Saturday, June 23, 2018

MSU recruit Nathan Smith drafted

Nathan Smith, a Minnesota State recruit, was taken in the third round of the National Hockey League draft on Saturday. The Winnipeg Jets took him with the 91st overall selection.

Smith, a 6-foot-0, 180-pound forward, is slated to be a freshman for the Mavericks in the fall of 2019.

A Hudson, Florida, native, he played last season with the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Rough Riders of the United States Hockey League and plans on playing for that junior team again this season.

Smith was a prolific scorer playing high school hockey in Florida where he had 176 points (88 goals, 88 assists) in 45 games from 2014 to 2017.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Goaltending turnover

Minnesota State will have a completely different look in goal next season.

Besides having two freshman goaltenders coming in, the Mavericks, for the second year in a row, will have a graduate transfer competing for the job.

Mathias Israelsson, who played three seasons, mostly in a backup role, for Northern Michigan will join the group, while Jason Pawloski, who would have been MSU’s lone returner at the position, is apparently no longer with the program.

Coach Mike Hastings confirmed the move on Monday. He first talked about next season's goalies on the Beyond the Pod podcast with KFAN's Brandon Mileski and Pat Micheletti last week.

“It’s competition,” Hastings said Monday. “You’re looking at three guys, and there’s not an incumbent. I’d be excited about that as a player. The opportunity is wide open."

Israelsson, a native of Sweden who will turn 24 on July 19, appeared in 21 games for the Wildcats, 11 last season, a career-high. He has a career record of 5-7-2 with a 2.88 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage. 

However, with standout Atte Tolvanen, last season’s WCHA Goaltender of the Year (as well as an all-rookie, second-team and first-team all-league pick the last three years), on the team at the same time, Israelsson has not been able to grasp the starting spot for the Wildcats. 

Israelsson has played two games against Minnesota State, losing a game at Mankato as a freshman in 2016 and stopping 23 shots to defeat the Mavericks last season in Marquette, Michigan. After that second game, he was named WCHA Goaltender of the Week.

Although, he’s played in more games over the last three years, Pawloski also had a hard time staking claim to the No. 1 job. In three seasons at Minnesota State he went 22-11-7 with a .907 save percentage and a 2.12 goals-against average. He, too, played in 11 games last season, a career-low, as Connor LaCouvee, a graduate transfer from Boston University evolved into the team’s top goalie in his lone season at MSU. No word yet as to Pawloski's future plans.

“He’s no longer with us,” Hastings said of Pawloski. “We wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

Before arriving at NMU, the 5-foot-11, 187-pound Israelsson played two seasons in the United States Hockey League with the Fargo Force and Waterloo Blackhawks.

He will compete with incoming freshmen Dryden McKay and Jacob Berger.

McKay, 20, is a 5-11, 161-pound goalie from Downers Grove, Illinois. He spent the last two seasons with the USHL’s Madison Capitols where he had a .907 save percentage and a 3.38 goals-against average last year.

Berger, 20, a 5-11, 165-pound Minnetonka native had a .905 save percentage and 3.45 goals-against average last year, his second season with the Merritt Centennials of the British Columbia Hockey League.

Players, including most freshmen, arrived in Mankato this week for the MSU’s second session of summer classes.

Another Zmolek commits to Mavs

Bennett Zmolek, the brother of Minnesota State sophomore-to-be Riese Zmolek, announced on Twitter that he has committed to play for the Mavericks. The defenseman from Rochester Century will be a high school junior, so he's a younger-than usual commit for MSU.




Zmolek had five goals and 16 assists for Century this past season. The Panthers went 20-5-1 and won the Big Nine Conference title. He recently talked to the Rochester Post-Bulletin's Jason Feldman about his decision, saying, “The atmosphere in Mankato is really great. Riese just told me how much he likes it there and how great the staff is.”

Another Zmolek brother, Will, is a Bemidji State recruit. He played this past season at Cedar Rapids of the USHL.

Monday, June 11, 2018

WCHA changes streaming services

The WCHA on Monday announced a multiyear partnership with FloSports to video stream every men's game hosted by a league team.

More than 180 games will be shown live and on-demand on FloHockey.tv. Games include all regular-season league and nonconference games, as well exhibitions and WCHA playoff games.

Subscribers will also have access to additional college hockey coverage, including select Big Ten games.

Monthly or annual subscriptions to FloSports can be purchased at FloHockey.tv. Games can be watched through the FloSports app.

WCHA games previously were streamed through Stretch Internet.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Hastings promoted to U.S. junior head coach

Mike Hastings' stint as assistant coach for the U.S. National Junior Team turned out to be short-lived.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey announced that the Minnesota State men's hockey coach was promoted to head coach of the team that will participate in the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.

Hastings will take the spot vacated by David Quinn, the Boston University coach who was tapped to lead the U.S. junior team on April 20. Last week, however, Quinn was hired as head coach of the NHL's New York Rangers. Hastings was set to be an assistant on Quinn's Team USA staff.

"It's always an honor to represent your country and I'm thrilled to be asked to do so as head coach of this year's U.S. National Junior Team," Hastings said in a USA Hockey press release. "Our first few weeks as a staff have already been terrific thanks in large part to David's leadership, and we couldn't be happier to have Scott join in the evaluation process. The talent depth is better than it's ever been, and we fully believe we can build a roster more than capable of claiming a fourth-straight medal in this tournament."

The World Junior Championship will take place Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia. Hastings will miss two weekends of Minnesota State games over that time, a tournament on Dec. 28-29 hosted by Arizona State and a home series Jan. 4-5 against Michigan Tech. Assistant coaches Darren Blue and Todd Knott will run things in Hastings' absence.

"Mike was the obvious choice in taking over as head coach of our national junior team,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey and general manager of the 2019 U.S. National Junior Team, in a press release. "While we wish David Quinn all the best in his return to the NHL, it speaks volumes to our American depth in the coaching ranks that not only can someone of Mike's stature fill this position, but we can add an individual with Scott's resume, as well."

USA Hockey also announced Tuesday that Minnesota Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin was added to the staff, replacing Hastings as an assistant. The other coaches are Dartmouth associate head coach David Lassonde and Ohio State associate head coach Steve Miller.

Hastings was an assistant coach for Sandelin during the 2005 World Juniors and was also an assistant on the 2003 team. Hastings also twice served as head coach for the U.S. Junior Select Team.

The U.S. has won a medal in three-straight World Junior Championships, taking bronze in 2018, gold in 2017 and bronze 2016.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Blueger now at world championships

Teddy Blueger (23) of Team Latvia takes a shot on goal
against Team USA during a IIHF World Championship
game  Thursday in Denmark. Associated Press photo
Former Minnesota State standout Teddy Blueger was added to the Team Latvia roster at the IIHF World Championship in Denmark. He had an assist in his first game, a 3-2 overtime loss to the United States on Thursday (the accompanying photo is from that game).

Blueger had 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points in 70 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League this year. He was briefly called up to the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins but never got in a game. He is making his second appearance at the world championships. The Riga native represented Latvia last spring and scored one goal in seven games.

Blueger played for Minnesota State from 2012-16 and finished his collegiate career with 31 goals and 77 assists for 108 points in 155 games.

Blueger is one of two Minnesota State-connected players at worlds. Current player Marc Michaelis is playing for Team Germany (see blog post below). Michaelis has one goal and one assist in four games.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Mavs' 2018-19 schedule released

The return of Minnesota, the first-ever visit to Mankato by Boston University and road trips to North Dakota and Arizona highlight the Minnesota State men’s hockey team’s 2018-19 schedule, which was released on Wednesday, along with the entire WCHA docket.

The Mavericks did not play the Gophers in 2017-18, the first time that did not happen since the 1996-97 season. The two teams will play a home-and-home series Nov. 2-3, with the second game taking place in Mankato.

Minnesota State will open the regular season against a pair of traditional national powers, starting Oct. 12-13 at home against Boston University. The Mavericks played two games at Boston last season, sweeping the then-No. 2-ranked Terriers.

