Saturday, September 30, 2017

Happy new year!

The men's college hockey season officially began on Saturday, and Minnesota State was on the ice — twice — for practice. Today, the Mavericks will play an exhibition game against Regina at 5:07 p.m. at the Verizon Center.

Check out Sunday's edition of The Free Press for my season preview story as well as a feature on C.J. Suess' decision to change his name from C.J. Franklin.

Earlier in the week, I opined about Minnesota State's many preseason accolades and how quickly those predictions will be forgotten once the Mavericks begin their tough schedule.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota State women's team opened their season this weekend and went 1-0-1 in a nonconference series at Lindenwood. Read about the Mavericks' prospects here, along with a feature on captain Anna Keys here.

Back to the men, Regina played St. Cloud State on Saturday and lost 8-0. It might be worth comparing that result to what happens tonight, as the Mavericks will host the ninth-ranked Huskies next Saturday to kick off the regular season. MSU's following opponent, No. 2 Boston University, played a real game on the first day of the season, defeating Union 4-1.

In other real-game action this weekend, Colgate defeated Niagara 5-1, and Michigan Tech will play at Wisconsin today.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Minnesota State 18th in first USCHO poll

Minnesota State ended up 18th in the country in the first USCHO poll, which was released on Monday. Defending national champion Denver was overwhelmingly voted No. 1, getting all but two votes. Boston University, who hosts Minnesota State on the second weekend of the season, was No. 2. Here's the poll:

Preseason Division I Men's Poll
Minneapolis, Minn./September 25, 2017

 1 Denver                    (48)   33- 7-4   998     1
 2 Boston University                24-11-3   837     6
 3 Minnesota                        23-12-3   822     7
 4 Harvard                   ( 1)   28- 6-2   744     3
 5 UMass Lowell                     27-11-3   711     4
 6 Minnesota Duluth          ( 1)   28- 7-7   642     2
 7 North Dakota                     21-16-3   632     9
 8 Notre Dame                       23-12-5   611     5
 9 St. Cloud State                  16-19-1   547    NR
10 Penn State                       25-12-2   530     8
11 Providence                       22-12-5   494    15
12 Wisconsin                        20-15-1   414    17
13 Boston College                   21-15-4   366    16
14 Quinnipiac                       23-15-2   286    20
15 Cornell                          21- 9-5   279    13
16 Union                            25-10-3   215    11
17 Air Force                        27-10-5   203    12
18 Minnesota State                  22-13-4   198    NR
19 Ohio State                       21-12-6   180    14
20 Northeastern                     18-15-5   172    NR
20 Western Michigan                 22-13-5   172    10

Others receiving votes: Vermont 119, Michigan Tech 60,
Bemidji State 52, Clarkson 45, Robert Morris 39, Miami 37,
Michigan 24, St. Lawrence 18, Omaha 17, Bowling Green 16,
Yale 11, Ferris State 5, Brown 1, Canisius 1, Dartmouth 1,
New Hampshire 1.

Mavericks are coaches' pick in WCHA

Minnesota State is the overwhelming choice to win the WCHA in the fifth annual Mankato Free Press WCHA Preseason Coaches Poll.

The Mavericks received nine first-place votes as well as the choices for Preseason Player of the Year — a tie between sophomore forward Marc Michaelis and junior defenseman Daniel Brickley — and Preseason Rookie of the Year — freshman forward Jake Jaremko.

Michaelis, Brickley and senior forward C.J. Suess were named to the Preseason All-WCHA Team.

Minnesota State was also the choice of in the preseason media poll (see below), and Brickley was the media's pick for player of the year. The poll was conducted by, which covers Alabama Huntsville.

You can read more here, but here are the results of the polls:

1. Minnesota State 90 points (9 first-place votes)
2. Bemidji State 81 (1)
3. Michigan Tech 70
4. Bowling Green 67
5. Ferris State 59
6. Lake Superior St. 51
7. Northern Michigan 40
8. Alaska 35
9. Ala. Huntsville 29
10. Alaska Anchorage 18

Teams get 10 points for first place, 9 for second, etc. Coaches could not vote for their own teams. Coaches could vote for their own players for preseason awards.

WCHA Preseason Player of the Year: Marc Michaelis, F, Minnesota State (4) and Daniel Brickley, D, Minnesota State (4)

Other receiving votes: Michael Bitzer, G, BSU; Gerry Fitzgerald, F, BSU.

WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year: Jake Jaremko, F, Minnesota State (4).

Others receiving votes: Connor Mackey, D, MSU (2); Brendan Harris, F, BSU (2); Joseph Nardi, F, NMU; Reggie Lutz, F, MSU.

