor Mackey of the Green Bay Gamblers.

Kivlenieks, a native of Latvia, played in 49 games this season and had a record of 36-7-4-2 with a .932 save percentage, a 1.85 goals-against average and five shutouts, leading the league in all major goaltending categories (he was tied for shutouts). And he saw a lot o pucks, too, making 30 or more saves 16 times, winning 11 of those games. He's the first USHL goalie to win both Player of the Year and Goaltender of the Year since Omaha's Jeff Lerg did so in 2004-05, playing for Mike Hastings.

Mackey played in all 60 games for Green Bay this season, scoring 47 points (6 goals, 41 assists) to lead all USHL defensemen in scoring. His assist total was third in the USHL. He was the only defenseman to finish in the top 20 (16th) in scoring in the USHL. He is a native of Barrington, Ill.

The USHL's Clark Cup playoffs begin on Friday with eight teams in action. That includes Kivlenieks' Sioux City team.

Other MSU recruits for next season and beyond still alive in the USHL playoffs include: Jake Jaremko*,  Reggie Lutz* and Wyatt Aamodt of Chicago; Julian Napravnik of Des Moines; Dallas Gerads* of Dubuque; Shane McMahan of Fargo; and Jack McNeely* and Colby Bukes of Muskegon.

* Already signed with MSU.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Brickley named All-American

Minnesota State sophomore defenseman Daniel Brickley was named a Second Team West All-American on Friday, becoming the sixth player in the program's Division I era to earn honors from the American Hockey Coaches Association.

Brickley, who was the WCHA's Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-WCHA selection, was the top-scoring defenseman in the conference with 26 points in 22 league games. He had 31 points in 31 games overall, with his point-per-game average ranking second in the country among defensemen. He was also plus-9 with 70 shots on goal and 72 blocked shots and led the Mavericks with 23 assists.

The native of Sandy, Utah, was one of two WCHA players to earn All-American honors. Bemdiji State goaltender Michael Bitzer, the conference's Player of the Year, was a First Team West pick.

Considered one of the top undrafted free agents in college hockey, Brickley recently said that he intents to return to Minnesota State for his junior season.

Other Minnesota State players to be named All American were forward Matt Leitner (First Team, 2015), defenseman Zach Palmquist (Second Team, 2015), forward David Backes (Second Team, 2006), forward Grant Stevenson (Second Team, 2003) and Shane Joseph (Second Team, 2003).

Here are this year's AHCA/CCM All-Americans:

First Team West 
G: Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State
D: Will Butcher, Denver
D: Tucker Poolman, North Dakota
F: Henrik Borgstrom, Denver
F: Alex Iafallo, Minnesota Duluth
F: Tyler Sheehy, Minnesota

First Team East 
G: Charles Williams, Canisius
D: Adam Fox, Harvard
D: Charlie McAvoy, Boston University
F: Zach Aston-Reese, Northeastern
F: Spencer Foo, Union
F: Mike Vecchione, Union

Second Team West 
G: Tanner Jaillet, Denver
D: Daniel Brickley, Minnesota State
D: Luc Snuggerud, Omaha
F: Mason Jobst, Ohio State
F: Luke Kunin, Wisconsin
F: Austin Ortega, Omaha

Second Team East 
G: Kyle Hayton, St. Lawrence
D: Gavin Bayreuther, St. Lawrence
D: Jake Walman, Providence
D: Dylan Zink, UMass Lowell
F: Anders Bjork, Notre Dame
F: Tyler Kelleher, New Hampshire
F: Alexander Kerfoot, Harvard

Denver defenseman Will Butcher on Friday was named the 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner sa the national player of the year.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Happy returns

In case you missed it, here's my story on the decision by C.J. Franklin and Daniel Brickley to return to school next season and a bit of a look ahead at next season's Minnesota State team, which has a chance to be very good. In the previous post, I listed the WCHA's top scorers from last season, noting who will be back and who won't. Here are similar lists of defensemen (by scoring) and goaltenders (by save percentage, then goals-against average) as they currently stand:

1. Daniel Brickley, MSU, 31 points
2. Shane Hanna, MTU, 27
3. Mark Friedman, BG, 26
3. Matt Roy, MTU, 26
5. Ian Scheid, MSU, 24
5. Sean Walker, BG, 24
7. Mark Auk, MTU, 23
8. Alec Rauhauser, BG, 22
9. Brock Maschmeyer, NMU, 21
10. Joe Rutkowski, FSU, 20
10. Zach Frye, UAF, 20
10. Mitch Reinke, MTU, 20

1. Michael Bitzer, BSU, .932, 1.71
2. Justin Kapelmaster, FSU, .930, 2.22
3. Jason Pawloski, MSU, .920, 2.10
4. Atte Tolvanen, NMU, .918, 2.64
5. Angus Redmond, MTU, .917, 1.85
6. Chris Nell, BG, .916, 2.15
7. Olivier Mantha, UAA, .913, 2.82
8. Davis Jones, UAF, .912, 2.72
9. Jordan Uhelski, UAH, .906, 2.78
10. Gordon Defiel, LSSU, .904, 3.01
11. Darren Smith, FSU, .902, 2.96
12. Cole Huggins, MSU, .902, 2.29
13. Jesse Jenks, UAF, .888, 3.33

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Franklin, Brickley staying

It's early departure season, and all around college hockey, players are opting to forgo remaining eligibility to sign pro contracts.

Minnesota State's two biggest flight risks, C.J. Franklin and Daniel Brickley, however, say they're coming back to school next season. Both say their college degrees are important to them, and they'll be returning to what should be a pretty good team.

You can read more about their decision in my Sunday Free Press story, which should post online Saturday night. Stay tuned.

Franklin, a Winnipeg Jets draft pick who just completed his junior season, and Brickley, a highly touted undrafted free agent who just finished his sophomore year, are bucking trends even in their own league.

Several top WCHA players already have signed, most recently Michigan Tech freshman goaltender Angus Redmond, who agreed to a deal with the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.

Others includes Tech defenseman Matt Roy; Bowling Green defenseman Mark Friedman and Falcons goaltender Chris Nell; Lake Superior State forward Mitch Hults and Lakers defenseman Kristofers Bindulis; and Alaska Anchorage forward Mason Mitchell.