The following weekend, Oct. 19-20, the Mavericks will play North Dakota for the first time since 2012-13, the final year of the old WCHA and will make their first trip to Grand Forks since 2011-12. The Fighting Hawks are expected to make the return trip to Mankato during the 2019-20 season.

The Mavericks will also play in a the Desert Hockey Classic in late December in Glendale, Arizona. Dates and matchups for the event, hosted by Arizona State, ar not yet set.

The 2018-19 season also marks the 50th season of Minnesota State men's hockey and a special celebration is slated for the opening home series vs. Boston University.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

'Pucks and Circumstance' for Jackman, Carter

Photo courtesy Paul Allan, Minnesota State athletics
Tim Jackman and Ryan Carter walked through graduation on Saturday morning at Minnesota State, completing some long journeys before first enrolling at the university and completing their degrees. In between were two years playing for the Mavericks and were long careers in the NHL. But both felt compelled to return after retirement and get that diploma.

Read my column on them here.

Jackman moved to the Mankato area two years ago and spent two years going to school and working with Minnesota State as an undergraduate assistant. Carter, who took an occasional class online while he was still playing, took a full load of online classes last year to finish.

One comment that missed the cut in the story was about why Carter chose to walk through graduation:

"It was less for me personally and more for my family and kids. My dad graduated late, when he was 45, and I was able to see him, watch him study and do what he needed to do. My kids are still young, so I don’t know if they’ll remember, but I wanted to have a family picture and a story to tell."

Monday, May 7, 2018

Michaelis playing in World Championships

The Associated Press
Minnesota State men’s hockey forward Marc Michaelis (65 in photo) is playing for Team Germany in the 2018 IIHF Men’s World Championship in Denmark.

The tournament began Friday and runs through May 20. On Monday, the United States defeated Germany 3-0.

Michaelis, a native of Mannheim, Germany, completed his sophomore season with the Mavericks this spring and was named First Team All-WCHA for the second time after totaling 18 goals and 22 assists for 40 points in 36 games. He has 76 career points.

According to College Hockey Inc., Michaelis is one of 35 current or former NCAA players participating in the world championship. In 2015, Michaelis played for Germany at the IIHF U20 World Championships.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Mavericks announce awards

Minnesota State announced its team award winners this week, and there weren't too many surprises. In fact, it would be hard for me to dispute them too much. Here are the winners below, with a bit of commentary.

Most Valuable Player — C.J. Suess: Suess, who also won the Don Brose Leadership Award and the Three Star of the Year Award (based on a point system from the postgame awards each home game), led MSU in scoring with 43 points, including 22 goals and was the WCHA Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Conference, as well as the Mavericks' first Hobey Baker top-10 finalist. One of MSU's three captains, Suess had 521 faceoff wins, which ranked third in the nation and finished the year at plus-18.

Comment: Can't argue with this one. He was MSU's best all-around player all season — offensively and as a two-way defensive forward. Lots of choices for runner-up, including Marc Michaelis and Daniel Brickley, but I'd probably go with Zeb Knutson.

Unsung Player Award — Connor LaCouvee: In his only season at MSU, the BU transfer went 23-6-1 with a .914 save percentage and a 1.80 goals-against average. His 1.67 GAA in WCHA play made him the league's goaltending champion. He was a Third Team All-WCHA pick and a Mike Richter Award semifinalist. He started the last 17 games of the season.

Comment: Interesting choice here, considering his accolades. However, getting Third Team All-Conference while winning the goalie title might make him somewhat unsung. Also, MSU's dominant possession time and low shots allowed can leave its goalies in the shadows. I like the pick, but others I'd strongly consider would be Edwin Hookenson and F Parker Tuomie.

Most Improved Player Award — Dallas Gerads: The freshman forward had 14 points in 27 games. He played in all 20 of the Mavericks' final games after playing in just seven of their first 20. His seven goals, including four power-play goals.

Comment: If you've read this blog, this is the award where I wonder if it should be for improvement during the year or improvement from the previous year. I usually like to award the latter, but this is a great choice considering how little Gerads played over the first half of the season and how important he became over the second half, including on the power play. By my other standard, I'd probably pick  Edwin Hookenson (he may have qualified by both standards) or Parker Tuomie.

Hardest Worker Award — Max Coatta: The junior forward, one of three captains on the team, won this award for the second year in a row. He played in all 40 games and had 11 points.

Comment: The players and coaches can judge this better than I, especially if they take practice time into consideration, but Coatta definitely fits this bill. Daniel Brickley probably deserved close consideration for this as well.

Earlier in the week, MSU held its banquet for its Maverick Achievement Awards, which are for all sports. Suess won the Male Athletics Medal of Honor, which goes to the top senior male athlete. It was the first time since 2003 that a hockey player won the men's award. B.J. Abel won it that year. Freshman forward Jake Jaremko won the Male Newcomer of the Year Award, which goes to the top male freshman for transfer student. Jaremko was the WCHA's Rookie of the Year after a 39-point season.



Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Nelson re-ups with Sabres

Buffalo Sabres
Casey Nelson broke out as an NHL player after getting called up to the Buffalo Sabres in January, and Sabres made sure he wasn't going to get away, signing him to a two-year contract on Wednesday.

According to Buffalo's press release, the deal is worth an annual average of $812,500.

Nelson played in 37 games in his third pro season (second full season), recording eight points and averaging 18:47 of ice time. He often played with the Sabres' top defensive pairing.

Last season, he played just 11 games with Buffalo, the team he signed with out of Minnesota State after the 2015-16 season. He played seven games with the Sabres right away after his college career ended.

If he continues to play with the big club and if other players get their shot -- Daniel Brickley in Los Angeles, C.J. Suess in Winnipeg, Teddy Blueger in Pittsburgh -- there could be a nice mix of MSU alums playing in the NHL next season with regulars David Backes in Boston and Tyler Pitlick in Dallas.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Alaska teams finally have coaches

It took some time — and some rejection — but Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks have hired their new head hockey coaches.

Anchorage on April 21 named Matt Curley as coach. The 35-year-old was the head coach of the EC Red Bulls Juniors team based out of Salzburg, Austria, for the past three seasons. Prior to that, he worked as an assistant coach for two seasons at Bentley University and was an assistant with the U.S. National Team Development Program as well as with the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League.

A native of Madrid, New York, Curley played college hockey at Clarkson from 2003 to 2007. He replaced Matt Thomas, whose contract was not renewed after five seasons with the Seawolves.

On Monday, Alaska announced the hiring of the youngest head coach in Division I, 31-year-old Erik Largen.

Largen, a Fairbanks native and former Nanooks goaltender, becomes the 10th coach in program history. He was an assistant coach for Alaska the last two seasons and replaces Lance West, who was the WCHA team's interim coach last season.

Prior to joining his alma mater, Largen was the head coach at Division III Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, for one season and had a record of 18-7-3 there. He also has six years of assistant coaching experience in the junior ranks. He played at Alaska from 2006 to 2008, appearing in four games.

It seemed like it was going to take forever for the Seawolves and Nanooks to find coaches. Anchorage reportedly offered the job to three finalists only to have them all turn down the job. Fairbanks announced two finalists, including West, but couldn't reach an agreement with either.

As I wrote about in my column last week, the Alaska schools are tough sells and in tough spots — geographically, financially and competitively. But there are only 60 D1 hockey jobs in the country. It's a pretty exclusive club.

And you never know what a job like that could turn into. Don Lucia got his first chance at Alaska Fairbanks, when he was just 29 years old.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Hastings named to U.S. world junior staff

Minnesota State men's hockey coach Mike Hastings was named an assistant coach for the 2019 U.S. National Junior Team, which will compete in the World Junior Championships Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

USA Hockey announced the team's coaching staff on Friday. Boston University's David Quinn is the head coach. Other assistants include David Lassonde, associate head coach at Dartmouth, and Steve Miller, associate head coach at Ohio State.

"I'm honored to have the opportunity to represent our country and university at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships," Hastings said in a Minnesota State press release. "I'm extremely excited to be a part of such an accomplished coaching staff led by David Quinn."

