Sunday, January 29, 2012

A peek at the Sanford Center (updated)

I thought I'd bump up this blog post, since I added a few pictures to it. I also wrote a column about the arena, which should appear in Tuesday's edition of The Free Press.

There is plenty of curiosity about what the city of Mankato and Minnesota State will do if and when they remodel the Verizon Wireless Center. For sure, they could take a few cues from what Bemidji's done with the Sanford Center. Here are a few low-quality photos taken Friday and Saturday night:

A video/replay scoreboard hangs over center ice.
A view from the press box, which is also suite level.
The club room/bar overlooks one end of the rink.
The student section is surrounds the glass at one end of the ice.
A view from one of the arena suites.
A concourse wall with interactive video screens.
The in-arena store where you can get BSU gear.
The doors to the Beavers' locker room.
The hallway to the BSU coaches' offices.
The walls are adorned with pictures of NHL players and All-Americans.
BSU's weight room, as seen from outside the arena.
The hall from the bench to the BSU locker room.
Another shot of that hall.
Team photos outside the Beavers locker room.
One of a few walls of fame in the BSU area. NHL guys, All-Americans, etc.
The $8 prime rib sandwich available in the concourse.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mavericks 5, Beavers 2

Eric Stromgren/Bemidji Pioneer
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Saturday splits: It was almost a predictable outcome. For the fourth series in a row, the Mavericks bounced back from a Friday-night loss to get a series split. This time, they got a two-goal, one-assist performance from Michael Dorr, as well as goals from Eriah Hayes, Zach Lehrke and Mike Louwerse to top Bemidji State. "Really, the only difference between tonight and last night," MSU coach Troy Jutting said of the goal scoring. "We gave up the same two goals; we just scored when we had chances. We probably had more chances last night than we did tonight."

2. Passing fancy: While MSU couldn't score on great chances on Friday, they converted those on Saturday. The goals were the easy part, as there was some nifty passing. A nice touch pass from Matt Leitner from the slot to left wing for Hayes' goal, which opened the scoring. Adam Mueller passed the puck from the left corner through the crease to Dorr at the right post for the second. A nifty move by Johnny McInnis got the D and the goalie out of position to set up Lehrke's goal. Lehrke later set up Dorr's insurance second goal on a 3 on 1 late in the third period.

3. Keep Cooking: Mavericks goaltender Phil Cook remained calm, cool and confident, stopping 29 shots. With 8:38 left in the second period, Cook stretched out to put a toe on Jeff Jubinville's move across the front of the crease after a nice pass from Danny Mattson. For the weekend, Cook stopped 53 of 57 shots. He was a victim of his teammates' goal-scoring problems on Friday but certainly enjoyed Saturday's goal support.

Quote of the night: "We're snakebitten on Fridays. We realize what we have to do and we come out and capitalize on Saturdays." — Phil Cook

Read the Freep's gamer here. More from the Bemidji Pioneer here.

Around the WCHA: Minnesota 3, St. Cloud State 2 ... Michigan Tech 5, Minnesota Duluth 0 ... North Dakota 4, Wisconsin 2 ... Denver at Alaska Anchorage (night)

MSU at Bemidji State — Game 2 live blog

Lines will be posted below the live blog when available ...



MINNESOTA STATE
23-Dorr     19-Lehrke     8-Gaede
12-LaFontaine     18-Leitner     25-Hayes
22-McInnis     26-Schiller     14-Jokinen
24-Mueller     29-Zuck     9-Louwerse

16-Elbrecht     2-Nelson
7-Palmquist     27-Stern
17-Mosey     10-Knoll

30-Cook
31-Karambelas

BEMIDJI STATE
9-Kinne     14-McLeod     28-George
18-Illo     11-Walters     4-Boehm
17-MacQueen     12-Jubinville     16-Mattson
7-Orban     13-Fisher     6-Findlay

8-Areshenko     25-Wacker
29-Hunt     22-Prapavessis
26-Brodie     15-Windle

30-Walsh
25-Dugas

Friday, January 27, 2012

Beavers 2, Mavericks 1

Eric Stromgren/Bemidji Pioneer
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Friday-night funk: Going into Friday's game at Bemidji State, the Mavericks were 5-5-0 in their last 10 games. But they couldn't win on their last four Friday games. This week was more of the same as they lost 2-1. Not only was it the fifth straight Friday loss but it was the third over that stretch by a 2-1 score. MSU outshot Bemidji 40-26, took just one penalty all night and got solid goaltending from Phil Cook. A lot of credit has to go to Beavers goalie Dan Bakala, who made a few outstanding saves (including one on Mike Louwerse with 4:56 remaining) for the win.