Roy, like Brickley, was a First Team All-WCHA selection this season, and Hults, like Franklin, was a Second Team pick. Friedman was on the Third Team, and Redmond was All-Rookie.

Here are the WCHA's top 20 scorers from this past season. Returners are highlighted. Graduates are struck through. Early departures are struck through and red.

1. Marc Michaelis, MSU, 36 points
2. Gerald Mayhew, FSU, 35
3. Mitch Hults, LSSU, 34
4. Mitchell McLain, BG, 33
5. Daniel Brickley, MSU, 31
5. C.J. Franklin, MSU, 31
7. Dominik Shine, NMU, 30
7. J.T. Henke, LSSU, 30
7. Kevin Dufour, BG, 30
7. Tyler Spezia, BG, 30
11. Robbie Payne, NMU, 29
11. Phillip Marinaccio, BSU, 29
13. Brad McClure, MSU, 28
13. Joel L'Esperance, MTU, 28
15. Shane Hanna, MTU, 27
16. Corey Mackin, FSU, 26
16. Gerry Fitzgerald, BSU, 26
16. Gerard, Hanson, NMU, 26
16. Mark Friedman, BG, 26
16. Matt Roy, MTU, 26

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hastings isn't going anywhere

I remember when Mike Hastings was listed among the possible coaching candidates for the Minnesota State men's hockey job in 2012. It seemed like the only thing people in Mankato knew about him was that he was the heir apparent at Nebraska Omaha whenever Dean Blais finished coaching there. 

I recall a few people who thought that likelihood of him leaving in a few years should disqualify him for the position. They didn't want to be going through another coaching search in 3-5 years. I said, if he turns around the program and leaves for a bigger job, so be it.

Well, he's turned around the program. And he's (apparently) had the chance to leave for a supposedly bigger job. So ...

Minnesota State is making sure he stays in Mankato.

The university announced on Wednesday morning that it is working a new, 10-year contract with Hastings. This comes just two years into the eight-year extension he signed in 2015.

Read more here, but the school's press release admits that another school has come calling in recent weeks. Presumably that school was Nebraska Omaha from which Blais just stepped down. 

A few things to note from the press release:

• The 10-year deal will last through the '27-28 season.

• It is believed to be the longest appointment among all current men's hockey coaches.

• Still to be negotiated: compensation and program improvements such as cost-of-attendance aid, staffing commitments, travel and recruiting budget enhancements.

"As part of a thorough review of Maverick men's hockey last summer, we had benchmarked resources against the top teams in other leagues and made a commitment to these future program enhancements," MSU President Richard Davenport said in the release. "We are now operationalizing those plans, which is indicative of our desire to position Maverick hockey to compete as effectively as possible against the very best programs in the country."

Said AD Kevin Buisman: "There had been some inquiry about Coach Hastings and a request for permission to speak with him about other employment opportunities," said Buisman. "In light of this, we decided to move proactively to secure his loyalty and I feel good about the commitment we have made. These arrangements put us in a great position to further advance the program, as we continue to pursue our ultimate goals."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Flanagan, Huntebrinker turn pro

Minnesota State defenseman and Sean Flanagan and forward Michael Huntebrinker, who just wrapped up their college careers, have turned pro, both signing with the ECHL's Reading Royals.

They were part of a senior class that won 98 games at MSU as well as two WCHA regular-season titles and two league tournament championships.

Huntebrinker had 15 goals and 38 assists in 124 career games. He was an alternate captain this season and a three-time WCHA All-Academic selection.

Flanagan had 13 goals and 41 assists in 140 career games. He, too, was an alternate captain this season and a three-time All-Academic pick. He blocked 138 shots and was plus-23 for his career. He already has played in one game for Reading.

The duo will join former teammate Johnny McInnis on the Royals' roster. McInnes, who was a senior when they were freshmen, was traded to Reading earlier this season from Utah. He started the season in Orlando.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Huskies win Broadmoor in 2OT

Michigan Tech won the Broadmoor Trophy and the WCHA's auto-bid into the NCAA tournament with a double-overtime victory over Bowling Green in Houghton, Mich. Looked like a jam-packed crowd at the McInnes Arena, too. More later, but here's the game-winning goal:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hastings: Focus is on MSU's program (not Omaha)

In the days before he was hired at Minnesota State, coach Mike Hastings was asked about the potential of being Dean Blais’ eventual successor at Nebraska Omaha.

Hastings was Blais’ associate head coach before taking the Mavericks job and earlier had spent 14 years in that city as the head coach of the Omaha Lancers junior team in the United States Hockey League.

Blais stepped down as Omaha’s coach on Tuesday, and Hastings’ name again has been floated by college hockey observers as a possible candidate.

Reached via phone while recruiting on Tuesday afternoon, Hastings said he believes he has it pretty good at Minnesota State.

“I’m concerned with what we’re putting together and dealing with our program,” he said, “what we still have in the locker room with the seniors that are leaving, that we have a very, very good recruiting class.

“I’m excited about the challenges ahead of us next year. I’m looking forward to that. That hasn’t changed.”

Hastings just completed his fifth season with the Mavericks, his second under an eight-year contract he signed in the summer of 2015 that replaced his original four-year deal and pays him an annual salary of $290,000.

The Mavericks are 122-62-18 under Hastings. Their season ended on Sunday in the third game of a WCHA playoff semifinal series at Michigan Tech.

Blais spent eight seasons at Omaha and had a record of 146-133-30 there with two NCAA appearance, including a Frozen Four spot in 2015. Omaha went 17-17-5 this season. Blais also coached North Dakota for 10 years where he led that program to two national championships.

Hastings said he considers Blais a mentor.

“I consider myself incredibly fortunate to say I worked with the man,” Hastings said, “and had the opportunity to learn from him because he’s one of the best in the country.”

Brickley, Michaelis earn top honors

Minnesota State sophomore defenseman Daniel Brickley and freshman forward Marc Michaelis earned WCHA postseason individual awards on Tuesday.

Brickley was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, and Michaelis was named Rookie of the Year.

Bemidji State goaltender Michael Bitzer was named WCHA Player of the Year, while his coach, Tom Serratore, was named Coach of the Year.