This will be Hastings' third time as an assistant at the World Juniors. He was also on the staff in 2005 and 2003. Quinn was an assistant with him on the '05 team. Hastings has also twice served as head coach of the U.S. Junior Select Team, winning a Viking Cup in 2000.

Hastings just completed his sixth season at Minnesota State.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Mavs add three to recruiting class

Minnesota State announced the signing of three recruits on Wednesday, the first day of the regular signing period.

The group includes goaltender Jacob Berger, defenseman Zakery Galambos and forward Christopher Van Os-Shaw and joins five others who signed their letters of intent during the fall signing period.

Berger, a Minnetonka native, spent the last two seasons with Merritt of the British Columbia Hockey League. This past season the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder was 13-24-0 with a .905 save percentage and a 3.45 goals-against average.

Galambos, of Walnut Creek, Calif., played this past season for Wenatchee of the BCHL and had 28 points (five goals) in 41 games. The Wild is still playing in the playoffs, and the 6-2, 176-pounder has 11 points (five goals) in 15 postseason games. The Wild are in the league finals. 

Van Os-Shaw, of Regina, Saskatchewan, racked up 51 goals and 97 points in 59 games for Spruce Grove of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, winning that league's scoring title and MVP honor. The 6-2, 200-pounder has 14 points eight playoff games. The Saints are currently alive in the league finals. He was in the Saskatchewan league the previous two seasons, including a season-plus with the Humboldt Broncos, the team that was involved in the terrible bus crash last weekend. Van Os-Shaw originally committed to Alaska Anchorage but changed that to Minnesota State last week.

Recruits who signed in November include defensemen Wyatt Aamodt (Hermantown, Lincoln-USHL) and Andy Carroll (Northfield, Green Bay-USHL; goaltender Dryden McKay (Downers Grove, Ill./Madison-USHL) and forwards Julian Napravnik (Bad Nauheim, Germany/Des Moines-USHL) and Nathan Smith (Hudson, Fla./Cedar Rapids-USHL).

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Minnesota Duluth wins the NCAA title

Minnesota Duluth took its come-from-behind overtime victory over Minnesota State in the first round of the NCAA tournament and rode it all the way to a national championship.

The Bulldogs won their second title, beating Notre Dame 2-1 on Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the same arena where they won their 2011 crown.

Like they did against Air Force and Ohio State, UMD went up 2-0 in the first period and hung on to win the game.

On Saturday, Karson Kuhlman and Jared Thomas scored for the Bulldogs, who were the last at-large team to make the national tournament. Notre Dame’s Andrew Oglevie scored on the power play at 7:40 of the second period to make for a wild second half of the game.

All three Frozen Fours at the X have produced Minnesota winners, with the Gophers winning in 2002 and the Bulldogs winning in ‘11 and ‘18.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Suess named All-American

Minnesota State senior center C.J. Suess was named a 2017-18 West All American on Friday.

He becomes the seventh Mavericks player to earn the honor at the Division I level and is the second to be a First Team pick by the American Hockey Coaches Association.

It's another honor for the two-time team captain, who was the WCHA's Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and Scoring Champion, as well as a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

Suess joins Matt Leitner (2015) as MSU's only other First Team selection. Other DI All Americans, all Second Team picks, were Grant Stevenson ('03), Shane Joseph ('03), David Backes ('06), Zach Palmquist ('15) and Daniel Brickley ('17).

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Brickley makes NHL debut



There was some question as to whether or not Daniel Brickley would actually play for the Los Angeles Kings after signing with them last week following his junior season at Minnesota State. But the defenseman got the chance on Thursday night in L.A. against the Minnesota Wild, becoming the 12th former Maverick to skate in the NHL.

Brickley picked up his first NHL point, too, assisting on a goal in the 5-4 overtime victory.

UMD back in national title game

Minnesota Duluth will play for the national championship for the second year in a row after defeating  Ohio State 2-1 in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals on Friday in St. Paul.

The Bulldogs, who lost to Denver in last year's title game, will be playing either Notre Dame or Michigan on Saturday in the Xcel Energy Center, the site of its championship victory over Michigan in 2011.

UMD scored twice in the first 3:04 against the Buckeyes and held on from there in a game that was almost a carbon copy of their West Regional win over Air Force two weekends ago in Sioux Falls. The Bulldogs opened that weekend with a 3-2 overtime victory over Minnesota State, erasing a 2-0 first period deficit.

Notre Dame came from behind to beat Michigan 4-3, scoring the game-winner with just 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Brickley signs with Kings

Minnesota State men's hockey junior defenseman Daniel Brickley has agreed to terms with the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, the Kings announced on Thursday.

The signing means Brickley will forgo his final season of college eligibility, as expected.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Brickley, considered one of the top undrafted free-agent prospects in college hockey since his sophomore season, spent much of the week following the end of MSU's season jetting around the country and meeting with NHL teams to figure out where he was going to play next.

In three seasons for the Mavericks, Brickley played in 107 games, scoring 20 goals and assisting on 57 others for 77 points.

This past season, Brickley had 10 goals and 25 assists for 35 points — all career-highs — and was named Second Team All-WCHA.

As a sophomore, Brickley has 8 goals and 23 assists for 31 points and was WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All-WCHA. He was also a Second Team West All-American.

As a freshman, he had two goals and nine assists for 11 points and was a WCHA All-Rookie pick.

Read my story, which includes comments from Brickley and Mike Hastings here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Gophers land Motzko as new coach

It sure didn't take long for Minnesota to make a decision on its next hockey coach.

St. Cloud State's Bob Motzko will take over for Don Lucia, the U announced on Tuesday, one week after Lucia resigned from the job.

Motzko was an assistant for Lucia from 2001 to 2005, helping the Gophers win two national titles, before becoming the head coach at St. Cloud State. In 13 seasons with the Huskies, his teams went to eight NCAA tournaments and one Frozen Four.

This postseason the Huskies were a favorite to win the national title, entering the West Regional in Sioux Falls as the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. But they were upset by Air Force, and that allowed Minnesota, which missed the NCAAs, to move on Motzko quickly.

Motzko seemed to be a favorite for the job as soon as it opened, along with longtime Gophers assistant Mike Guentzel and Northern Michigan coach Grant Potulny, a former U assistant and player under Lucia. Minnesota State's Mike Hastings was also mentioned as a possible candidate.

Now the question will be who gets the St. Cloud State job. Hastings is an alum but is one year into a 10-year contract worth more than $330,000 annually with MSU, another MnSCU school. That was a contract that kept him away from discussions with Nebraska Omaha, where he had close ties. Hard to imagine St. Cloud State being able to top that.

More coverage on the Motzko hiring from the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press and St. Cloud Times.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Suess signs with Jets

Minnesota State senior C.J. Suess on Sunday signed with the Winnipeg Jets, the team that drafted him in 2014.

The Jets announced that Suess signed a one-year entry-level contract worth $925,000. He also signed an amateur tryout contract with the AHL's Manitoba Moose for the remainder of this season.

Suess, 24, was drafted by the Jets in the fifth round (129th overall) in 2014. He finished his MSU career on Friday after leading the Mavericks with 43 points (22-21) in 40 games. He was WCHA Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and league scoring champion. He's also a top-10 Hobey Baker finalist. 

Suess had 127 career points with the Mavericks, which is tied for fifth on the school's career Division I-era scoring list.

The Moose's next game is Monday night. Curious to see if Suess will be in the lineup.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

UMD advances to Frozen Four

Minnesota Duluth, which got into the NCAA tournament by .0001 points and came from behind to knock off Minnesota State in overtime on Friday, won the West Regional on Saturday in Sioux Falls, defeating Air Force 2-1.

Air Force, which shocked St. Cloud State, the No. 1 overall seed in the national tournament on Friday, mustered just 12 shots, none in the first period. That was the second time UMD held an opponent to no shots on goal, doing that to MSU in the second period Friday.

Joey Anderson and Nick Wolff scored first-period goals for the Bulldogs, and they held on from there.

