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:

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


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

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



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 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. 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.

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


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

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



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.

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


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

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



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:

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


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

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



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:

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

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

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

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.

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


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

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



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:

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


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

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



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

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.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Month's best in Mankato

The WCHA announced its players of the month for February, and all four will be playing in this weekend's league quarterfinal series in Mankato. The group includes three Minnesota State players and one Alaska player.

Mavericks include: Offensive Player of the Month Marc Michaelis, Goaltender of the Month Connor LaCouvee and Rookie of the Month Jake Jaremko.

Michaelis had six goals and seven assists in eight games in February. LaCouvee went 7-0-1 with a .921 SV% and 1.81 GAA. And Jaremko had four goals and six assists.

Jaremko also won the award in November and December. LaCouvee also won it in January.

The Defensive Player of the Month honor went to Nanooks defenseman Zach Frye, who had three goals and seven points in February.

Minnesota State and Alaska will begin their series at 7 p.m. Friday.

Seawolves sack Thomas

Alaska Anchorage on Thursday announced that it will not be renewing the contract of hockey coach Matt Thomas after five seasons. The Seawolves went 4-26-4 this season and missed the WCHA playoff for the fourth time in row.

Thomas had a promising first season in the first year of the new WCHA, finishing sixth in the league and compiling an overall record of 18-16-4. UAA advanced to the league semifinals in Grand Rapids, Mich., that year, too.

But things went downhill from there. Having the specter early in the 2016 season of the possibility of getting the program cut looming over it didn't help more recent recruiting and results.

This season, Anchorage was 2-26-4 before closing out the season with a pair of wins at its arch rival, Alaska.

UAA interim athletic director Tim McDiffett said that a nationwide search for a new coach will begin immediately and told the Anchorage Daily News the expectation is to compete for home ice, if not championships, in WCHA.

"We are committed to hockey," McDiffett told the ADN. "The updates we've made on campus are significant. All (of our) sports face geographical disadvantages, but we think we have a lot of things in place to be more competitive than we have been."