Brickley finished the season with 31 points, including eight goals, in 31 games. Despite missing eight games with injury, he was the WCHA’s top-scoring defenseman and is currently second in the nation among defensemen with 1.00 points per game.

Michaelis led the Mavericks and the WCHA (overall games) in scoring with 36 points, including 13 goals. He’s currently the fourth-leading rookie scorer in the country.

Brickely, considered one of the top free agents in college hockey, appears to be staying in Mankato for another season per this tweet from TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie on Monday:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Huskies 4, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Hard ice: Just as Minnesota State shut down Michigan Tech on Saturday night, the Huskies did the same to the Mavericks on Sunday to clinch Game 3 and advance to the WCHA tournament championship. Tech held MSU to just three shots on goal in a momentum-grabbing second period and blocked 11 shots for the game to end Minnesota State's season. They made life difficult for the Mavericks for much of the second and third periods after a fairly even and very physical first period. "It was a hard-fought battle," junior forward C.J. Franklin said. "Sometimes the bounces don't go your way. They made some plays, and it was game over."

2. Tough call #1: The game turned midway through the second period on a pair of power play goals by Tech's Gavin Gould, who finished the game with a hat trick. He put the home team up 3-1 with goals 85 seconds apart following back-to-back too-many-players penalties on Minnesota State. Those are penalties that shouldn't happen this time of year. The first was clearly an MSU mistake, as they skated with six on the ice for several seconds before getting caught. The second occurred during a line change, and coach Mike Hastings said he didn't agree with that. But, he added, they still needed to kill the penalties, and they didn't.

3. Tough call #2: For the second game in a row, the Mavericks had a goal taken off the board. On Sunday, it came with 3:05 to play in the game. A Daniel Brickley 6-on-4 power play goal would have made it a 3-2 game and undoubtedly made for a wild finish. But the officials went to the video review and determined that Franklin was in the crease making contact with goalie Angus Redmond on the play. Franklin said he didn't think he made contact. Hastings said, "No comment," and that he didn't want to take away from Tech earning the victory. I didn't get a great look at it on the TV monitors here. Would have liked the above-goal angle.

Deep thought: Sunday was the last game for senior skaters Carter Foguth (144 games), Sean Flanagan (140 games), Zach Stepan (136 games) Jordan Nelson (134 games) and Michael Huntebrinker (124 games) as well as for goalie Cole Huggins (88 games), who was the backup. That's a group that's accomplished a lot over its time at MSU, winning 98 games. "I'm going to miss them," Hastings said. "I thanked them for moving the needle for our program." Pretty classy group to deal with from a sportswriter's perspective, too, I might add.

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech will host Bowling Green for the Broadmoor Trophy and the WCHA's lone bid into the NCAA tournament on Saturday in Houghton. "Whoever comes out of our league is going to be a real good representative at the national tournament," Hastings said.

Live coverage: MSU vs. Michigan Tech, Game 3

Minnesota State and Michigan Tech are playing for a spot in next week's Broadmoor Trophy championship game. The Huskies won Game 1 5-1, and the Mavericks won Game 2 1-0. The winner will host the title game against Bowling Green, which swept Bemidji State in the WCHA's other semifinal series. The loser's season will end. Follow along below tonight's lines:

20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 10-Knutson
6-Tuomie, 17-Huntebrinker, 19-McClure
23-Rivera, 16-J. Nelson, 12-Coatta
25-Stepan, 26-French, 27-Schwalbe

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson


Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Gerard, Madry, A. Nelson, Vanko

10-Jackson, 25-Neville, 7-Sturos
9-Gillies, 20-Smith, 11-L'Esperance
27-Heinonen, 15-Lucchini, 19-Gerrie
14-Gould, 6-Leibinger, 13-Beretta

2-Watson, 5-Reinke
22-Hanna, 3-Roy
12-Auk, 4-Birks


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Mavericks 1, Huskies 0

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Another night in Houghton: The Mavericks forced a Game 3 in the best-of-three series with a strong defensive performance once night after giving up five goals to the Huskies. Minnesota State came out hard and, as I wrote about in my gamer (link below), survived a disallowed goal, a sometimes-ugly power play (thanks, in part, to Tech's tough PK) and a last-minute penalty that put the home team in a 6-on-4 advantage after pulling the goalie for an extra attacker. "We talked about being even-keel," said goalie Jason Pawloski, who had a 15-save shutout. "There are parts of the game you can't control, and I think we handled those really well tonight."

2. Block party: Minnesota State was credited with 17 blocked shots in the game, two more than shots on goal. Carter Foguth had four blocks. The Mavericks had five in the third period and allowed just three pucks to get to Pawloski. “It was awesome,” Pawloski said. “Those guys did a phenomenal job in front of me tonight. They made it easy. They blocked a lot of pucks, and that’s tough to do because that’s going to hurt. I can’t say enough about what they did.” Said coach Mike Hastings: "I thought the whole team had some conviction." They sure looked like a team that wasn't ready for their season to end.

3. Win and go home: Sunday's winner won't just be moving on to the Broadmoor Trophy championship game. It will be hosting it. Bowling Green defeated Bemidji State 2-1 for the upset sweep of the MacNaughton Cup winner, which means Minnesota State or Michigan Tech will be at home. Talk about even more being on the line."We kept our season alive," said Zeb Knutson, who scored the game's lone goal (and had the disallowed goal). "It was do or die tonight. It will be the same tomorrow."

Read much more in my game story here.

Live coverage: MSU at Tech, Game 2

The Mavericks look to keep their season alive when they face the Huskies in the second game of their WCHA playoff semifinal series. Michigan Tech won Friday's opener 5-1 and can close out MSU with a win tonight. If Minnesota State wins, a decisive third game will be played Sunday night. Follow the action below tonight's lines:

20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 10-Knutson
6-Tuomie, 17-Huntebrinker, 19-McClure
23-Rivera, 16-Nelson, 12-Coatta
9-Gerard, 26-French, 27-Schwalbe

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson


Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Madry, A. Nelson, Stepan, Vanko

10-Jackson, 25-Neville, 7-Sturos
9-Gillies, 20-Smith, 11-L'Esperance
27-Heinonen, 15-Lucchini, 6-Leibinger
14-Gould, 16-Blacklock, 13-Beretta

2-Watson, 5-Reinke
22-Hanna, 3-Roy
12-Auk, 4-Birks


Gusties make D3 women's Frozen Four

The Gustavus Adolphus women's hockey team upset No. 3-ranked Wisconsin River Falls on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament to advance to the Frozen Four.