Air Force goalie Billy Christopoulos was rock-solid again on Saturday, stopping 24 shots, but got little help from his offense until 6:16 remained in the third period. That's when Evan Giesler scored on the power play, making for a thrilling finish that included a couple of Grade A scoring chances for Air Force with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker.

Minnesota Duluth will move on to the Frozen Four in St. Paul, the same location where it won the national championship in 2011. It's also the Bulldogs' second consecutive trip to the Frozen Four. They lost in the title game to Denver last year.

The final had a crowd of 8,015, just a little more than Friday's. Very nice crowds for an NCAA regional. Having three Minnesota teams in really helped the attendance, but Sioux Falls should be considered again for another regional soon.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM 
Forward — Carson Kuhlman, Minnesota Duluth, Most Outstanding Player
Forward — Parker Mackay Minnesota Duluth
Forward — Tyler Ledford, Air Force
Defense — Dylan Samberg, Minnesota Duluth
Defense —Nick Wolff, Minnesota Duluth
Goalie — Billy Christopolous, Air Force

Friday, March 23, 2018

Bulldogs 3, Mavericks 2 (OT)

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Another tough loss: Minnesota State is now 0-5 in DI NCAA tournament games. This one might not be as crushing as the RIT upset, but it was a tough one. The Mavericks got off to a great start, scoring twice in the first period, but they got nothing after that. They hit iron twice in the third period on great chances and had a flukey play in overtime when Nick Rivera's shot was stopped by teammate Brad McClure, who had been knocked into the net. "I felt the puck hit me," McClure said. "I didn't know if it was in or not." It wasn't, and a few minutes later the Bulldogs got the game-winner.

2. Check the tape: Besides the great start, something MSU hadn't had in previous national-tournament games, the Mavericks came out on the right side of a goal review. UMD appeared to win the game 55 seconds into overtime. But while it was celebrating, the officials went to the monitor and determined that goaltender Connor LaCouvee was interfered with. Remember when RIT got the reversal when a no-goal call became a good-goal call in 2015? Minnesota State couldn't capitalize with the new life, though. "Our guys did a good job going out and getting refocused quickly," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said, "and we were able to get the next one."

3. End of the line: The Mavericks closed out the season with their first and only three-game losing streak, with two of the games ending in overtime. Friday's game was the last for C.J. Suess (127 career points), Zeb Knutson (88), Brad McClure (91), Clint Lewis, Connor LaCouvee and Aaron Nelson. Seems likely that it will be for junior defenseman Daniel Brickley, too. The Mavericks will look much different next year, although they still bring back a load of points with Marc Michaelis, Jake Jaremko, Parker Tuomie, Reggie Lutz and Ian Scheid, to name a few.

Read my game story here. And my story on Air Force's upset of St. Cloud State here. I also have a story on MSU fans here.

Live: MSU vs. UMD, NCAA West Regional

Minnesota State and Minnesota Duluth will play in the second game of the NCAA West Regional at approximately 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., following the opener between St. Cloud State and Air Force. Follow along with the action below tonight's lines:

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Suess, 10-Knutson
16-Lutz, 5-Jaremko, 19-McClure
23-Rivera, 11-Spooner, 6-Tuomie
22-Gerads, 26-French, 12-Coatta

8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
2-Mackey, 25-Zmolek
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson

37-LaCouvee
39-Pawloski

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Duehr, Gerard, McNeely, Schwalbe, Vanko

MINNESOTA DULUTH
27-Tufte, 25-Krieger, 13-J. Anderson
20-Kuhlman, 22-Thomas, 23-Swaney
17-Young, 19-Richards, 39-Mackay
10-Roth, 26-Miller, 16-Exell

5-Wolff, 7-Perunovich
4-Samberg, 3-M. Anderson
21-M. Anderson, 6-Roehl

32-Shepard
37-Deery
36-Patt

***


Friday Morning Skate

It was a busy day in Sioux Falls on Thursday, and there was plenty to write about in anticipation of Friday's West Regional Games.

The four coaches of the participating teams are quite close, and they had a lot of fun talking about that during their press conferences on Friday. I wrote about that as a main preview feature for the weekend.

For more from Thursday's events, read my regional notebook here, and to preview the weekend, my College Hockey game day here.

Minnesota State will start the tournament against Minnesota Duluth. Matt Wellens of the Duluth News-Tribune wrote about the very-Minnesota flare to the regional and previews more here.

St. Cloud State will play Air Force in the first game, and the St. Cloud Times' Mick Hatten writes about St. Cloud native Dan Bailey, who plays for the Falcons. He also looks at the ties between the coaches here.

The Colorado Springs Gazette has more on Air Force here.

There was a lot of talk of Don Lucia and his departure from Minnesota, of course, and the coaches were all asked about that (with many undertones about their own potential candidacy for that job). The Star Tribune's Randy Johnson tackled that story here.

The Athletic has more about the matchup between the Mavericks and the Bulldogs, as well as more about the praise for Lucia.

More regional previews here and here from USCHO and College Hockey News. And CHN also did a feature on the Mavericks' C.J. Suess.

Let's also not forget about Michigan Tech, which is playing in the East Regional against Notre Dame in the first game of the day today.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Greetings from Sioux Falls

It's practice and press conference day at the NCAA West Regional here in Sioux Falls, and I'll have some updates throughout the day on the Twitter machine and some stories that will be posted later in the evening.

As for today's coverage, you can read my feature on Mavericks senior and Sioux Falls native Zeb Knutson, who is back in his hometown for the biggest game(s?) of his career.

Minnesota State will be playing Minnesota Duluth, and Matt Wellens of the Duluth News-Tribune has a mid-week story on Bulldogs and their preparations for the regional.

St. Cloud State beat writer Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times has a story on defenseman Jack Ahcan today.

Locally, the Argus Leader previews the weekend, mentioning Knutson and other players who played here for the Sioux Falls Stampede.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mavericks prepping for Sioux Falls

Minnesota State will leave Mankato for Sioux Falls after practicing today. The Maverick have had quite a while to get ready for the regional after not playing last weekend. It's been an opportunity to try and refocus on what went well during their 14-game unbeaten streak.

“Guys are fired up for sure,” junior forward Max Coatta said. “It’s been a little longer for us than most teams, sitting around waiting for the tournament to start. But guys are ready to go.”

Read more about their preparations here.

The Mavericks will practice at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls. That day's practices are open to the public. They will have press conference after that, and I'll have coverage of those events (along with those of the other teams in the regional) leading up to Friday's game.

Also a reminder that Friday's game is at 6:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3, which is ESPN's web streaming service. The earlier, 3 p.m. game between St. Cloud State and Air Force will be on ESPNU. The regional final on Saturday is at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Lucia out as Gophers coach

Minnesota men's hockey coach Don Lucia announced Tuesday he's stepping down from the program he guided for 19 seasons. It will be the second time in 33 years that the Gophers will be seeking a new coach.

"Somebody else should have an opportunity, too," Lucia said at a news conference with U of M athletic director Mark Coyle.

Lucia led the Gophers to national titles in 2002 and 2003. He went 457-247-73 with the Gophers and has an overall record of 736-403-102 over 31 years that included stints at Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado College.

Prior to this season, his teams won six straight conference regular-season titles, four in the Big Ten and two in the WCHA. The Gophers went 19-17-2 this season and missed out on the national tournament by .0001 points after the outcomes of six conference tournament games Saturday went against them.

Coyle said a search for Lucia's replacement will begin immediately. Early speculation includes current assistant coach Mike Guentzel; St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko, a former Lucia assistant; and Northern Michigan coach Grant Potulny, a former player and assistant for Lucia. Even Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings' name has been floated a couple of times. He, too, is a former Lucia assistant.

Lucia is staying on at Minnesota as a special assistant to the athletic director through June 30, 2019.

Read the Associated Press story here.

Monday, March 19, 2018

How the West is feeling

ICYMI, you can read my story about Minnesota State finding out its NCAA tournament fate on Sunday morning in my Free Press story here.

