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.