2. To the Max: Minnesota's lone goal was scored by Max Gaede, which put the Mavericks up 1-0 at 8:58 of the first period. It was the freshman's second goal of the season and his first in 14 games. It was nice play, as he finished off a centering pass from Zach Lehrke. But Michael Dorr did all the work on the play. With MSU reeling in its own end, Dorr swatted the puck out of the defensive zone and then chased it down at the opposite end. Dorr beat a Bemidji defender to the puck and moved it ahead to Lehrke. But Gaede missed a primo opportunity to make it 2-0 during a 5-minute major in the first period. He whiffed on a beautiful pass to the back door from Jean-Paul LaFontaine.

3. Falling behind: The Mavericks could have moved ahead of the Beavers in the WCHA standings with a series sweep. After dropping Friday's game, though, they fell five points behind Bemidji State. In their last three series, the Mavericks have bounced back to win the Saturday-night game. "I don't think we need to change much," Gaede said, "just bear down on our chances."

Quote of the night: "How many good chances do you want in a game in this league?" — MSU coach Troy Jutting

See the box score here. Read my Free Press gamer here. Check out the Bemidji Pioneer's story and a photo gallery on Eric Stromgren's blog.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 4, Minnesota Duluth 4 (OT) ... Minnesota 2, St. Cloud State 1 ... North Dakota 5, Wisconsin 3 ... Denver at Alaska Anchorage (late)

MSU at Bemidji State — Game 1 live blog

Lines can be found below the live chat ...



MINNESOTA STATE
23-Dorr     19-Lehrke     8-Gaede
12-LaFontaine     18-Leitner     25-Hayes
22-McInnis     26-Schiller     14-Jokinen
14-Mueller     29-Zuck     9-Louwerse

16-Elbrecht     2-Nelson
7-Palmquist     3-Cooper
17-Mosey     10-Knoll

30-Cook
31-Karambelas

Extras on trip: Stern, Thauwald. Back in Mankato: Burkemper (inj.), Grant (inj.), Heath (inj.), Lee (inj.), Leivermann

BEMIDJI STATE
9-Kinne     14-McLeod     28-George
18-Illo     11-Walters     4-Boehm
17-MacQueen     12-Jubinville     16-Mattson
7-Orban     13-Fisher     6-Findlay

8-Areshenko     25-Wacker
29-Hunt     22-Prapavessis
26-Brodie     15-Windle

33-Bakala
30-Walsh
35-Dugas

Referees: Don Adam, Timm Walsh, Linesmen: Andy Dokken, Phil Stodgell

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Friday morning skate

Coming at you a bit early since I'll be boogying off to Bemidji in the morning as Minnesota State gets its first peek at the Sanford Center when it plays Bemidji State.

The Mavericks are hoping to win a Friday-night game for the first time since Dec. 9. They are 5-5-0 since then, but all of the other wins have come on Saturdays. Included in the losses are a pair of 2-1 overtime defeats, one to Colorado College and one a week ago against Nebraska Omaha.

Minnesota State's lines should look like they did on Saturday when it beat Omaha 5-4 in OT. That means Eriah Hayes will stay on the top line with Matt Leitner and Jean-Paul LaFontaine. Max Gaede, then, moves to play with Zach Lehrke and Michael Dorr.

Phil Cook will start in goal, which is no surprise, but Austin Lee remains out with injury, so Evan Karambelas will be the backup. The extras skaters on the trip are F-Charlie Thauwald and D-Brett Stern.

Read more on The Free Press' gameday package here.

Meanwhile, I also have a feature on last week's overtime hero, Johnny McInnis. He may be a Boston boy, but he feels right at home in Minnesota. Actually, MSU has players from all over the country. Test your geography skills then check the story to see how you fared.

As for the Beavers, the Bemidji Pioneer's Eric Stromgren always does a fantastic job on his Up North Sports blog. The blog should have most of his coverage, but he did a nice piece on Lehrke, a Park Rapids native whose brother played for BSU. You can also watch some video of Beavers coach Tom Serratore talking about this weekend's series here.

Here are this weekend's WCHA matchups (for updated stories, check out the blog roll on the right of this page. Also, the Grand Forks Herald's Brad Schlossman always does a great job with his Friday roundup):

Michigan Tech at Minnesota Duluth ... St. Cloud State at/vs. Minnesota ... Wisconsin at North Dakota ... Denver at Alaska Anchorage.

More later, including a full lineups and my live blog, when I get to Bemidji.

I have answers!?!?

Thanks for the questions. Not much on the current Mavericks but a lot about the future. I had to get out the crystal ball for a lot of these questions. Without further ado ...

From Michael Napier: What do you think about the report in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner about the "new" WCHA's 28-game schedule factoring in travel to Alaska, and the possibilities of a 10th school being added (Alabama-Huntsville and three currently non-existing programs in Moorhead, Iowa State and Green Bay)?