What about the other teams going to Sioux Falls? Here are their reactions:

SCSU receives No. 1 overall seed for NCAA Division I men's hockey tournament by Mick Hatten, St. Cloud Times

UMD endurs roller coaster ride to NCAA tourney by Matt Wellens, Duluth News-Tribune

Air Force hockey delivers surprising, inspiring ride to NCAA tournament, by David Ramsey The Gazette

Air Force learns place in unusual NCAA bracket by Kate Shefte, The Gazette

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Mavericks to Sioux Falls

For Minnesota State and its fans (and at least one media member!), Sunday morning was the best case scenario.

The Mavericks are going to Sioux Falls, S.D., for the NCAA West Regional. 

All of the Minnesota teams are in the same region, which means just one — if any — will be playing in the Frozen Four in St. Paul. Air Force could spoil it for all of them.

Minnesota State, the second seed, will play Minnesota Duluth, the third seed, at 6:30 p.m. Friday. St. Cloud State, the national tournament's No. 1 overall seed, will play fourth-seeded Air Force.

Read much more about MSU's selection in my Free Press story here.

After going to Providence in 2003 and Toledo, Worcester and South Bend in 2013, 2014 and 2015, the 2 1/2-3 hour drive to Sioux Falls will be a welcome destination to many in Mankato.

Minnesota State's allotment of 400 tickets (three-game packages for $74 only; no single-game seats) will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday through the athletics office.

The other NCAA regionals look like this:

Midwest (Allentown, Pennsylvania, Saturday-Sunday): 1-Ohio State vs. 4-Princeton; 2-Denver vs. 3-Penn State.

East (Bridgeport, Connecticut, Friday-Saturday): 1. Notre Dame vs. 4-Michigan Tech; 2. Providence vs. 3-Clarkson.

Northeast (Worcester, Massachusetts, Saturday-Sunday): 1. Cornell vs. 4-Boston University; 2. Michigan vs. 3-Northeastern.

The four regional winners will play in the Frozen Four on April 5-7 in St. Paul.

Selection Sunday

Minnesota State will find out its national tournament fate at 11 a.m. today when the NCAA Selection Show airs on ESPNU. All we really know now is that the Mavericks will be a No. 2 seed, finishing sixth in the Pairwise Rankings.

Already, the speculation has started, and if you want to see where some of the experts who cover this stuff every year have MSU in their Bracketology, check it out:

Adam Woden of College Hockey News has the Mavericks in Worcester, Mass., against Minnesota Duluth.

Mike McMahon of College Hockey News has them in Sioux Falls, S.D., against Minnesota Duluth.

Jayson Moy of U.S. College Hockey Online has them in Allentown, Pa., against Penn State.

Here's hoping for the MSU fans' sake (and mine) that the Mavericks go to Sioux Falls, which will not have its host school, North Dakota, playing. UND is 14th in the Pairwise but got bumped after so many lower-ranked teams won their conference's auto-bid, including Boston University (Hockey East), Princeton (ECAC) and Michigan Tech (WCHA). That also eliminated Minnesota by the slimmest of margins. The Gophers and Minnesota Duluth are practically tied in the PWR, but the Bulldogs have a .0001 edge over Minnesota. Crazy!

Michigan Tech wins Sauer Trophy

Michigan Tech won the Jeff Sauer Trophy as the WCHA playoff champion on Saturday night, defeating Northern Michigan 2-0 in Marquette, Michigan.

The Huskies, the tournament’s fifth seed, played all of its games on the road, going 5-1 (2-1 at Minnesota State in the semifinals) to earn the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Against the Wildcats, goaltender Patrick Munson stopped all 21 shots he faced and held a 1-0 lead on a second-period goal by Greyson Reitmeier until Joel L’Esperance’s empty-netter in the final minute.

Michigan Tech also won the WCHA playoff title last year.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Suess named WCHA Player of the Year

Minnesota State men's hockey player C.J. Suess was named WCHA Player of the Year on Thursday. It marks the first time an MSU player has won the award since the program joined the conference as a full-time member in 1999.

The award caps a week's worth of honors for Suess, a senior center and one of three captains for the Mavericks.

Suess was named the WCHA’s Offensive Player of the Year on Tuesday and, on Wednesday, learned he was one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to college hockey’s most outstanding player. Last week, he was named First Team All-WCHA.

Suess leads Minnesota State in scoring with 43 points in 39 games, including 22 goals. His 127 career points (57 goals, 70 assists) rank him tied for fifth on the Mavericks’ Division I-era scoring list. Suess scored 36 points this season in conference play, including a league-best 19 goals, making him the first MSU player to win the WCHA’s scoring title, too.

“First of all, I think it’s an outstanding honor to be selected by coaches throughout the league,” Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said in the WCHA's press release. “Secondly, I think C.J. is a complete player. There isn’t a situation that he does not play in over the course of an entire game. During his time with us, he has worked to eliminate holes in his game to develop into a complete player. You can talk about his talents on the ice, but his leadership skills in being a ‘we’ guy and never a ‘me’ guy is exhibited daily. Over his entire four-year career, he has contributed daily to making Minnesota State a better place to be.”

A Forest Lake native and fifth-round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets, Suess has led the Mavericks to a 29-9-1 record and their third MacNaughton Cup as the WCHA’s regular-season champion in his four seasons at MSU.

Suess ranks second in the nation with 509 faceoff wins. His plus-minus for the season is currently plus-19.

Suess and the Mavericks will try to keep their season going in the NCAA tournament, which begins in a week. They will find out where and whom they’ll on Sunday.

There will be a Selection Show viewing party starting at 9 a.m. Sunday at Pub 500. The show, which will be broadcast on ESPNU, starts at 11 a.m.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Suess one of 10 Hobey Baker finalists

Minnesota State senior forward C.J. Suess was named a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to college hockey's player of the year.

Suess was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Year on Tuesday and is a candidate for the conference's Player of the Year. He leads Minnesota State with 43 points, including 22 goals. Those totals rank 12th and 10th in the country, respectively. Suess is also second in the country with 509 faceoff wins.

The other Hobey Baker finalists are: Henrik Borgström (Denver), Ryan Donato (Harvard), Matthew Galajda (Cornell), Adam Gaudette (Northeastern), Dylan McLaughlin (Canisius), Cale Morris (Notre Dame), Colton Point (Colgate), Jimmy Schuldt (St. Cloud State) and Dylan Sikura (Northeastern).

The finalists were selected by voting from all 60 Division I head coaches and by online fan balloting. A 27-member selection committee and an additional round of fan balloting (at www.hobeybaker.com March 14-25) will determine the winner, which will be announced April 6.

Minnesota State has had one other finalist for the award, goaltender Steve Carroll in 1981, the inaugural year of the award in 1981. There once was also a small-college recipient, and MSU goaltender Ken Hilgert was the NCAA DII-III Western recipient in 1988.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Suess, Jaremko earn season-ending awards

C.J. Suess
Minnesota State’s top two centers this season also were two of the top centers in the entire Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

On Tuesday, they were honored as such.

Senior C.J. Suess was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year, and freshman Jake Jaremko was named Rookie of the Year.

Suess, a first-team All-WCHA forward, leads the Mavericks in scoring with 43 points, including 22 goals. His 36 points in WCHA regular-season play led the league, and his 19 goals in those games were tied for first.

Jaremko, a WCHA all-rookie-team pick, is the third player to win the rookie award, joining forward and teammate Marc Michaelis, who won it last year, and goaltender Stephon Williams, who won it in 2013.
Jake Jaremko

Jaremko has 39 points, including 15 goals, making him MSU’s highest-scoring rookie in the program's Division I era. Last weekend he surpassed the previous high of 37 set by David Backes in 2003-04.

The other player awards announced Tuesday were Defenseman of the Year Alec Rauhauser of Bowling Green and Goaltender of the Year Atte Tolvanen of Northern Michigan.

Northern Michigan coach Grant Potulny, who made the Wildcats a championship contender in his first season, was named Coach of the Year.