Katilyn Kline's power-play goal with 3:53 remaining in the third period broke a tie game and led to the Gusties' 3-2 win. It was Gustavus' second goal of the period. River Falls, which had beaten the Gusties twice in December, had taken a 2-1 lead early in the third.

The Falcons outshot the Gusties 40-20, but goaltender Amanda DiNella, made a career-high 38 saves.

Allie Lewis and Kristen Cash had the other goals for Gustavus, which was playing in its first NCAA tournament since 2013.

Gustavus (18-6-3) will face Adrian (27-2-0) on Friday at Adrian, Mich. Plattsburgh State (26-1-1) and Norwich (23-5-1) will play in the earlier semifinal.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Huskies 5, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. First, the good news: Under the old, Final Five format, the semifinals were a one-game, single-elimination affair. But now it's a best-of-three series, so the Mavericks aren't done yet. They have a chance to get back in this thing. They'll have to win two in a row in hostile territory, though. "Our start will be important, the way we come out" defenseman Carter Foguth said. "If we can get ahead or get some momentum going, that may give us an advantage. We have to take care of our chances tomorrow."

2. Tough third period: Things snowballed on the Mavericks in the third period. It was a tight, 1-1 game up until then. Reid Sturos partial breakaway broke the stalemate, and, as coach Mike Hastings said, the Mavericks didn't really punch back. Jake Jackson made it 3-1 just 3:24 later and, "all of a sudden the hill starts to look a little steeper," Hastings said. A Gavin Gould breakaway and a length-of-the-ice penalty-kill clear into an empty net with 4:40 to play finished things off.

3. Best players, step forward: Hastings mentioned that his team's "horses" need "to run a little bit more than they did tonight. Our best players probably have to be a little bit better." Indeed, the top line of C.J. Franklin, Marc Michaelis and Zeb Knutson was -3 as a group and had just five shots on goal, four by Knutson. Brad McClure got off just two shots and was -1. Defenseman Daniel Brickley was also -3.

Read my game story here.

Meanwhile in Bemidji, Bowling Green won the first game of the series in overtime with the Falcons' Kevin Dufour completing his hat trick in OT. The Beavers now are in the same boat as the Mavericks, needing to win Saturday night to keep their season alive.

Live coverage: MSU at Michigan Tech, WCHA semifinals

The Mavericks and the Huskies will begin the semifinal round of the WCHA playoffs at 6:07 p.m. today in Houghton, Mich. The winner of the best-of-three series will move on to next week's league championship game. Follow along with the action below tonight's lines.

20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 10-Knutson
25-Stepan, 17-Huntebrinker, 19-McClure
6-Tuomie, 16-Nelson, 12-Coatta
23-Rivera, 26-French, 9-Gerard

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson


Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Madry, A. Nelson, Schwalbe, Manko

10-Jackson, 25-Neville, 7-Sturos
9-Gillies, 20-Smith, 11-L'Esperance
27-Heinonen, 15-Lucchini, 6-Leibinger
14-Gould, 16-Blacklock, 13-Beretta

2-Watson, 5-Reinke
22-Hanna, 3-Roy
12-Auk, 4-Birks


Friday Morning Skate

It's semifinal weekend in the WCHA, and Minnesota State is in Houghton to take on Michigan Tech in the best-of-three series. The Mavericks are hoping to get through this weekend and into the Broadmoor Trophy title game for the fourth year in a row. They won two the first two they played in and then lost one, which still stings a bit, captain Carter Foguth said this week.

Minnesota State and Tech are pretty similar teams, Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said in this week's College Hockey Gameday. Hastings also said: "There are not a lot of differences from this standpoint: Their best players are playing very well. They're getting very good goaltending and special teams. ... Their depth; it's not just one guy. They've got four lines and six defensemen, and if you focus on one line or one defenseman or one pair of defensemen, you're going to lose some of the others."

One sign of the Huskies' depth is the recent emergence of senior forward Reid Sturos, who has six points in his last three games and is tied for the team's scoring lead.

It is strange — and yet another reminder of what once was — that there's not a Final Five this weekend. The winner of the Minnesota State-Michigan Tech series will face the winner of the Bemidji State-Bowling Green taking place in Bemidji.

The Beavers are known for their defense, which starts with All-WCHA goaltender Michael Bitzer. But the players in front of him are impressive, too. One of the unheralded pairs of defensemen on the team is that of Dan Billett and Tommy Muck.

As for the Falcons, they have a special defenseman in Sean Walker. Also, their special teams are playing well right now.

Staying on the subject of special teams, USCHO's preview of the semifinal weekend focuses on them. College Hockey News also previews the weekend.

Outside of the WCHA, the Gustavus Adolphus women's team is in the NCAA tournament, something it was hoping for after getting upset in the semifinals of the MIAC tournament. The Gusties practiced for a week, not knowing if it was preparing for anything. It was, and they'll play at No. 3 Wisconsin-River Falls tonight.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Five Mavericks make All-WCHA

Minnesota State players were selected for the 2016-17 All-WCHA teams, including forward Marc Michaelis and defenseman Daniel Brickley, who were First Team picks.

Michaelis, a freshman, is the WCHA’s top overall scorer with 36 points and was second in conference play with 28 this season. He was also chosen for the WCHA's Rookie Team. Brickely, a sophomore, leads all league defensemen in scoring with 30 points.

Mavericks junior forwards C.J. Franklin and Brad McClure earned spots on the Second Team and Third Team, respectively. They have 31 and 28 points, respectively, which rank sixth and 10th in the conference. Ian Scheid, the top-scoring freshman defenseman in the WCHA with 23 points, joined Michaelis on the Rookie Team.

Here are the All-WCHA teams:

First Team: Forwards—Gerald Mayhew, Ferris State; Mitch McLain, Bowling Green; Marc Michaelis, Minnesota State. Defensemen—Daniel Brickley, Minnesota State; Matt Roy, Michigan Tech. Goaltender—Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State.