Michael, there are definitely some things that have to be figured out in regard to how teams will handle having two Alaska teams on the schedule, whether that’s ensuring no more than one trip there per semester or trying to fit in both schools on one trip over the holiday break (obviously, everyone can’t do that every year). I figure that when you see college basketball and football teams constantly criss-crossing the country, college hockey teams will be able to handle this one way or another. As for a 10th team, MSU athletic director Kevin Buisman said that’s probably ideal. In my opinion, an established program like Alabama Huntsville makes the most sense — if can get its future figured out and stable. MSU-Moorhead keeps extending its deadline to secure the money to start D-I hockey. Iowa State, which has had a successful club program for years, has long been rumored to jump to D-I. As for UW-Green Bay, that was the first I heard of that school’s potential interest. Geographically, it makes a lot of sense, but there’s no hockey there right now. Read more from the Fairbanks news report here

From MSU Grad 97: If the state bonding bill passes, what exactly will we be able to expect for the Civic Center improvements? They kind of outlined it, but I am not sure what they mean. How will it change to the look of the main part, and what will happen with the practice rink?

MSU Grad: The drawings they had at the bonding meeting were preliminary ones. From a hockey standpoint, there will be men’s and women’s locker rooms and coaches offices, another team area, weight room and training areas. I would hope they will put in some nice amenities for the teams MSU AD Kevin Buisman said there is a wish list, based on previous proposals. Coach Troy Jutting said he wants to see if this passes before getting to the bells and whistles. I hope to find out more this weekend, but I understand the Sanford Center in Bemidji did it right in the team/player areas That might be a model. As for other improvements, the civic center need to replace the ice system, dasher boards and bench areas and put in new spectator seating (purple, please). Not sure about a video scoreboard system, but they need that. The drawings also included updates to the current Blue Line Club meeting area — but not a new room above the ice as the city floated several years ago.

From MSU Grad 97: Another question - are you getting the feeling there is any 'buyer's remorse' from the NCHC teams and their media outlets? I think you have brought up many valid points about how this didn't seem to be a needed thing for any of those teams. In fact, I don't see if it is supposed to cost more to be in this other league how SCSU will be able to support the football team that almost ended last year, taking them potentially out of the NSIC in the other sports. That would be a sad loss of a rivalry for MSU.

MSU Grad: I think it’s way too early for anyone to have buyer’s remorse. I think the folks in St. Cloud are still celebrating the fact that they found a way into the NCHC. I think the athletic budget situation with regard to hockey, the upgrades to the National Hockey Center and the football program will be something to watch in St. Cloud in the coming years though.

From Sam: 1) Do you think Hayes will return to MSU for his senior year? I know it has been said that NHL clubs have taken notice of him as a free agent, but it seems like he's been having a bit of a quiet year, save for this past weekend. 2) Are you surprised with Tyler Pitlick's lack of success (at least scoring-wise) for the AHL's OKC Barons this season? I thought for sure it was only a matter of time before he cracked the Oilers line-up after he signed his pro deal. Now I have no clue how it's all going to work out for him.

Sam: At this time, I do believe Hayes will be back. Obviously, you never know what could happen. He is an intriguing prospect and my guess is that he’s on a lot of scouts’ radars. But it’s not like he’s been dominant. He’s been very good at times and certainly was on Saturday when he finished plays. Friday was another story; he was benched for part of a period. Let’s see how his season finishes up. I think the sky’s still the limit for him, at least at the college level. It’s still pretty amazing to see where he’s come from. In some ways, I think he’s still learning a lot of things about the game.

As to your second question, I haven’t paid a ton of attention to what Pitlick’s done. He currently has four goals, five assists, 22 PIM and is minus-7 in 34 games. He had a great season in the WHL last year before getting hurt and missing the end of the season and the playoffs. Perhaps the injury was a setback that’s still lingering. Not to get into the whole college vs. major junior debate, but he had a good rookie season in the WCHA as an 18-year-old in a league full of bigger, stronger, older players. Then he went to Medicine Hat and racked up points against kids his age and younger. Now he’s in a AHL and struggling. Who knows? Maybe a second year at MSU would have improved his game in the areas where he’s now struggling. You can read a scouting report from an Oilers blogger here. Pitlick's pretty young, and so are the Oilers. He'll eventually get his shot. Maybe not this year, but I think he'll be OK in the long run.

From Hockey Girl: 1) There's been a lot of rumors about who started up the NCHC, with most centered around UND and Denver. Is there any truth to this rumor and if not, who did decide to startup the conference and pick which schools to invite? Also, what have they meant by 'Like-minded Institutions'? 2) Do you think the Mavs have a realistic shot at finishing above their current 11th place this year? The next 3 weekends seem to be their best shot at getting out of the bottom.

Hockey Girl: I think North Dakota and Denver were the ringleaders on this, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Six teams from the WCHA and two from the CCHA agreed to do this. They’re all on the same page right now. As for picking which schools to invite, that’s where the term “like-minded” has come from. You’re looking at schools that have big hockey budgets, play in big cities/markets, utilize some of the best arenas in the sport and/or are considered perennial powers. Of course, that was the case for those schools in 2011. Go back 10-15 years, and there’d be no way Miami, Western Michigan or St. Cloud State would be considered for something like this. I’m still convinced that St. Cloud only got in because Notre Dame didn’t work out for the NCHC.