The WCHA will announce its Player of the Year Award on Thursday.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mavericks slip to sixth

Minnesota State dropped from third to sixth in the national opinion polls on Monday following their elimination from the WCHA tournament. The Mavericks are also sixth in the Pairwise Rankings and look to be a No. 2 seed in a yet-to-be-determined NCAA regional.

Here is the USCHO poll. The USA Today/USA Hockey poll can be found here.

USCHO.com Division I Men's Poll
Minneapolis, Minn./March 12, 2018

   Team             (First Place)    Record   Pts  Last Week
 1 St. Cloud State           (32)   24- 7-6   975     1
 2 Cornell                   (16)   25- 4-2   954     2
 3 Notre Dame                ( 1)   24- 9-2   870     5
 4 Denver                    ( 1)   20- 9-8   852     4
 5 Ohio State                       24- 8-5   812     6
 6 Minnesota State                  29- 9-1   736     3
 7 Northeastern                     23- 8-5   689     7
 8 Minnesota Duluth                 21-14-3   644     8
 9 Providence                       22-10-4   601     9
10 Clarkson                         22- 9-6   553    10
11 Michigan                         20-14-3   488    11
12 North Dakota                     16-12-10  415    14
13 Penn State                       18-14-5   413    12
14 Boston College                   20-13-3   301    18
15 Minnesota                        19-17-2   298    15
16 Northern Michigan                25-14-3   241    19
17 Omaha                            17-17-2   197    13
18 Boston University                19-13-4   172    20
19 Bowling Green                    23-12-6   118    17
20 Union                            21-15-2    62    16

Others receiving votes: Mercyhurst 53, Harvard 27, Michigan
Tech 20, Princeton 9.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Huskies 2, Mavericks 1, OT

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. This is new: For the second year in a row, Minnesota State has been eliminated from the WCHA playoffs in three games by Michigan Tech. What's different, though, is that the Mavericks' season isn't over. They will play in the NCAA tournament in less than two weeks at a regional yet to be determined (please, let it be Sioux Falls, please). So after getting past the sting of Sunday's overtime loss and the last home game for a pretty darn good group of seniors, MSU will start preparing for the national tournament.

2. Shut down: One of those seniors, Zeb Knutson, scored the Mavericks' lone goal, but the team's big guns were shut down on Sunday and throughout the weekend. First-Team All-WCHA forwards C.J. Suess and Marc Michaelis were kept off the scoreboard all weekend. Credit a strong defense by Michigan Tech, especially in goal where Packy Munson, who started Saturday and Sunday because Friday's starter, Devin Kero, was injured, was outstanding. Munson stopped eight shots by freshman Reggie Lutz and five by senior Brad McClure, including a highlight-reel glove save on McClure in OT.

3. Where were the people? The announced attendance for Sunday's game was 1,962. The students are returning from break this weekend, but was there an effort to get them down to the arena for such a big game? Just really surprising to see so many empty seats for such a big game. Having said that, there were teams in a very intense game that the crowd was as loud as any game this season. So perhaps those were the 1,600 or so (plus a couple hundred crazy Tech fans) diehard hockey fans in Mankato.

Read my game story here.

Live: MSU vs. Michigan Tech, Game 3

The Mavericks will try to rebound from their Game 2 loss to the Huskies and earn a spot in next week's WCHA championship game. This is one of eight Game 3s taking place around the country tonight. The other WCHA semifinal series between Northern Michigan and Bowling Green is also in a third game. Follow along with the action below tonight's lines.

MINNESOTA STATE
22-Gerads, 15-Suess, 10-Knutson
16-Lutz, 5-Jaremko, 6-Tuomie
20-Michaelis, 11-Spooner, 19-McClure
23-Rivera, 27-Schwalbe, 12-Coatta

8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
2-Mackey, 25-Zmolek
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson

37-LaCouvee
39-Pawloski
29-Nelson

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Duehr, French, Gerard, McNeely, Vanko

MICHIGAN TECH
14-Gould, 11-L'Esperance, 15-Lucchini
18-Reitmeier, 8-Steman, 17-Misiak
28-Baltus, 20-Smith, 10-Jackson
23-Brice, 16-Blacklock, 13-Beretta

6-Watson, 4-Birks
12-Auk, 27-Meek
2-Donohue, 5-Reinke

30-Munson
35-Beydoun
24-Anderson

***


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Huskies 4, Mavericks 2

Freddy's three thought of the game ...

1. Sunday hockey, anyone? Minnesota State and Michigan Tech will be playing a decisive game on Sunday night for a spot in the WCHA championship game after the Huskies snapped the Mavericks' 14-game unbeaten streak on Saturday. The two teams played a three-game series in the semifinals last year in Houghton, with the home team winning the first and third to advance. MSU won the middle game but saw its season end the next night. There will be Sunday hockey in Marquette, too, as Bowling Green defeated Northern Michigan 1-0 to force a third game. The two winners will meet for the Jeff Sauer Trophy next Saturday. If the Mavericks win, they will host.

2. Tech's tough D: The Huskies had a different goaltender on Saturday as Patrick Munson played and Friday's starter, Devin Kero, was listed as an injury scratch. Munson stopped 31 shots, but his defense kept his net front pretty clean. Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said his team needs to do a better job of getting inside of the Huskies defense. "It’s kind of the line of scrimmage in hockey," he said. "If you control the line of scrimmage in front of your net and their net, you’re probably going to have a good night."

3. Empty boxes: On Friday, each team had just one penalty. Saturday's game was similar. With the exception of some matching minors, the Mavericks had two power plays and the Huskies had one. Minnesota State scored on one of its man-advantage opportunities as Dallas Gerads showed that he can be one of those players who can get inside the defense. His goal was his seventh of the season. There were no penalties called in the scoreless third period when the Mavericks outshot the Huskies 10-9.

Read my game story here.

Live: MSU vs. Michigan Tech, Game 2

The No. 3 Mavericks will go for the series sweep and a spot in next week's WCHA championship game when they play the Huskies. A Tech win will force a Game 3 on Sunday night. Follow along below tonight's lines.

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Suess, 6-Tuomie
16-Lutz, 5-Jaremko, 10-Knutson
23-Rivera, 11-Spooner, 19-McClure
22-Gerads, 26-French, 12-Coatta

8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
2-Mackey, 25-Zmolek
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson

37-LaCouvee
39-Pawloski
29-Nelson

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Duehr, Gerard, McNeely, Schwalbe, Vanko

MICHIGAN TECH
14-Gould, 11-L'Esperance, 15-Lucchini
18-Reitmeier, 8-Steman, 17-Misiak
28-Baltus, 20-Smith, 10-Jackson
23-Brice, 16-Blacklock, 13-Beretta

6-Watson, Birks
12-Auk, 27-Meek
2-Donohue, 5-Reinke

30-Munson
35-Beydoun

***



Friday, March 9, 2018

Mavericks 2, Huskies 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Playoff atmosphere: The official attendance was 2,672 on Friday, which isn't a huge crowd. Again, it doesn't help when the students are on spring break. However, with a nice contingent of Tech fans in Mankato, including the school's pep band, which had a cool battle of the bands with the Maverick Machine during pregame, the game felt like a playoff game. That continued to be the case during the close, 2-1 game in which both goaltenders played well and neither team gave up a lot.

2. Third line comes through (again): The game was scoreless until 1:34 remained in the second period. That's when Mavericks freshman center Jared Spooner scored his fourth goal and 19th point of the season. Spooner fired on goal as he skated into the offensive zone while his linemates, including Nick Rivera, who assisted on the goal, went off for a change. Spooner and Rivera each had four points in last weekend's playoff series against Alaska.

3. Almost penalty-free: There were just two penalties called in the game, although it certainly seemed like some whistles were being swallowed late. The Mavericks killed off their penalty and scored on their power play, with Jake Jaremko finishing off a nice play with Parker Tuomie at 1:22 of the second period for a 2-0 lead. "I don't think we've played in game up until this point where there were only two penalties," coach Mike Hastings said. "To be able to make that count and find a way to extend a lead is really important."