Second Team: Forwards—C.J. Franklin, Minnesota State; Mitch Hults, Lake Superior State; Phillip Marinaccio, Bemidji State; Corey Mackin, Ferris State. Defensemen—Shane Hanna, Michigan Tech; Sean Walker, Bowling Green. Goaltender—Atte Tolvanen, Northern Michigan.

Third Team: Forwards—Brad McClure, Minnesota State; Dominik Shine, Northern Michigan; Gerry Fitzgerald, Bemidji State. Defensemen—Mark Friedman, Bowling Green; Kurt Gosselin, Alabama Huntsville. Goaltender: Justin Kapelmaster, Ferris State.

Rookie Team: Forwards—Marc Michaelis, Minnesota State; Darien Craighead, Northern Michigan; Max Humitz, Lake Superior State. Defensemen: Ian Scheid, Minnesota State; Alec Rauhauser, Bowling Green; Mitch Reinke, Michigan Tech; Zach Whitecloud, Bemidji State. Goaltender—Angus Redmond, Michigan Tech.

The WCHA’s individual award winners will be announced next week.

Mavericks get two commitments

Minnesota State recently received two verbal commitments from recruits, including a native of Germany who eventually will join his fellow countrymen and former teammates Marc Michaelis and Tuomie, with the Mavericks.

Julian Napravnik is a skilled forward with the Des Moines Buccaneers from Bad Nauheim, Germany who played with Michaelis and Tuomie with Jungadler Mannheim.

“(The Mavericks) have dynamic players already, and they’re getting another one in (Napravnik),” Buccaneers coach Nate Weossner said in a press release. “He’s the type of kid that can be a game changer at any time; he’s the kind of guy that you gotta watch out for because he’ll make a play at any second. I think he’s just going to be a good fit for them.”

The 5-foot-11 Napravnik has 16 goals and 31 points in 42 games for Des Moines this season. The 19-year-old is in his first year in the USHL.

The Mavericks also received a commitment from 17-year-old defenseman Tony Malinowski of the Oakland Junior Grizzlies AAA team in Michigan. The 6-3, 185-pounder, has 18 points in 32 games this season. He is a native of Clarkston, Michigan.

Meanwhile, Mankato native Tyler Jutting, the son on former Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting, has committed to play hockey at Air Force, he tweeted last week.

Tyler Jutting played two seasons at Mankato West until moving to Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault. Currently, the 6-4, 203-pound defenseman plays junior hockey for the West Kelowna Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Pawloski, Tuomie recognized

Minnesota State sophomore goaltender Jason Pawloski and freshman forward Parker Tuomie received WCHA weekly awards this week for their play in the Mavericks' quarterfinal series win over Alaska.

Pawloski was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week, and Tuomie received WCHA Rookie of the Week honors.

Pawloski, an Omaha native, stopped 52 of 53 shots (.981 save percentage), including a 23-save shutout on Friday, to beat the Nanooks twice. He improved his season record to 7-3-2 with a .926 save percentage and 2.03 goals-against average.

Tuomie, a native of Bremerhaven, Germany, had four points in the series, including two goals on Friday and two assists on Saturday. He was plus-3 for the series. He now has eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points in 36 games.

Monday, March 6, 2017

WCHA semifinals set

Well, the Mavericks will be on the road for the semifinals of the WCHA playoffs. They'll travel to Houghton, Mich., this week to take on Michigan Tech in the best-of-three series.

Minnesota State didn't get the help it needed from Northern Michigan so it could host this week. Bemidji State beat NMU on Sunday night in Game 3 of their series. The top-seeded Beavers will host Bowling Green in the other semifinal.

The Mavericks could still host one more game, though. If they knock out the Huskies, and the Falcons pull off an upset at Bemidji, MSU would host the Broadmoor Trophy championship game. But that's getting ahead of things.

Minnesota State went 2-1-1 against Michigan Tech this season. The two wins took place way back on  opening weekend last October in Mankato. On Jan. 20-21, MSU tied and lost in the U.P. They did get the extra point in the tie with a shootout win but were shut out the next night. Since then, MSU is 7-2-1 (2-2-0 on the road) and Tech is 5-4-1 (3-2-0 at home).

Bemidji State went 3-1-0 against Bowling Green this season, sweeping the Falcons at home to start the season and splitting a series in Ohio on Jan. 5-6. In their last 10 games, Bemidji State is 6-4-0 (5-2-0 at home) and Bowling Green is 7-3-0 (1-1 on the road).

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Mavericks 4, Nanooks 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Moving on: The Mavericks avoided some lessons of the past and won Saturday night to advance to the WCHA semifinal round. Twice this season, Minnesota State defeated Alaska handily on Friday only to struggle against the Nanooks the next night, losing at Fairbanks and tying (and dropping the shootout) in Mankato. After winning 3-0 on Friday, MSU withstood a strong push and got the job done to sweep and avoid having to play a decisive third game as it did a year ago against Lake Superior State. "Now, we can take a day off an relax," said Jordan Nelson, whose line was fantastic on Saturday and, really, the whole weekend. "Last year, we had to play on Sunday and grind through it. Now, we can regroup and get our rest."

2. Who's next? Minnesota State will also spend Sunday waiting to see who they'll play next and where that will take place. With Northern Michigan winning at Bemidji State on Saturday and forcing a third game, the Mavericks could be home or away for the best-of-three semifinals. A Wildcats upset win will keep MSU at home against Bowling Green, which finished off a sweep of Ferris State, 5-3. If the top-seeded Beavers win, the Mavericks will go on the road to Michigan Tech, which swept Lake Superior State with an 8-0 victory. Certainly a lot of MSU fans will be rooting for Northern Michigan. If MSU is at home, will it be able to break the 3,000 attendance mark, something — partially due to the students being on spring break — it was unable to do this weekend?

3. Best for last: Every team says it wants to be playing its best hockey at the end of the year, and it would be hard to deny that the Mavericks are doing that. The win, MSU's 21st of the season, was the team's sixth in its last seven games. Since returning from Houghton, Mich., in Jan. 21 with a tie and a shutout loss, the Mavericks are 7-2-1. Goaltender Jason Pawloski started and won his third game in a row on Saturday and stopped 79 of 81 shots (.975) in those games. Nelson's line with Max Coatta and Parker Tuomie had three goals and three assists on Saturday and five goals and four assists for the weekend. "I like the direction we're going in right now," coach Mike Hastings said.