Preseason All-WCHA Team
Forwards: Marc Michaelis, MSU; C.J. Suess, MSU; Mitch McLain, BG

Defensemen: Daniel Brickley, MSU; Mark Auk, MTU

Goalie: Michael Bitzer, BSU

Others receiving votes: Gerry Fitzgerald, F, BSU; Corey Mackin, F, FSU; Tyler Spezia, F, BG; J.T. Henke, F, LSSU; Ian Scheid, D, MSU; Kurt Gosselin, D, UAH; Mitch Reinke, D, MTU; Zach Frye, D, UAF; Olivier Mantha, G, UAA.

1. Minnesota State 137 points (12 first-place votes)
2. Bemidji State 115
3. Michigan Tech 110 (1)
4. Bowling Green 108 (1)
5. Ferris State 81
6. Lake Superior State 62
7. Northern Michigan 59
8. Alaska 43
9. Alabama Huntsville 36
10. Alaska Anchorage 19

WCHA Preseason Player of the Year: Daniel Brickley, D, Minnesota State

Others receiving votes: Marc Michaelis, F, MSU; Mitch McLain, F, BG; Michael Bitzer G, BSU

Preseason All-WCHA First Team
Forwards: Mitch McLain, BG; Marc Michaelis, MSU; Corey Mackin, FSU

Defensemen: Daniel Brickley, MSU; Kurt Gosselin, UAH

Goaltender: Michael Bitzer, BSU

Preseason All-WCHA Second TeamForwards: Gerry Fitzgerald, BSU; C.J. Suess, MSU; Joel L’Esperance, MTU

Defensemen: Mitch Reinke, MTU; Mark Auk, MTU

Goaltender: Atte Tolvanen, NMU

Others receiving votes (listed alphabetically by position): Forwards – Kyle Bauman, Sr., Bemidji State; Gavin Gould, So., Michigan Tech; J.T. Henke, Sr., Lake Superior State; Max Humitz, So., Lake Superior State; Brad McClure, Sr., Minnesota State; Tyler Spezia, Sr., Bowling Green. Defensemen – Clint Lewis, Sr., Minnesota State; Alec Rauhauser, So., Bowling Green; Joe Rutkowski, So., Ferris State; Collin Saccoman, So., Lake Superior State; Ian Scheid, So., Minnesota State; David Trinkberger, So., Alaska Anchorage; Zach Whitecloud, So., Bemidji State; Justin Woods, Sr., Alaska. Goaltenders – Justin Kapelmaster, So., Ferris State; Olivier Mantha, Sr., Alaska Anchorage; Jason Pawloski, Jr., Minnesota State.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Carter calls it a career

As first reported last week by Michael Russo in The Athletic, former Maverick and 10-year NHL veteran Ryan Carter has retired.

I got a chance to talk to Carter on Friday for today's story in The Free Press. He talked about his somewhat unlikely career — at least unlikely when he arrived at Minnesota State as a 21-year-old freshman in the fall of 2004. Two and a half years later, his name would be on the Stanley Cup, and he would bring the sacred trophy back to Mankato.

Only David Backes (now with the Boston Bruins) and Tim Jackman (who retired last year and is starting his second season at MSU as a student assistant), both draft picks, have played more NHL games coming out of Minnesota State.

As the story begins, Carter talks about playing the "what-if" game, as in what if he had stayed at MSU instead of taking that opportunity from the Anaheim Ducks after his sophomore year. I asked if he meant that he wonders if a tough junior season would have closed that window of opportunity. Quite the opposite, Carter said. He wonders if he would have been an even better NHL player, perhaps more of a scorer than a grinder.

Carter is finishing his MSU degree now, taking online classes. He hopes this semester plus a heavy load in the spring and some summer courses will allow him to finish within a year. Perhaps he'll use his student ID to come back to Mankato this season and watch his old team to play.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mavericks name captains for '17-18

The Minnesota State men named their captains for the upcoming season.

Senior forwards C.J. Suess and Brad McClure and junior forward Max Coatta will be tri-captains, according to a release sent out on Thursday afternoon.

Suess (formerly Franklin) will be in his second season wearing the "C," sharing the honor with Carter Foguth last year. McClure was an alternate captain last season. This year will be the first that Coatta will have a badge on his sweater.

Suess, a Winnipeg Jets draft pick, has 84 points in 117 career games, including 35 goals. McClure has 70 points in in 119 games, including 34 goals. They were All-WCHA second- and third-team picks, respectively, last season. Coatta has 26 points in 75 career games, including 11 goals. He was a WCHA All-Rookie pick in 2015-16 and MSU's Hardest Worker Award winner last year.

"I'm excited about the leadership group our locker room has selected as tri-captains," coach Mike Hastings said in the release. "They all bring something unique to the table to better our program in the upcoming season."

UPDATE: The women's team also named its captains. Senior defenseman Anna Keys will be the captain, and senior forward Hannah Davidson will be the alternate captain.