As for your second question, I do think MSU has the potential to be a team that finishes higher than 11th, but you’re right, this is the stretch where it has to make some hay. At Bemidji, home against Tech, at Anchorage (all WCHA leftovers, along with MSU). Then they have a tough home series against Duluth, a week off and then a trip to North Dakota.

From Dave: Couple quick questions regarding the Conference realignment. 1. Did you catch the interview of Denver’s Coach from Moose on CHT? If not, i recommend listening. He put him on the hot seat about "like minded institutes" and as usual, no answers where given. 2. Is anything happening in regards to the new WCHA?? it seems like the silence is deafening as to what direction they are going. I would hope that we leave Bruce McLeod in Denver and relocate the offices with a new commissioner in either MN or MI. 3. Lastly, what’s you opinion on an over/under in years before Miami and Western Michigan realize they made a mistake adding all this travel with little or no gain in attendance at home to offset it? I'm saying 6 years.

Dave: I did not hear that interview. If you have a link, I’d love to check it out before commenting.

On your second question, things are starting to come out, like the 28-game schedule. However, I agree that they need to start making some more decisions, like their playoff format and championship location. It’s also hard to promote that stuff when the current season is going on and the departing teams are still playing in it. I’d suspect more will be released in the offseason or it will leak incrementally through the media that cover the leftover teams. I think I broke the 28-game schedule story, for example. I’m less worried about where the offices are located. While the commissioner works out of Denver currently, the supervisor of officials is in the Twin Cities, and the PR director is in Madison. It’s not like they have 100 employees working in a centrally located complex that would have to be moved to Mankato, Fairbanks or Big Rapids.

Finally, I know there are people rooting for NCHC failure or at least seeing teams struggle in it, whether it’s on the ice or financially. I don’t see it right now. The NCHC doesn’t even start for over a year, so, it’s way to early to start speculating about buyer’s remorse. Again, teams/schools are still very excited about the new conference. You’re right, Miami doesn’t draw a ton of fans (around 2,800 per game last weekend with Western Michigan in town!), but you can bet that the NCHC will be doing everything to get big revenue for its members. Whether it can do that or not remains to be seen, but that’s why they picked the commissioner they did. That, not hockey, is his expertise.

I’m also going to answer a question or two from the ‘Minnesota Cup’ thread …

From Sam: Well hey, how's that for a bit of good news regarding the realignment? It's still depressing to see MSU left behind in a significantly inferior conference, but man am I happy to know there is an all-MN tourney in the works. Unfortunately, I'm guessing the team on the outside looking in during the first tourney will be either Mankato or Bemidji. Here's hoping it's Bemidji, although I think most MSU fans are even bigger supporters of the Beavers after all of the re-shuffling that's been going on. You've got to stand by the teams in your conference, no matter how irrelevant it may now seem.

Sam: I say it’s good news for a couple reasons. 1. People have been clamoring for a Minnesota version of the Beanpot for a long time, and it took having these teams not playing each other 2-4 times a year already to make it happen. 2. It’s good news for all the teams, but MSU and BSU especially because this event should help them recoup some of the money lost due to the demise of the WCHA Final Five.

As for having one team out, no one wants to be that team the first year. MSU AD Kevin Buisman said that’s still being figured out. Perhaps, the “imbalanced home-and-home schedule” the teams are trying to work out with Minnesota (in addition to the Minnesota Cup) could include the Gophers going on the road to play the team that won’t be in the tournament. I have no insight on this, only my own speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bemidji is left out first since organizers will want to try to get the most bang for the buck in the first year. Nothing against the Beavers, but they’d probably want UMD and St. Cloud in for sure and then MSU since Mankato is just 85 miles down the road.

From Troy: How will the Goofers end up playing everyone from Minnesota every year? If this is a bracketed tournament, they will only end up playing two of the three teams involved. Otherwise, it everyone plays each other once, then it would have to take place over a three day period. I don't like this idea at all. All it does is allow the Goofers to stay in the Twin Cities and make everyone else travel to their barn or to the X, which is basically a home game for the Goofers. The Goofers will never again leave the 494-694 loop to play another Minnesota team. I hope the financial incentives for UMD, SCSU, MSU-M and BSU are decent since the Goofers and the Big Ten are the ones that created this mess to begin with.

Troy: You’re right, they would only play two of the three teams. As I mentioned above and in my Free Press story today, the teams are still trying to work out some nonconference games with Minnesota in addition to the tournament. Likely, Gopher series in Mankato will be few and far between, but it’s not like they’re here every year right now. Let’s face the facts, though: Minnesota doesn’t have to do this tournament. It could schedule a bunch of nonconference home games and never travel anywhere outside its Big 10 commitments if it wanted. It could play a bunch of eastern teams and North Dakota (or more Sacred Hearts) and ignore the MSUs and BSUs altogether. Buisman heaped a lot of praise on the Gophers for wanting to keep its in-state rivalries intact and support those programs after the WCHA breaks up. That’s about the only peace offering any of the WCHA’s departing teams has made during this whole ordeal.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

'Minnesota Cup' coming? (updated)

College hockey fans in Minnesota have been waiting for a Beanpot of their own, and the breakup of the WCHA may be leading to one.