Read my game story here.

Live coverage: MSU vs. Alaska

The Mavericks will go for the series sweep and a spot in next week's WCHA semifinals when they play Alaska at 7:07 p.m. Minnesota State won Friday's game 3-0. Follow along with the action below tonight's lines.

20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 10-Knutson
25-Stepan, 17-Huntebrinker, 19-McClure
6-Tuomie, 16-Nelson, 12-Coatta
23-Rivera, 26-French, 9-Gerard

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Madry, Schwalbe, Vanko

26-Cline, 16-Munson, 22-Staley
14-Morley, 15-Van Tetering, 9-Basara
23-Leer, 7-Erickson, 13-Vieth
39-Heidt, 18-Mullally, 28-Hope

6-Frye, 32-Thompson
8-Woods, 24-LaDouce
12-Hinz, 5-Kobertsein


Friday, March 3, 2017

Mavericks 3, Nanooks 0

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Complete game: Minnesota State played a solid, solid game to open the WCHA playoffs. An early goal, good goaltending, a power play goal, an excellent penalty kill ... that's the recipe for a playoff victory. Sean Flanagan had a three-point game, including a goal just 2:05 in. Parker Tuomie, who has been heating up (six points in his last five games) scored twice. And Jason Pawloski carried over his excellent performance in goal last Saturday in Bemidji to get his second career shutout (23 saves). The most impressive stretch of the game came midway through the second period when MSU killed off an 89-second 5-on-3 to preserve a 2-0 lead. "Just a commitment," coach Mike Hastings said. "(C.J. Franklin), I thought, really showed his true colors as a far as a leader, and our defensive corps blocking shots, getting complete clears all the way down to the other end. And ... it’s a 5-on-3 in the second period where you’ve got the long changes and you can get caught."

2. Senior moment: The Mavericks' seniors were solid throughout the game, starting with the first goal. Flanagan scored it, getting assists from Carter Foguth and Zach Stepan. Michael Huntebrinker got a lot of the credit for screening goalie Davis Jones on the play. Huntebrinker later assisted on Tuomie's first goal, and Jordan Nelson assisted on Tuomie's second goal. Foguth finished the game with five blocked shots. Flanagan now has five goals and 16 points for the season.

3. It's not over: If the Mavericks learned anything this season, it's that the Nanooks don't go away easily. A 7-1 victory on Oct. 21 in Fairbanks was answered with a 4-2 Alaska win. Then a 7-3 win in Mankato was answered with a 5-5 tie and a Nanoooks shootout win. "Oh, there're not going away," Hastings said. The Mavericks will have to put together a similar effort on Saturday as they did in the opener to prevent a Game 3 on Sunday. "Everybody knows they're going to come hard," Flanagan said. "They've done it to use a couple of times. We'll have to weather that storm and get on them and play with speed."

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Bemidji State 3, Northern Michigan 0 ... Michigan Tech 6, Lake Superior State 4 ... Bowling Green 6, Ferris State 1

Live coverage: MSU vs. Alaska

Minnesota State opens WCHA postseason play at 7:07 p.m. tonight against Alaska. The Mavericks are the third seed, and the Nanooks are sixth. The winner of the best-of-three series will advance to the league semifinals, another best-of-three series at the home of the higher seed. Follow along with the action below tonight's lines.

20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 10-Knutson
25-Stepan, 17-Huntebrinker, 19-McClure
6-Tuomie, 16-Nelson, 12-Coatta
23-Rivera, 26-French, 9-Gerard

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Madry, Schwalbe, Vanko

26-Cline, 16-Munson, 22-Staley
39-Heidt, 27-Leiter, 28-Hope
14-Morley, 15-Van Tetering, 9-Basara
18-Mullally, 7-Erickson, 13-Vieth

6-Frye, 24-LaDouce
8-Woods, 10-Kiraly
12-Hinz, 32-Thompson


Friday Morning Skate

It's playoff time in the WCHA!

Yes, it seems just a bit early for it, but that's because of the new, Final Five-less format that will take place over the next three weekends.

In Mankato, Minnesota State will take on Alaska in the first round. The Mavericks are the third seed, but have had some of the best individual performances of the season at a couple of places, notably defenseman Daniel Brickley, the pride of Utah, who might have become the third D-man ever to lead the WCHA in scoring if not for an injury that caused him to miss eight games early in the season.

For more on the matchup with the sixth-seeded Nanooks, read the Freep's College Hockey Gameday.

Based on the teams' games this past season, no one should be surprised if the series is decided in a third game on Sunday night, the Fairbanks Daily News Miner writes. They split in Fairbanks, and, in Mankato, MSU won the first game and, following a tie in the second, Alaska won in a shootout. The Nanooks are coming off a sweep of rival Alaska Anchorage, winning the Governor's Cup between the two teams for the fifth time in a row.

Here's a look at the other playoff matchups:

1-Bemidji State vs. 8-Northern Michigan: The Beavers won the MacNaughton Cup and what's their reward? A matchup with the Wildcats and their record-setting goalie Atte Tolvanen. Expect a defensive battle between these two teams. "I don't think anyone was doing cartwheels having to play Northern Michigan," BSU coach Tom Serratore told the Bemidji Pioneer. The Wildcats squeaked into the eighth spot, but now it's a whole new season for them.

2-Michigan Tech vs. 7-Lake Superior State: The Huskies, like many team are looking for some secondary scoring, to get through this matchup between Upper Peninsula teams. It was something Tech started to see in their final games of the regular season. The Lakers are 0-4-4 in their last eight games, but three tiebreaker wins, including one Saturday, gave them the seventh seed.

4-Bowling Green vs. 5-Ferris State: The Falcons got the home-ice edge on the Bulldogs on the final weekend of the season, but Ferris will come to town hot, having lost just once in its last seven games. has a good feature on Bowling Green's Pohlkamp brothers from Baxter, Minn. The Falcons were the WCHA-favorite before the season started. They didn't win the MacNaughton Cup but they still have goals in sight.