Keys had 30 points in 107 career games, including eight goals. She was an alternate captain last season. Davidson has 44 career points, including 18 goals.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

MSU women picked 7th in WCHA

The WCHA women's coaches poll was released on Tuesday, and Minnesota State was picked to finish seventh in the now-seven-team league (after North Dakota's departure).

Read more about what coach John Harrington and others said about the upcoming season on The Free Press' website, but here are the results of the poll:

2017-18 WCHA Head Coaches’ Preseason Poll
Rank             Team (1st Place Votes)                               Points
       1              Minnesota (4)                                                  34
       2              Wisconsin (3)                                                   33
       3              Minnesota Duluth                                           23
                       Ohio State                                                         23
       5              Bemidji State                                                    14
       6              St. Cloud State                                                 11
       7              Minnesota State                                               9
(note: coaches could not vote for their own teams in the poll and points were awarded on a 6-5-4-3-2-1 system)

WCHA Preseason Player of the Year (votes)
Kassidy Sauve, RS-Jr., G, Ohio State (6); Abby Roque, So., F, Wisconsin (1).

WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year (votes)
Grace Zumwinkle, F, Minnesota (4); Ashton Bell, F, Minnesota Duluth (1); Clair DeGeorge, F, Bemidji State (1); Emma Maltais, F, Ohio State (1).

Former Mavs find coaching gigs

In today's Free Press column, I wrote about some former Minnesota State players who have gotten jobs recently as junior hockey coaches — Rylan Galiardi in Sioux Falls (USHL), Josh Nelson in Muskegon (USHL), Mankato native Corey Leivermann in Janesville (NAHL) — and their paths to get there.

I'm set to go into my 18th season of covering MSU hockey, so I shouldn't be surprised to see former players become coaches. It just makes me feel old!

In Wenatchee (BCHL), Chris Clark is going into his 10th season as an assistant coach, and Ryan McKelvie is leading that team's development program. Previously, he was the head coach at Division III Lake Forest for three years.

I knew when I filed this column that I'd be missing some names, but these are some worth noting, names that — who knows? — could maybe one day return to Minnesota State as a coach as assistant Darren Blue (going into his 18th season at his alma mater) and women's assistant Shari Dickerman (ninth season) did.

Before my time, of course, alum Troy Jutting coached the Mavericks for 12 years. And Mike Carroll has been successful for many years with the Gustavus women's team. His brothers Steve Carroll and Pat Carroll, also MSU alums, have served on his staff. Tom Serratore, Bemidji State's coach, started his career with the Mavericks before transferring to BSU.

Already, Twitter followers have mentioned Kyle Peto and Des Christopher coaching one of the Shattuck-St. Mary's teams and Lee Smith at Eden Prairie High School.

Who else am I missing?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Mavs get Florida commit

In recent years, Minnesota State's roster has been quite the melting pot, with players representing several U.S. states. In a year or two, the Mavericks will be able to check Florida off their list. They recently received a verbal commitment from Nathan Smith, a forward currently with the USHL's Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.

Smith, a 6-foot-0, 174-pounder, was born in Hudson, Florida, part of the Tampa area, in 1998. With the NHL's Lightning making their debut just six years earlier, it should be no surprise that hockey has grown in that area of the country.

You can see Smith's high school stats here.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Mavericks add goalie recruit

Minnesota State received a verbal commitment from Madison Capitols (USHL) goaltender Dryden McKay on Thursday. The Downers Grove, Ill., native, who will turn 20 in November, went 18-17-0 last season with a .917 save percentage and 2.70 goals against average.
McKay had committed to play at Holy Cross but will now be coming to Mankato in a year.

The first thing you notice about McKay, though, is his first name. It's the surname of one of the greatest goaltenders of all time, Ken Dryden. No pressure there, right? So far, it looks like he's handling it well.

Prior to going to Madison and the USHL, McKay played two seasons in the NAHL. He had .917, 2.77 in 37 games with Springfield in 2014-15 and .921, 2.47 in 34 games with Corpus Christi in 2015-16.

This season, the Mavericks will have two senior goalies on their roster, grad-transfer Connor LaCouvee from Boston University and Aaron Nelson, who finally got his first game action with MSU last year after 2 1/2 seasons as the No. 3. Jason Pawloski will be a junior. So the Mavericks, it appears, will have to bring in another goalie for next year, too. (UPDATE: MSU does have a commitment from former Holy Family Catholic goalie Jaxson Stauber, who is in the Sioux Falls Stampede's training camp currently; would he be ready to come in in 2018 or would he, as I suspect, be in line to take Pawloski's spot in 2019?)

Between LaCouvee and McKay (and Stauber), the Mavericks appear to have come out OK after top recruit Matiss Kivlenieks opted to turn pro out of the USHL rather than play college hockey. The proof, of course, will be on the ice.