Sunday, October 4, 2015

Golden Bears 3, Mavericks 2

Trevor Cokley/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Please, please ... no wagering: To quote the great David Letterman, before that line, he'd say, "This is an exhibition, not a competition." That was partially true on Sunday. It was indeed an exhibition that doesn't count for much of anything. This year, however, it was at least competitive, even if it didn't work out in the home team's favor. The Mavericks should have gotten a heck of a lot more out of this year's loss against a decent Canadian college team (the two-time champions, as a matter of fact) than, say, last year's 12-1 walkover win against a very inferior opponent in Trinity Western. The Mavericks started slowly, got caught chasing the Golden Bears around the rink early and fell behind 3-0. Two of the goals deflected in off MSU defenders, including a very flukey one for the second goal. They had a couple of good looks late but couldn't tie the game.

2. On the Hunt: Michael Huntebrinker scored one of the Mavericks' two goals. (C.J. Franklin had the other). He also led MSU with four shots on goal. He looked good, playing center between Brett Knowles and Brad McClure. Last season, it seemed, he fared well when playing in the middle compared to when he was on the wall. His goal was his fourth in exhibition play, equalling his total in regular-season play. If the Mavericks are to maintain the level of play they've achieved over the last couple of seasons, his play there will be critical. With Matt Leitner gone and Dylan Margonari on the shelf with a stress fracture for about six weeks, Huntebrinker can be the team's No. 2 center behind Teddy Blueger. Junior Jordan Nelson and freshman Ryan Schwalbe were the other centers in the game.

3. Who are these guys? Certainly is weird to see this team without Leitner, Jean-Paul Lafontaine, Chase Grant, Max Gaede, Zach Palmquist and Brett Stern on the ice, especially when a few of their numbers have resurfaced on different bodies. Schwalbe has Stern's 27 and centered Steen Cooper in Palmquist's 7 and Max Coatta in Lafontaine's 12. Defenseman Daniel Brickley is in Gaede's 8. That old group played a lot of games for the Mavericks. Too soon to tell what kind of impact the newcomers will make. Jason Pawloski was solid in goal in the third period, stopping 7 of 7 shots. Brickley struggled at times with the college speed but kept getting thrown back out in the deep end to see if he could swim. There should be good competition among the new forwards to see who will get in the normal 20-skater lineup.

Read my game story here.

Mavericks vs. Golden Bears (exhibition)

Greetings from the Verizon Wireless Center in downtown Mankato. Minnesota State will take on Alberta at 5:07 p.m. I'll be posting updates on Twitter today. Hoping to have some live stuff on the website, too, but there are some problems with that currently.

Since it's an exhibition, MSU can dress all of its players. Two players, however are out: junior forward Dylan Margonari, who will miss some time early in the season with a stress fracture in his leg. Freshman defenseman Alex Vanko is to, too, although I believe he did participate this week.

Here are the Mavericks' lines:

15-Franklin, 23-Blueger, 9-Gervais
24-Knowles, 17-Huntebrinker, 19-McClure
25-Stepan, 16-J. Nelson, 10-Knutson
7-Cooper, 27-Schwalbe, 14-Mullin
12-Coatta, 13-Madry

28-Jutzi, 6-C. Nelson
11-Flanagan, 5-Foguth
9-Brickley, 3-Thompson
4-Lewis, 22-Schmeisser

29-A. Nelson

Sunday morning skate

Minnesota State takes the ice at 5:07 p.m. today (Sunday) in an exhibition game against the University of Alberta. It will be the first look at this year's Mavericks, especially their nine new players and veterans who may end up in different roles after all the big departures following last season.

To kick off the hockey season, I sat down with MSU coach Mike Hastings last week for a cup of coffee at Tandem Bagels, just a hop, skip and a jump from the Verizon Wireless Center and MSU's new hockey center there, to talk about his first three seasons with the Mavericks, the state of the program and the upcoming season.

Our chat has been transcribed into a Q&A format (and edited for length and clarity), and there's some good stuff in there. It's a long read, too, so grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy. 

As for Alberta, it looks like it might be a somewhat tougher test than previous exhibitions, which is a good thing for a team that's going right into a meat grinder of a schedule in just five days. Alberta lost at St. Cloud State 6-2 on Saturday night, although it outshot the Huskies 34-25.

WCHA teams that kicked off the season Friday and Saturday in exhibition action included: 

• Alaska Anchorage, which fell 1-0 to Mount Royal on Friday.
• Bowling Green, which defeated Toronto 4-3 on Saturday.
• Northern Michigan, which defeated the U.S. Under-18 Team 4-0 on Saturday.

