Friday, April 18, 2014

Piecing next year's schedule together

Minnesota State hasn't released next season's schedule yet, however, a few teams out there have. So we can start piecing things together and, perhaps, start planning our weekends for next fall and winter.

It looks like the Mavericks will open the season Oct. 10-11 at Nebraska Omaha, resuming the Spirit of the Maverick rivalry series after a year off.

The following weekend, Oct. 17-18, they will play a home-and-home series with Minnesota Duluth, going to UMD on Friday and playing in Mankato on Saturday. I'm guessing Saturday might include a Broadmoor Trophy banner raising in the Verizon Wireless Center.

Another highlight of the schedule is the second North Star College Cup at the Xcel Energy Center Jan. 23-24. The Mavericks will play Minnesota on Friday night and either Bemidji State or UMD the next day.

Jan. 30-31 marks the return of Ferris State to Mankato. That was the most exciting series of last season. The two teams will play at Big Rapids, Mich. on Jan. 16-17.

Other dates unveiled already include Nov. 21-22 at Michigan Tech, Dec. 5-6 home vs. Alaska, Feb. 6-7 home vs. Alaska Anchorage, Feb 13-14 at Alaska and Feb. 27-28 home vs. Michigan Tech.

More to come.

Mavericks ink three

Minnesota State announced the signing of three recruits on Thursday, bringing their recruiting class to five for next fall.

The group includes one player at each position, and coach Mike Hastings said all three can make an impact, whether it's by game performance or by pushing others

They are forward Brad McClure, defenseman Jaden Schmeisser and goaltender Aaron Nelson.

"When you can have competition at each position, you have the ability to push and build an environment of development from a competitive standpoint," Hastings said.

Read more about the three in Friday's Free Press.

They will join a class that includes forwards C.J. Franklin and Zeb Knutson, who signed in November.

There likely are high expectations for the forwards of this group, considering their track records in junior hockey. There are two big holes to fill up front with the departures of Johnny McInnis and Zach Lehrke. Competition should be fierce to make the top 12 each weekend.

Same goes for defense where just one regular, Josh Nelson, departs. Nelson played in just 21 games due to injury, and that included missing the Final Five and the NCAA tournament.

In goal, the Mavericks look pretty secure with Cole Huggins back and with what the team hopes will a rebounded Stephon Williams. I'm told Nelson isn't just supposed to be a No. 3, that he'll push the other two.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Going Dutch: Union wins NCAA title

The Associated Press
The college hockey season came to an end on Saturday with Union (which was the No. 1 team in the nation in the final USCHO poll, by the way) defeating Minnesota 7-4 in a wild game that was fitting of a very entertaining Frozen Four.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bill Robertson named WCHA commissioner

Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn, WCHA
Bill Robertson was named WCHA commissioner on Tuesday during an event held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (That's a pic of me interviewing him.) He will begin his duties in mid-May, and there will be some overlap with current commissioner Bruce McLeod, who will retire on June 30.

"It’s got a rich tradition, and the conference has done so many great things over the years," Robertson said. "It’s got a great foundation. I just want to build on that and make it as good a conference as I possibly can. I’m looking forward to the challenge, that’s for sure."

There's definitely a challenge, given the reshaped WCHA. Promotion and sponsorship of the league and the Final Five, which will return to the X next March, were big themes during the event.

"The business of college is changing, with the conference realignments, promotion of the game, television, the digital content that goes on and all the revenue streams that are possibilities for the future," Robertson said. "I will do my best as commissioner of the WCHA to stay on top of these trends in college hockey and use my vast relationships to help continue to build this conference over the years."

Robertson addressed realignment, saying that he doesn't believe that it's done and that he doesn't want his league sitting on the sidelines if and when that happens.

"I don’t think we’re done with changes in college hockey as far as alignment’s concerned so I’ll be keeping a keen eye on that as I go forward," he said. "I think we’re going to build on it; we’re going to be aggressive in that approach as I set forward on that task of trying to understand where these teams are at. But I think it’s a great conference. All these teams are passionate about wanting to stay in the WCHA from what I’ve talked to them. So I’m hoping we’re going to push that forward."

Minnesota State was well-represented at the event. President Richard Davenport spoke as the head of the league’s search committee, and Vice President of University Advancement emceed the event. Athletic director Kevin Buisman and hockey coach Mike Hastings attended as well.

“He’ll provide an injection of energy the league needs right now,” Buisman said.

Said Hastings: "Mutual friends who have worked with and around him, they speak very highly of him. I look forward to get to know him and work with him."

Monday, April 7, 2014

WCHA to announce new commissioner

The WCHA will introduce its new commissioner during a press conference at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The commissioner will replace Bruce McLeod, who is retiring after 20 years as the league's boss.

Word was a search committee conducted interviews during the WCHA Final Five in Grand Rapids, Mich.

According to Let's Play Hockey via Twitter on Monday morning, former Minnesota Wild executive Bill Robertson is a leading candidate for the position.

Friday, April 4, 2014

McInnis set to signs, Palmquist set to return

Got a couple of MSU news nuggets on Friday ...

Minnesota State senior Johnny McInnis is set to sign an amateur tryout contract (ATO) with the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League. McInnis had a career year with a team-leading 21 goals and 38 points. The Monsters are an affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. "I had to wait around a little bit (this week)," McInnis said. "I just waited for an opportunity, hopefully to try out in the AHL. I"m just happy something came about. This was the best opportunity."

Also confirmed that junior defenseman Zach Palmquist has said that he's planning to return to the Mavericks for his senior season. Palmquist, a free agent who has attend NHL development camps the last two summers, had 23 points this season.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Frozen Four field set

The Frozen Four in Philadelphia next week should be a good one — even without Minnesota State there.

On Sunday, Boston College, led by the great Johnny Gaudreau, found a way to get the puck past UMass Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck in a great game for the Northeast Regional championship in Worcester, Mass. Gaudreau had two assists (for an eight-point weekend) in the game between Hockey East rivals.

The Eagles has to make great individual and team plays to beat Hellebuyck, and Gaudreau, the clear Hobey Baker favorite, was on the ice for three of the four goals. BC made just a few more than the Mavericks did the day before.

BC will play Union, the East Regional winner in the national semifinals, while the other semifinal will pit former WCHA rivals Minnesota and North Dakota against each other after winning the West and Midwest regionals, respectively.

Next season, the Frozen Four returns to Boston, and MSU captain Johnny McInnis, who played his final college game Saturday, says he expects the Mavericks to be there.