Read my game story here.

In Friday's other WCHA semifinal game, Northern Michigan defeated Bowling Green 6-1 to take a 1-0 lead in that series.

Live: MSU vs. Michigan Tech, Game 1

The No. 3 Mavericks and the Huskies will play Game 1 of their best-of-three WCHA playoff semifinal series at 7:07 p.m. tonight at the Verizon Center. Follow along with the action below tonight's lines:

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Suess, 6-Tuomie
16-Lutz, 5-Jaremko, 10-Knutson
23-Rivera, 11-Spooner, 19-McClure
22-Gerads, 26-French, 12-Coatta

8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
2-Mackey, 25-Zmolek
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson

37-LaCouvee
39-Pawloski
29-Nelson

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Duehr, Gerard, McNeely, Schwalbe, Vanko

MICHIGAN TECH
14-Gould, 11-L'Esperance, 15-Lucchini
18-Reitmeier, 8-Steman, 17-Misiak
28-Baltus, 20-Smith, 10-Jackson
23-Brice, 16-Blacklock, 13-Beretta

6-Watson, Birks
12-Auk, 27-Meek
2-Donohue, 5-Reinke

31-Kero
30-Munson
35-Beydoun

****


Friday Morning Skate

It's WCHA semifinal weekend and the No. 3 Mavericks are hosting Michigan Tech in a best-of-three series at the Verizon Center. Should be a good one.

Minnesota State had nine players on the WCHA's all-conference team. That alone shows you how deep they are. However, they go even deeper than that, which might be the key to any postseason success they have this year.

This series is a rematch of last year's semifinals, which the Huskies won in Houghton. And looking over that roster, even though they have just one all-league player, there are a lot of familiar names there. Read about that and more in my College Hockey Gameday.

The other semifinal will between Northern Michigan and Bowling Green in Marquette, Mich. The Mining Journal has a preview. The Falcons hope they can redeem themselves after getting swept by the Wildcats in mid-January.

USCHO previews the WCHA semifinals here, and College Hockey News previews them here. CHN also has a story about Bowling Green's quest to win a WCHA championship.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Nine Mavericks make All-WCHA

Nine Minnesota State players were named All-WCHA on Thursday, with senior forward C.J. Suess and sophomore forward Marc Michaelis getting named to the first team.

Defenseman Daniel Brickley made the second team, while forward Zeb Knutson, defenseman Ian Scheid and goaltender Connor LaCouvee all made the third team. Forwards Jake Jaremko and Reggie Lutz and defenseman Connor Mackey were all named to the all-rookie team.

Here are the All-WCHA teams:

FIRST TEAM
F-C.J. Suess, Minnesota State
F-Marc Michaelis, Minnesota State
F-Troy Loggins, Northern Micihgan
D-Zach Frye, Alaska
D-Alec Rauhauser, Bowling Green
G-Atte Tolvanen, Northern Michigan

SECOND TEAM
F-Mitch McLain, Bowling Green
F-Adam Rockwood, Northern Michigan
F-Josh Kestner, Alabama Huntsville
D-Daniel Brickley, Minnesota State
D-Philip Beaulieu, Northern Michigan
G-Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State

THIRD TEAM
F-Zeb Knutson, Minnesota State
F-Darien Craighead, Northern Michigan
F-Robbie Payne, Northern Michigan
D-Ian Scheid, Minnesota State
D-Ryker Killins, Ferris State*
D-Mitch Reinke, Michigan Tech*
G-Connor LaCouvee, Minnesota State

ROOKIE TEAM
F-Jake Jaremko, Minnesota State
F-Brandon Kruse, Bowling Green
F-Steven Jandric, Alaska*
F-Max Johnson, Bowling Green*
F-Reggie Lutz, Minnesota State*
D-Connor Mackey, Minnesota State
D-Eric Sinclair, Alaska Anchorage
G-Eric Dop, Bowling Green

* denotes tie

LaCouvee named Richter semifinalist

Minnesota State senior goaltender Connor LaCouvee was named as a one of t10en semifinalists for the Mike Richter Award which honors the most outstanding goaltender in men's college hockey.

LaCouvee leads the nation in wins with 22. He is 22-3-1 with a .917 save percentage and a 1.75 goals-against average.

The other semifinalists include Cornell's Matthew Galajda, St. Cloud State's David Hrenak, Denver's Tanner Jaillet, Clarkson's Jake Kielly, Notre Dame's Cale Morris, Colgate's Colton Point, Northeastern's Cayden Primeau, Ohio State's Sean Romeo and Minnesota Duluth's Hunter Shepard.

Let's Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation are co-sponsors of the fifth-annual award. The five finalists will be announced on Thursday, March 22, with the winner presented on Friday, April 6 at the Frozen Four in St. Paul.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Busy Monday

Here are few items of note from Minnesota State today ...

WCHA recognizes Spooner
Mavericks freshman forward Jared Spooner had four assists and was plus-6 last weekend against Alaska, earning himself WCHA Rookie of the Week honors. The Bismarck, N.D., native had three assists on Friday and one on Saturday. This was his first weekly honor of the season.

Other WCHA award winners were: Northern Michigan junior Troy Loggins (offensive) and sophomore Philip Beaulieu (defensive) and Bowling Green sophomore Ryan Bernard (goaltender).

Mavs stay at third
Despite slipping a spot to fifth in the Pairwise rankings, MSU stayed at No. 3 in the USCHO and USA Today/USA Hockey polls this week.

Ticket info
Minnesota State announced ticket information for this weekend's WCHA semifinal games against Michigan Tech:

Season ticket holders can get their normal seat location between now and noon Wednesday. They can get a special package rate of $36 for Friday and Saturday with Sunday's game included in the price if necessary. They can also purchase their tickets, as well as additional tickets, online. After noon Wednesday, remaining open season-ticket seats will be opened up for sale to the general public.

Single-game tickets are also available now. They are $20 for adults and $12 for youth at the Verizon Center box office and through Ticketmaster. Student tickets are available for $5 at the MSU athletics office.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Mavericks to face Huskies in WCHA semis

Minnesota State will host Michigan Tech in the semifinals of the WCHA playoffs starting Friday at the Verizon Center.

The top-seeded Mavericks found out their fate after second-place Northern Michigan defeated Alabama Huntsville 5-2 on Sunday in Marquette, Michigan, to avoid an upset and win that quarterfinal series 2-1.

“We’ll see who it is,” Hastings said on Saturday night after the Mavericks swept Alaska. “Guys need a day off to get rested. The guys did a good job of taking care of their business, and now we just gotta stay focused on recovery and preparation once we find out who we’re playing.”

That will be the Huskies, whom the Mavericks faced just once this season, back on Oct. 27-28 in Mankato. Minnesota State swept that series, winning 3-1 and 5-3.

Michigan Tech, the playoffs' fifth seed advanced to the semfinals after sweeping fourth-seeded Bemidji State in Bemidji on Friday and Saturday.

Northern Michigan, meanwhile, will host third-seeded Bowling Green in the other WCHA semifinal.

The semifinals are another best-of-three-games series. The two winners will play a single championship game for the Jeff Sauer Trophy on Saturday, March 17, at the home of the higher seed.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Mavericks 6, Nanooks 2

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Scoring explosions: Minnesota State clung to a 2-1 lead from first intermission on until Nick Rivera's beautiful short-handed goal at 5:43 of the third period started a stretch that broke the game open for the Mavericks, who won their sixth straight first-round playoff series. Rivera and Connor Mackey scored 25 seconds apart, and Daniel Brickley made it three goals in span of 1:53. Marc Michaelis added another goal for four in just under 5 minutes. The Mavericks did the same thing in a similar timeframe in the second period in Friday's opener to blow that game wide open. "We focused on getting pucks to the net all game," Rivera said. "We were fortunate to get that bounce [for the short-handed goal], but it was important to keep it rolling and keep the momentum up."