There have been whispers of an annual tournament involving the University of Minnesota and the four other Division I schools at the Xcel Energy Center for a couple of months, and now it seems like it's about to be a reality.

UPDATE: I got some comments from Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman on this. Read more here.

The Star Tribune's Roman Augustoviz is reporting that a deal for late-January tournament in 2014 is close to being struck. Presumably, the Gophers would play in the tournament every year, with three of the following, Minnesota State, Bemidji State, St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth, making up the rest of the field. If that's the case, one team would have to sit out each year (who will have to sit out first and how will they decide?).

I wonder if Minnesota would play the left-out team on the road or maybe in a home-and-home series. No matter what happens, this is about the first positive thing to come out of the WCHA's demise. In 2013, Minnesota will go to the Big 10, St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth will join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and Minnesota State and Bemidji State will remain in a revamped WCHA.

"We want to play every one of them," Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi told the Strib. "(The tournament) is the way we are going to do it."

Maturi said finances will have to be worked out, but this could be a nice financial split for the teams, especially since the golden goose that is the WCHA Final Five will be killed after the 2012 event.

Jess Myers of Inside College Hockey, tweeted that he hopes the tournament is part of Hockey Day in Minnesota, especially when that event has often ignored MSU and the other outstate programs. The late-January date could mean that that's a possibility.

This should be an exciting event, certainly better than the DQ Cup.

You want answers?!?!

It's been too long. ... Let's do a You Want Answers?!?! Q&A. ... You know the drill: Go to the comments section of this post and drop me a questions about MSU hockey (or anything, really — seriously, where's the creativity?), and I'll answer them in a post on Thursday afternoon.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Out of the cellar

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Minnesota State is officially out of the WCHA basement. The Mavericks are in 11th place, two points ahead of Alaska Anchorage, which was swept at Wisconsin over the weekend. So how far can MSU climb? 

The schedule seems amenable for movement over the next three weeks, as the Mavericks travel to 10th-place Bemidji State (three points ahead of MSU), host tied-for-seventh Michigan Tech (eight points ahead) and go to Anchorage. 

After that, MSU hosts No. 1 Minnesota Duluth, has a week off and then closes the regular season at North Dakota. So where do you think they'll finish up?

Meanwhile, here is The Free Press' Monday notebook/review, featuring Eriah Hayes best-of-times-worst-of-times weekend. .. There also is a photo gallery of Pat Christman pics from the series. ... Minnesota State posted a brief video interview with Johnny McInnis following his overtime game-winner on Saturday.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

MSU 5, Omaha 4 (OT)

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Johnny on the spot: Minnesota State bounced back from Friday's crushing overtime loss to Nebraska Omaha and won in extra time Saturday when Johnny McInnis blasted a shot in as he skated into the high slot. Joe Schiller assisted on the game-winner. MSU looked like it was going to close out the game in regulation, but Omaha's Jayson Megna tied it up with 9.6 remaining in the third period. Credit MSU for bouncing back from that blow to get the victory. It was a wild, back-and-forth game in which Omaha had three one-goal leads. Omaha outshot MSU 43-42, and each team failed to score on a five-minute major (on Omaha's MSU failed to convert four 2-on-1 short-handed chances!).

2. Purple Hayes: Minnesota State junior forward Eriah Hayes rebounded from what he called his worst college game ever to perhaps his best. Moved to a line with freshmen Jean-Paul LaFontanie and Matt Leitner, Hayes got his first college hat trick, including a pair of third-period goals that tied the game aat 3-3 at the 9:09 mark and gave MSU a 4-3 lead at 17:46. The rookies made some nifty passes for assists on those goals. LaFontaine's backhander to Hayes' tape for the go-ahead goal was as good as it gets. "I don't score that goal without Jean-Paul making that play," Hayes said.

You'll be able to read more about Hayes' weekend — from being benched to being one of the stars of the game — in Monday's series review in The Free Press.

3. Suddenly ... dangerous? Is Minnesota State getting better, as Jutting and his player suggest? MSU is 5-5-0 in its last 10 games and has outscored its opponents 31-26 in those games. Meanwhile, goalie Phil Cook, who was brilliant again with 39 saves on Saturday, is 3-1 in his last four starts and has a .951 save percentage in that stretch. "We set our goals really high for the second half of the season," McInnis said. "To do that we're going to have to play better than .500 hockey."

Deep thought: It was good to hear that Omaha goalie Ryan Massa was in the building on Saturday and that he was released from the hospital late Friday night/early Saturday morning following that scary collision in his net in overtime Friday. Dayn Belfour, the son of Hall of Famer Ed Belfour got the start on Saturday and made 29 saves before being pulled from the game when Hayes made it 3-3. John Faulkner, who didn't make the original trip with UNO but came up to Mankato on Saturday to back up Belfour, finished the game and took the loss. It should remind MSU fans of the time Cook got hurt at North Dakota on a Friday night, and Kevin Murdock was beckoned from Mankato the next morning to back up Austin Lee.

Quote of the night: "Stud. Just a stud tonight." — Johnny McInnis on Eriah Hayes

Read The Free Press' game story here.

Around the WCHA: Minnesota 2, Colorado College 1 ... Northern Michigan 5, Michigan Tech 2 ... Wisconsin 3, Alaska Anchorage 2 ... Minnesota Duluth 4, Alabama Huntsville 3 ... North Dakota 3, St. Cloud State 2

MSU vs. Nebraska Omaha - Game 2 live blog

Lines can be found below the live blog.



MINNESOTA STATE

23-Dorr     19-Lehrke     25-Hayes
12-LaFontaine     18-Leitner     8-Gaede
24-Mueller     26-Schiller     14-Jokinen
22-McInnis     29-Zuck     9-Louwerse

16-Elbrecht     2-Nelson
7-Palmquist     17-Mosey
3-Cooper     10-Knoll

30-Cook
31-Karambelas

Scratches: Burkemper (inj.), Grant (inj.), Heath (inj.), Lee (inj.), Stern (inj.), Stern (inj.), Thauwald

NEBRASKA OMAHA
17-Broadhurst     12-Montpetit     21-White
19-Walters     11-Megna     13-Raubenheimer
23-Searfoss     25-Gwidt     15-Archibald
16-Krause     22-Schmit     10-Simonson

7-Young     24-Anelsoski
8-Megna     5-Ensign
2-Smith     28-O'Rourke

29-Belfour
30-Faulkner

Friday, January 20, 2012

Omaha 2, MSU 1 (OT) ... updated

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Sobering ending: Firstly, everyone's thoughts have to be with Omaha goalie Ryan Massa, who was knocked out of the game in the first minute of overtime. Massa had to be taken out of the rink on a stretcher after MSU's Evan Mosey crashed into him on the rebound of a good scoring chance. Mosey and an Omaha defender raced for the loose puck, and Mosey appeared to hit Massa in the head. It didn't appear to be a dirty play; there was hardly any retaliatory reaction by Omaha players after the collision. Massa lay prone on the ice for several minutes and was tended to by paramedics, trainers and doctors for about 15 minutes before play resumed. Omaha coach Dean Blais was not available after the game, however, a couple of sources, including WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod, who was in attendance, said Massa was moving. It is presumed Massa was taken to the hospital.

UPDATE: Here is a good-news Tweet from Ryan Massa from late Friday night/early Saturday morning: Glad to be back in my room with @JSearfoss23. Thank you everyone for the wishes and support tonight. Great OT win for the #mavs thanks boys!

2. Penalty problem: The purple Mavericks were called for seven penalties. Eriah Hayes was even benched for the end of the second period for taking his third, the second that negated an MSU power play. Minnesota State killed them all — with the brilliant Phil Cook making 16 of his 35 saves during UNO power-play time — until Adam Mueller's slashing penalty in overtime. With Mueller in the box, Omaha defenseman Bryce Aneloski fired a shot from the high slot that deflected in of a defenseman's stick and won the game for the red Mavericks. Massa finished with 39 saves, but Dayn Belfour, who made one save in relief, got the victory.

3. Back in the scoring column: After being held without a point for three games, MSU freshman and top scorer Jean-Paul LaFontaine got on the board in a big way with a power-play goal that tied the game at 8:10 of the third period. LaFontaine put a close-range shot upstairs over Massa off the rebound of a Matt Leitner shot. Hayes also assisted on the goal. However, that was MSU's only goal on 41 shots, including 16 in the first period alone.

Quote of the night: "That was tough to swallow. We had so many Grade A chances that we didn't score on, and we took too many penalties." MSU senior forward Michael Dorr.

Read The Free Press game story here.

Around the WCHA: Wisconsin 4, Anchorage 0 ... Duluth 2, Alabama Huntsville 1 ... Colorado College 2, Minnesota 1 ... St. Cloud State 3, North Dakota 1

MSU vs. Nebraska Omaha — Game 1 live blog

Tonight's lines are posted below the live chat.



MINNESOTA STATE
23-Dorr     19-Lehrke     25-Hayes
12-LaFontaine     18-Leitner     8-Gaede
24-Mueller     26-Schiller     14-Jokinen
22-McInnis     29-Zuck     9-Louwerse

16-Elbrecht     2-Nelson
7-Palmquist     17-Mosey
3-Cooper     10-Knoll  

30-Cook
31-Karambelas

Scratches: Burkemper (inj.), Grant (inj.), Heath (inj.), Lee (inj.), Stern (inj.), Stern (inj.), Thauwald

NEBRASKA OMAHA
17-Broadhurst     12-Montpetit     15-Archibald
19-Walters     11-Megna     21-White
23-Searfoss     25-Gwidt     22-Schmit
9-Polk     16-Krause     13-Raubenheimer

7-Young     24-Aneloski
8-Megna     5-Ensign
2-Smith     28-O'Rourke

31-Massa
29-Belfour

Referees: Matt Ulwelling, Craig Welker. Linesmen: Jarod Moen, Brandon Polich  

Friday morning skate

Pat Christman/The Free Press
The Mavericks wrap up a four-game homestand this weekend when they host the red Mavs of Nebraska Omaha, a team they are winless again in the last five meetings. This will be the first and only conference series between these two teams in Mankato. They played last year in Omaha and will play there again next year. Time will tell if the two schools will continue the Spirit of the Maverick Trophy series in nonconference play after UNO moves to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Minnesota State will have virtually the same lineup as it did last Saturday with a couple exceptions. Forward Corey Leivermann is out with an injury suffered in the weight room, and defenseman Brett Stern continues to fight the injury bug and will not play tonight. However, Mike Louwerse will be back from his injury and take Leivermann's spot on the line chart. Mat Knoll will take Stern's spot. Phil Cook will start in goal, as Austin Lee, too, remains out with an injury.

Today's Free Press story takes a look at the the all-senior line of Justin Jokinen (pictured), Joe Schiller and Adam Mueller. While they might make up a defensive-minded third line, their roles will be vital over the final six weekends of the regular season. Read the Freep's series preview here.

As for Omaha, it is coming off a win over top-ranked Minnesota Duluth that broke the Bulldogs' 17-game unbeaten streak. But players say they're not overlooking 11th-place MSU, giving the purple Mavericks the respect many teams have this year.

A couple of other UNO notes from the World-Herald: Omaha boasts the top penalty kill in the WCHA ... The red Mavericks will be without forward Dominic Zombo tonight. He's been suspended by the league for one game for a knee-to-knee hit on Duluth's J.T. Brown. UNO coach Dean Blais says he supports the suspension but says there was more to the incident than met the league's eye.

Also, Omaha blogger Matthew Semisch did a little online Q&A with PucKato previewing the series.

Going around the WCHA ...

Colorado College at Minnesota: Quick story: When the Mavericks hosted CC in December, Gophers assistant coach Mike Guentzel was in attendance to watch his on Gabe, a defenseman for the Tigers, play. I talked to him briefly and he said he was hoping for a three-point game from Gabe but an MSU win to help Minnesota in the standings. Neither happened. Tonight Guentzel will face Guentzel as CC heads to Minnie. The dad had the son and his teammates over for dinner on Thursday night, but there's no question as to who Mike wants to win this weekend.

Alaska Anchorage at Wisconsin: Anchorage is tied with MSU for 11th place in the WCHA and suddenly senior defenseman Curtis Leinweber is suddenly leading the Seawolves in scoring. As for the Badgers, coming off last weekend's split in Mankato, they have two freshman wingers who have drawn comparisons to MSU alum and NHL standout David Backes.

North Dakota at St. Cloud State: There was a lot of excitement surrounding North Dakota freshman Rocco Grimaldi this season, but injuries have hampered him all year, and now he's being shut down to have knee surgery. He'll be eligible for a medical hardship season, but speculation is that he won't be in college for four more years anyway. Meanwhile, the Huskies are being led by a lunch-pail guy in senior center Jordy Christian.

Alabama Huntsville at Minnesota Duluth: Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Bulldogs' unbeaten streak was that they haven't played a home game in 63 days. Before falling 3-1 at Omaha on Saturday, they didn't lose in seven straight road games. They return to Amsoil Arena tonight to take on the Chargers in a nonconference series. One reason for UMD's success has been the brilliant play of J.T. Brown — and the NHL scouts are drooling over the free agent.

Northern Michigan at Michigan Tech: The UP rivals will play a single game on Saturday.

More WCHA coverage from USCHO, Inside College Hockey and a good column on checking from behind from College Hockey News' Dan Myers.

Check back later tonight for my live blog. And follow my on Twitter @puckato for any other college hockey tidbits I come across.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

'New' WCHA to stick with 28-game schedule

When the WCHA breaks up and re-forms in 2013, the conference will stick with a 28-game schedule, Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman said this week.

Buisman recently returned from the NCAA convention in Indianapolis, and the future WCHA schools all met there. Buisman was there, and said presidents of all nine of those schools were also there to discuss the future of the conference. MSU President Richard Davenport, it appears, has taken a real leadership role in the new league.

While they left the meetings without finalizing the WCHA's postseason format and location, they did decide to stay with an imbalanced 28-game schedule, not unlike what the league has now. That likely means teams will have 6-10 nonconference games to schedule, depending on how many trips to Alaska they make (teams that travel to Alaska are given an exemption that allows them to schedule additional games).

The conference that year will include MSU, Bemidji State, Alaska Anchorage, Alaska, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, Ferris State and Bowling Green.

Trying to do the math, it looks like they will play six four-game home-and-home series (24 games) and two two-game series (four games).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Verizon to be Mavs' fulltime home?