Read WCHA playoff previews from USCHO and College Hockey News. And learn more about the playoffs on the Inside the WCHA show.

Wondering what I think will happen this weekend? I made some bold predictions in my Tuesday column.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mavericks 2, Beavers 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Playoff goalie? Minnesota State has started three different goalies in the last three games, and Jason Pawloski's performance on Saturday was the best of the bunch. Really, it was the best MSU has had in quite awhile. The sophomore stopped 27 of 28 shots, including a couple of real steals so the Mavericks could hang on and win the game. He made a couple of highlight-reel saves and stopped all 11 shots he faced in the third period when the Beavers outshot them 11-2. Minnesota State isn't exactly rolling into the playoffs with a hot goalie, but Pawloski might be the closest thing to it after Saturday. It was his first action since Dec. 17 at Princeton. Read more about Pawloski in my gamer below.

2. Without Foguth: Carter Foguth was lost for the game midway through the first period when he was called for a hit to the head on a hard check of Nate Arentz. Replay seemed to show a shoulder-to-shoulder hit, and MSU coach Mike Hastings disputed the call (again, see my game story below). The Mavericks other defenders had to step up their game bigly. Freshman Edwin Hookenson probably played more minutes than any other game this season. And Daniel Brickley was Ryan Suter-esque. "I think it was a big challenge for 8," Hastings said, calling Brickely by his jersey number. "People talk about his offense. I thought tonight he defended and defended hard. And he played monster minutes. Whether we were in the box or they were in the box, he was on the ice. And then 5-on-5 minutes he logged more than anybody else on our team."

3. Important win: Saturday's game had no bearing on Minnesota State's place in the standings. But getting a win over Bemidji State and at the Sanford Center isn't to be discounted. The Mavericks could be back in this building in three weeks. "I think it was huge to end the regular season on a good note," said Zeb Knutson, who scored MSU's first goal (Zach Stepan had the second, the game-winner). "Bemidji's kind of had our number the last three games. It was good to put it in our heads that we can beat them if we play them again. We know what it takes."

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Bowling Green 2, Alabama Huntsville 0 ... Northern Michigan 5, Michigan Tech 3 ... Lake Superior State 1, Ferris State 1 (Lakers win in shootout) ... Alaska at Alaska Anchorage (late)

WCHA playoff matchups (high seeds host best-of-three series): 1-Bemidji State vs. 8-Northern Michigan ... 2-Michigan Tech vs. 7-Lake Superior State ... 3-Minnesota State vs. 6-Alaska ... 4-Bowling Green vs. 5-Ferris State ... Alabama Huntsville and Alaska Anchorage are out

Live coverage: Mavericks at Bemidji State

Minnesota State will try to salvage a series split against rival Bemidji State at the Sanford Center. The Mavericks already know they will be the third seed in next week's conference tournament and will play sixth-seeded Alaska. It's the only matchup set going into the final night of the regular season. Follow along with the action below tonight's lines.

20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 19-McClure
25-Stepan, 17-Huntebrinker, 10-Knutson
6-Tuomie, 16-Nelson, 12-Coatta
23-Rivera, 26-French, 9-Gerard

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson


19-L. Fitzgerald, 21-G. Fitzgerald, 18-Harms
9-Marinaccio, 14-Bauman, 22-O'Connor
6-Dickman, 11-Arentz, 26-M. Fitzgerald
13-Soucier, 7-Roo, 15-Heller

29-Baudry, 32-Whitecloud
3-Muck, 2-Billett
4-Struthers, 20-Eichstadt


One matchup set

Here's what we know about the WCHA playoffs with one game remaining in the regular season:

• The top three seeds, in order, are: Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State.

• Alaska clinched the sixth seed on Friday night at Alaska Anchorage, so the Nanooks will come to Mankato for the first round of the tournament. That's the only matchup that's set.

• The final home ice spot, fourth place, will go to Bowling Green or Ferris State, depending on their outcomes tonight (BG is home against Alabama Huntsville; Ferris State is at Lake Superior State). The Falcons have the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs. I guess this 5-6 matchup is set for the first round, too, as they will play each other. They're just waiting to find out where.

• Alaska Anchorage was eliminated from the playoffs on Friday and will finish 10th in the league.

• Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan and Alabama Huntsville are in the seventh-, eighth- and ninth-place spots currently. It looks like the Lakers have the tiebreaker over the Chargers in head to head but could fall to the ninth spot in case of a three-way tie. The Wildcats have a one-point lead over Huntsville and can get in with a win over Michigan Tech.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Beavers 2, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Third it is: Minnesota State needed to win Friday's game to still have a shot at a second-place finish and a second seed for the WCHA playoffs. Earlier in the evening, Michigan Tech defeated Northern Michigan 3-2 to move six points ahead of the Mavericks. So the top three spots are set: Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State. The Mavericks and Beavers played a playoff-style game. "Not a lot of easy ice," BSU coach Tom Serratore said. Said MSU coach Mike Hastings: “That mirrors at playoff game in our league. It just wasn’t quite enough. A week from now, not quite enough ends your year.”

2. Goalie battle: Cole Huggins got the nod in goal for the Mavericks and made 23 saves. The first goal came off an MSU turnover during an extended shift by the Beavers that wore out the Mavericks' defenders. The second was on power play in the third period, a snipe by Gerry Fitzgerald. At the other end of the ice, Michael Bitzer stopped 26 shots. He made a couple of brilliant saves, including one on Marc Michaelis short-handed with about two minutes to play. Michaelis scored the Mavericks' lone goal, a power-play goal on which he tapped in his own rebound off the post. That was Michaelis'  team-leading 35th point of the season.

3. Beating Bemidji: Minnesota State is 0-3-1 in its last four games against Bemidji State. They have three goals in those games. The Mavericks will try to snap that streak on Saturday night. There's a chance, of course, they could return here in three weeks for the Broadmoor Trophy championship game. They sure hope so. "This is a time and, moving forward, you need to go out and earn everything," Hastings said. "Nobody’s going to give you anything. Tonight was the same way. We had some opportunities; we weren’t terrible tonight. Close game, and hat’s off to them for making a play on the power play. We had a power play in the third and didn’t."