2. By the numbers: Saturday's win was the 150th for coach Mike Hastings at Minnesota State. What an impressive six-year run it's been for him. As for this season, Minnesota State (28-7-1) extended its unbeaten streak to 13 games (12-0-1). With two assists in the game, Zeb Knutson now has 41 points for the season, two behind C.J. Suess. It marks the first time MSU has two 40-point players since 2013-14 when Matt Leitner had 45 points and Jean-Paul LaFontaine had 40. Six players have 30 or more points. Goaltender Connor LaCouvee won his 22nd game, making 22 saves, including 13 of 14 in the third period.

3. Power up: The Mavericks finished 3 for 7 on the power play, getting a nice deflection by Dallas Gerads in the first period and third-period goals by Daniel Brickley and Marc Michaelis. But it might have a man advantage without a goal that got them going. Down 1-0, MSU grabbed some momentum with a power play that started at 7:36 of the first period. Hastings said he subscribes to the idea that you can get something out of a scoreless power play. "Absolutely," he said. "And We did. We had some good looks. We had some opportunities. We possessed. They had to defend. Like I said, later, I thought they did a good job of making some adjustments and making a couple of plays."

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Alabama Huntsville 3, Northern Michigan 2 (series tied 1-1) ... Michigan Tech 5, Bemidji State 3 (Tech wins series 2-0) ... Bowling Green 5, Ferris State 2 (BG wins series 2-0)

Deep thought: The Mavericks will have to wait until Sunday night to see who they will play in next weekend's semifinal series at the Verizon Center. If Alabama Huntsville pulls off the upset of second-seeded Northern Michigan, the Chargers will come to Mankato. If the Wildcats win, Michigan Tech, which pulled off a mini-upset with a sweep at Bemidji State, will play here.

Live: MSU vs. Alaska, Game 2

The No. 3 Mavericks will try to complete a series sweep of the Nanooks on Saturday night and move on to the semifinals of the WCHA playoffs. If Alaska wins, a third game will take place on Sunday. Follow along below tonight's lines.

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Suess, 6-Tuomie
16-Lutz, 5-Jaremko, 10-Knutson
23-Rivera, 11-Spooner, 19-McClure
22-Gerads, 27-Schwalbe, 12-Coatta

8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
2-Mackey, 25-Zmolek
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson

37-LaCouvee
29-Nelson

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Duehr, French, Gerard, McNeely, Pawloski, Vanko

ALASKA
26-Cline, 27-Leiter, 28-Hope
11-Jandric, 15-Van Tetering, 9-Young
39-Heidt, 16-Munson, 22-Staley
23-Leer, 20-Newton, 36-Marino

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

1-Dellamaggiore
33-Martinsson

***



Friday, March 2, 2018

Mavericks 8, Nanooks 2

Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Points spread: "A lot of guys pitched in tonight." That's what MSU senior forward Brad McClure said after the game. (Read much more about him and his usual playoff antics in the link below.) Indeed, 13 players had at least a point for the Mavericks, including McClure with two goals, C.J. Suess with a goal and two assists and Parker Tuomie with a goal and an assist. Freshman Jared Spooner had a three-assist game, and Nick Rivera helped out on two goals. A four-goal outburst over a span of about 4 1/2 minutes in the second period, including goals by Max Coatta and Jake Jaremko 18 seconds apart, turned the game from 3-2 to 7-2.

2. Nice moment: Coatta's goal to make it 4-2 came 29 second after Alaska cut the game to 3-2 on a power-play goal by Tristan Thompson. Thompson's slapper from the left point appeared to beat goalie Connor LaCouvee to the far post, probably a puck the red-hot goalie would have liked to have back. After celebrating his goal and going down the bench, Coatta made a bee line to LaCouvee and said something, most likely words of encouragement. "I'm not sayin this in a boastful matter at all, but it doesn't surprise me about Max," coach Mike Hastings said. "Max, he puts his work in every single day. He cares about everybody on our team, and does that in actions and not just words. ... That proves he thinks well beyond himself, and that's why I think he's such a strong captain for us."

3. Can they finish? Minnesota State will try to close out the series on Saturday night. A loss would force a third game on Saturday. A year ago, the Mavericks swept the Nanooks in this round 3-0 and 4-1, but other than that, they have swept Alaska just once in seven regular-season series since the two became WCHA-mates. "I asked the guys, 'What do you think's going to happen tomorrow night?' They're going to be coming because they don't want their season to end," Hastings said. "And if you've followed history of our series this year, previous seasons, one team might get it one night and the next night the other team comes. And we expect them to come, and they will."

Read my game story here.

Around the WCHA: Northern Michigan 7, Alabama Huntsville 1 ... Bowling Green 2, Ferris State 1 (OT) ... Michigan Tech 5, Bemidji State 3




Live: MSU vs. Alaska, Game 1

The No. 3 Mavericks and Nanooks will open first-round WCHA-tournament play at 7:07 p.m. tonight. It's a best-of-three series and the winner advances to next week's semifinals. Follow along below tonight's lines:

MINNESOTA STATE
20-Michaelis, 15-Suess, 6-Tuomie
16-Lutz, 5-Jaremko, 10-Knutson
23-Rivera, 11-Spooner, 19-McClure
22-Gerads, 27-Schwalbe, 12-Coatta

8-Brickley, 18-Scheid
2-Mackey, 25-Zmolek
4-Lewis, 24-Hookenson

37-LaCouvee
29-Nelson

Scratches: Bigelbach, Cooper, Duehr, French, Gerard, McNeely, Pawloski, Vanko

ALASKA
26-Cline, 16-Munson, 28-Hope
11-Jandric, 15-Van Tetering, 9-Young
39-Heidt, 27-Leiter, 22-Staley
13-Vieth, 23-Leer, 36-Marino

6-Frye, 12-Hinz
8-Woods, 10-Kiraly
32-Thompson, 5-Koberstein

33-Martinsson
1-Dellamaggiore

***


Friday Morning Skate, WCHA Playoff Edition

The postseason begins today!

Minnesota State will host Alaska in a best-of-three WCHA quarterfinal series at the Verizon Center. The top-seeded Mavericks would like to be the first team to get its name etched on the new Jeff Sauer Trophy as the league playoff champs, even though they don't need a playoff title to make the NCAA tournament, as they did the last two years when they fell short. For seniors C.J. Suess and Brad McClure, they'll try to draw on their experiences — both good and bad — in the postseason.

Read more about the matchup with the eighth-seeded Nanooks — the last team to beat the Mavericks — here.

Also, before fully moving to the playoffs, take a second to appreciate MSU's MacNaughton Cup run.

Here's a little more on Alaska from the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.

Going around the WCHA (the other quarterfinal matchups) ...

Alabama Huntsville at Northern Michigan: The second-place Wildcats are hosting a playoff series for the first time in six years and playing a seventh-place Chargers team they've split with twice during the regular season. Here's a series preview from UAHHockey.com.

Ferris State at Bowling Green: The Falcons are the tournament's third seed and, like MSU, have had their share of playoff success, winning their first-round series each year they've been in the new WCHA. Bowling Green, is coming in hot, having won eight of its last 10, swept Ferris State, the playoffs' sixth seed, in their only meeting during the regular season. The Toledo Blade's John Wagner takes a closer look at the series.

Michigan Tech at Bemidji State: The fourth-place Beavers are feeling good heading into the postseason, especially after tying MSU last Saturday. Two weeks earlier, they split a series at Michigan Tech. The fifth-seeded Huskies, meanwhile, are the defending playoff champions, having beaten Bowling Green in double-overtime in last year's championship. They say the key to moving on is beating Beavers goalie Michael Bitzer.

College Hockey News' WCHA preview focuses on Minnesota State. USCHO also has a playoff preview.

In other WCHA news, Lake Superior State gave coach Damon Whitten a four-year contract extension on Thursday. That's an interesting move for a couple of reasons: 1. The other coach who didn't make the playoffs, Alaska Anchorage's Matt Thomas, was fired on Wednesday. 2. The last time the Lakers didn't make the postseason, they fired their coach, Jim Roque.