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