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Bowling Green 7, Alabama Huntsville 0 ... Michigan Tech 3, Northern Michigan 2 ... Ferris State 6, Lake Superior State 4 ... Alaska at Alaska Anchorage (late)

Live coverage: MSU at Bemidji St

Minnesota State will play rival Bemidji State in the first game of the final series of the regular season. The Mavericks still have a shot at second place in the WCHA standings. The Beavers won the MacNaughton Cup two weeks ago. Follow along with the action below tonight's lines:

20-Michaelis, 15-Franklin, 19-McClure
25-Stepan, 17-Huntebrinker, 10-Knutson
6-Tuomie, 16-Nelson, 9-Coatta
23-Rivera, 26-French, 9-Gerard

11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson


19-L. Fitzgerald, 21-G. Fitzgerald, 18-Harms
9-Marinaccio, 14-Bauman, 22-O'Connor
6-Dickman, 11-Arentz, 26-M. Fitzgerald
13-Soucier, 7-Roo, 15-Heller

29-Baudry, 32-Whitecloud
3-Muck, 2-Billett
4-Struthers, 20-Eichstadt


Friday Morning Skate

Good morning from Bemidji. It looks like I made the right call getting out of Mankato a day early because of the snowstorm. Unfortunately, I missed the big East-West playoff showdown because if it. Good work by Jim Rueda covering the East victory.

Here in the north where they didn't get any snow, Minnesota State and Bemidji State will close out the WCHA regular-season schedule against each other. The Mavericks have something to play for as they can still finish second in the conference by making up three points to Michigan Tech. But they also don't need a lot of extra incentives when they're playing a rival.

The Mavericks have a couple of of players in the hunt for the WCHA scoring title, and if either freshman Marc Michaelis or defenseman Daniel Brickley get there, it will be a rare feat. For more see the Freep's College Hockey Gameday.

It will be interesting to see how MSU's offense fares this weekend after putting up 12 goals a week ago. As I columnized earlier in the week, it was a performance almost as impressive as the shutout streak the Northern Michigan came to town with.

As for the Beavers, they already clinched the MacNaughton Cup, however they still have goals for the rest of the season, including winning 20 games. Bemidji Pioneer writer Jack Hittinger opined that a regular-season title is important for BSU but only the first step for a successful season.

Going around the WCHA ...

Michigan Tech at/vs. Northern Michigan: Minnesota State is rooting for the team it beat up last weekend. If Northern Michigan can keep Tech from getting more than three points, the Mavericks have a shot at second. Huskies coach Mel Pearson said his team can't think about the team that's chasing his right now. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are holding a slim, one-point lead for the final playoff spot and want to find a way to keep it.

Alabama Huntsville at Bowling Green: There's a race for the WCHA's final home-ice playoff spot, but only Bowling Green controls its own destiny. However, home hasn't been too kind to the Falcons this season. The Chargers hope to take advantage of that and find their way into the postseason field. They're currently in ninth place, one point out of eighth.

Ferris State at Lake Superior State: Lake Superior State is in an interesting position. The Lakers could get home ice or they could get knocked out of the playoffs this weekend. They are five points out of fourth but three points ahead of ninth. What a spot to be in on the final week of the regular season! Ferris State, meanwhile, is tied for fourth but will need help to overtake Bowling Green for that spot.

Alaska at Alaska Anchorage: Alaska finds itself in similar position to Lake Superior State as it plays its in-state rival. The Nanooks are four points out of fourth and four points ahead of ninth. They just want a win to get in. The Seawolves, who are in 10th place, may know their fate before their late-night start, depending on how Huntsville and NMU do earlier. It was a tough day for hockey in Anchorage as the town's ECHL team, the Alaska Aces, announced that it would be folding after the season.

Read more about the WCHA from USCHO here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Brickley, Rivera honored

Minnesota State defenseman Daniel Brickley and forward Nicholas Rivera were honored by the WCHA for their play in the Mavericks' sweep of Northern Michigan over the weekend. It was the second award of the season for each player.

Brickley was named the league's Defensive Player of the Week after scoring a goal and two assists in Saturday's 7-4 victory. For the weekend, which included Friday's 5-3 victory, he was plus-2 with five blocked shots and 10 shots on goal.

Brickley is the top-scoring defenseman in the WCHA and eighth nationally with 27 points. He has eight goals an 19 assists.

Rivera was named the WCHA's Rookie of the Week after scoring both games' game-winning goals and adding an assist for a three-point weekend. He was plus-2 and had six shots on goal. Rivera has six goals and 10 points this season.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mavericks 7, Wildcats 4

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Taking offense: The Mavericks once again poured in the goals against Atte Tolvanen. Who would have imagined they'd put up 12 goals on a guy who entered the weekend on a five-game shutout streak? But that's sports, right? Seven different players scored goals. Seven different players had multiple-point nights (led by Daniel Brickley's three). Players from all four lines had points. For the weekend, the Mavericks got goals from 10 different players, and all 12 forwards had at least one point. "I like that we're talking about multiple people," coach Mike Hastings said.

2. Unsung freshmen: Marc Michaelis scored MSU's seventh goal, a beauty of a shot off a nice play from C.J. Franklin. That was his 13th goal and 34th point of the season. But he's received a ton of attention. Parker Tuomie had two assists in the game and finished the weekend with four points. And the fourth line of rookies Nick Rivera, Charlie Gerard and Josh French was very good again with two goals. For the weekend that group had three goals and three assists. "I thought they were the line that kind of carried us early," Hastings said.

3. Chasing Tech: With the win, the Mavericks moved within three points of Michigan Tech for second place, which would mean a second weekend at home for the playoffs (if you win your first series, of course). The Mavericks go to Bemidji State to close the regular season, while Tech will play Northern Michigan in a home-and-home series. Minnesota State has to hope Tolvanen gets his groove back, along with its own goalies. Aaron Nelson allowed four goals on a 11 shots (three on power plays) before being pulled for Cole Huggins. "Cole came in and shut the door," Hastings said. "I thought he played really well, not a lot of rebounds, and we’re going to need that going forward."

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Ferris State 3, Alaska Anchorage 0 ... Lake Superior State at Alaska (late)

Deep thought: