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 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 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."