Other teams in action tonight include:

• Bemidji State, which hosts Manitoba
• Ferris State, which hosts the U.S. Under-18s
• Alaska, which hosts Mount Royal
• Ferris State, which hosts Lethbridge

Be sure to check back on the blog later for more coverage of the Mavericks' preseason game.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Start the season

Minnesota State was on the Verizon Wireless Center ice for the first time on Saturday, the first official day of the Division I men's season. No more two-hours-a-week limitations; the Mavericks had two practices on Saturday and will host Alberta in an exhibition game on Sunday afternoon.

MSU players finally got into the arena that they eventually will call their permanent home and saw the renovated hockey facility that includes new locker rooms, dress-down areas, strength-and-conditioning center, athletic training areas (including hot/cold therapy tubs), coaches offices and lounge.

Work remains (including fundraising) on that project, including signage, lighting and other displays, along with furniture and other final touch-ups. The hope is all will be completed in time for the men's and women's teams to move down there fulltime later this month.

Still, the players liked what they saw. Senior Teddy Blueger even compared the facility to NHL rinks he's seen.

"(I'm) a little bit of awe," Blueger said. "Pretty amazing. I think it's better than we ever expected. ... I never thought we'd have anything like this coming in. This is one of the best."

In the meantime, MSU will use what it can for some limited practices as well as Sunday's exhibition and next weekend's season-opening series against Nebraska Omaha. After that series (the MSU women will play North Dakota down there that weekend, too), the teams will go back to All Seasons Arena for two weeks as they play on the road, giving workers time to add the finishing touches and assemble and install the new video scoreboard above center ice.

"I just want to get down here fulltime as soon as possible," Blueger said. "Some guys are saying they'll never want to go home."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Must be a sign

Some nice signage has gone up above the Riverfont entrance of the Verizon Wireless Center, for the first time in 20 years showing that the arena is the home to Minnesota State hockey. Inside, renovations to the Mavericks' hockey center are in the final stages. Minnesota State has an exhibition game on Sunday afternoon against Alberta and then kicks off the regular season with a home series against Nebraska Omaha on Oct. 9-10.

MSU women's player honored

Corbin Boyd
The Minnesota State women's hockey team got off to a good start under new coach John Harrington, tying and defeating Union in a season-opening nonconference series in Mankato.

The Mavericks settled for a 2-2 tie on Friday, getting a late game-tying goal from freshman Corbin Boyd with 1:48 remaining in regulation. MSU outshot Union 46-19.

The next game, MSU goaltender Brianna Quade stopped 19 shots in a 3-0 victory for her first collegiate shutout. The Mavericks had 24 shots in that game.

Other goal scorers for MSU during the weekend included Katie Johnson, Anna Keys, Amanda Conway and Anna Fiegert. Johnson had a three-point weekend with a goal and two assists, as did Hannah Davidson, who had three assists.

Boyd, a Minnetonka native who played at Hopkins High, had an assist in the second game and was named the WCHA's Rookie of the Week for her two-point, five-shot, plus-2 weekend.

The Mavericks will hit the road this week, going to RIT to perhaps try to avenge the MSU men's NCAA tournament loss to the Tigers. The non conference series will take place at 6 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mavericks ranked 6th

The first U.S. College Hockey Online poll of the season — preseason, rather — was released on Monday, and Minnesota State is ranked sixth in the country to start the year. The Mavericks, who also received one first-place vote, were seventh in last year's final rankings and first at the start of the NCAA tournament.

I am a voter on this weekly poll and struggled with putting together a top 20. Proving I wasn't alone, there were 10 different teams that received at least one of 50 possible first place votes. Also, 35 of the 60 teams that play Division I men's hockey received at least one vote. Crazy.

Here's what the poll looked like (first-place votes in parenthesis; WCHA teams in bold):

1. Boston College (19) 907 points
2. Minnesota-Duluth (12) 836 
3. Boston University (6) 820 
4. North Dakota (1) 766 
5. Denver 739 
6. Minnesota State (1) 699 
7. Providence (6) 642 
8. Harvard (1) 592 
9. Minnesota (1) 530 
10. Nebraska Omaha 505 
11. Miami (1) 461 
12. Yale 432
13. Michigan 417 
14. UMass-Lowell (2) 398 
15. Michigan Tech 390 
16. Bowling Green 316 
17. St. Cloud State 236 
18. Quinnipiac 228 
19. St. Lawrence 156 
20. Colgate 129 

Others receiving votes: Robert Morris 63, Notre Dame 45, RIT 39, Michigan State 37, Northeastern 31, Vermont 23, Penn State 19, New Hampshire 18, Ferris State 11, Wisconsin 5, Bemidji State 4, Union 3, Alaska 1, Brown 1, Dartmouth 1.