The city of Mankato made a presentation to the Senate Bonding Committee on Tuesday, and it included a $14.5 million request for a Verizon Wireless Center project that includes several upgrades amiable to Minnesota State hockey.

The $31 million project includes $5.8 million to make the arena the permanent home of Mavericks men's and women's hockey. It includes locker room upgrades, coaches offices and off-ice training areas, as well as upgrades to seating concourses, improved ice system and dasher boards and a new Blue Line Club room (but not one that overlooks the rink, it appears).

While the project might not be as sexy as a new on-campus rink (which was vetoed in a previous bonding bill), it ought to be a much-needed upgrade for the program in terms of recruiting and as an every-day home for the teams — compared to the yellow tin shed that is All Seasons Arena.

As MSU coach Troy Jutting told me today, All Seasons Arena has been a good home to the program for a long, long time, but college hockey has passed it by.

Think about this: since the Mavericks went Division I and moved downtown in 1996, the following WCHA teams have moved into new arenas: Bemidji State (2010), Minnesota Duluth (2010), Nebraska Omaha (2003 ... and there are plans for an on-campus arena), North Dakota (2001), Denver (2000), Wisconsin (1998), Colorado College (1997). Meanwhile, Minnesota's rink added suites in 2001 and Michigan Tech added suites in 2009 and a big team facility a couple of years earlier. St. Cloud State is in the midst of a $30 million renovation.

There's no question that, the Mavericks need some upgrades to their home rink and practice facility. Now they'll get both — if it remains in the bonding bill. Veto isn't an issue this time, as it is included in Gov. Dayton's wish list, but will it get through the committee?

The proposal seemed effective today, as it concentrated on the city's partnership with MSU and the economic impact of the civic center (there is more to the arena proposal than just the hockey areas), and there was no mention about Mankato finally deserving the money that other college-hockey towns have received for their rinks in recent years (Duluth, Bemidji, St. Cloud, etc.).

Read more about it in Wednesday's Free Press.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mavericks 3, Badgers 0

John Cross/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Cooking up a win: Phil Cook (pictured) is back. The junior goaltender stopped 32 shots to shut out Wisconsin and help the Mavericks break a 10-game WCHA winless streak that dated back to Nov. 11. Cook struggled mightily in his last two league games, allowing nine goals on 11 shots over one two-game stretch. But he was brilliant on Saturday night, making a couple of unbelievable stops to help the MSU hold on to a 2-0 first-period lead. Coach Troy Jutting said the plan was to start Cook all along, however, Friday's starter, Austin Lee was injured in Saturday's pregame skate, taking a hard shot off his facemask from Eriah Hayes. The shot broke Lee's mask. Lee did not dress for the game.

(Read much more about Cook in the Freep game story.)

2. No ordinary Joe: Senior forward Joe Schiller finished Saturday's game with two assists and an empty-net goal with 30 second remaining to seal the win. Schiller also was responsible for hanging out in the back pocket of Mark Zengerle, the Badgers' best forward. Schiller shut down Zengerle on Saturday and held him to just one even-strength point for the weekend (Zengerle scored an even-strength goal and had a power-play assist on Friday). Said Zengerle: "That No. 26 guy followed me around no matter where I went the entire two games." Zenglere's 20-game point streak ended Saturday, leaving him one game shy of the team record set by Mike Eaves, who is now Wisconsin's coach.

(I'll be writing more about Schiller for my Monday notebook/review.)

3. A win in need: The Mavericks are 4-4-0 in their last eight games, but getting the WCHA victory was important. "It was a huge win," Jutting said. "We had to have it." Said Schiller: "It's bigger for confidence. It's huge." Besides shutting down Zengerle, the Mavericks kept the nation's top-scoring defenseman, Justin Schultz, off the score sheet for the weekend. Schultz, who Jutting called the best player in college hockey has 32 points for the season.

Deep thought: Wisconsin still has never swept a series in Mankato. The Badgers will get one more chance next season before the WCHA breakup takes place. I have a hard time thinking we'll see Wisconsin back in the VWC after that.

Quote of the night: "We couldn't solve the riddle of the man between the pipes." — Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 6, Alaska Anchorage 4 ... Minnesota 6, North Dakota 2 ... Nebraska Omaha 3, Minnesota Duluth 1 ... Denver 3, Bemidji State 2 ... St. Cloud State 5, Colorado College 4 (OT)

Minnesota State vs. Wisconsin — Game 2 live blog

Lines are posted below ... Eli Zuck is back in the lineup ... Phil Cook will start in goal ...




MINNESOTA STATE
23-Dorr      19-Lehrke      25-Hayes
12-LaFontaine      18-Leitner      8-Gaede
24-Mueller      26-Schiller      14-Jokinen
22-McInnis      29-Zuck      11-Leivermann

16-Elbrecht      27-Stern
7-Palmquist      2-Nelson
3-Cooper      17-Mosey

30-Cook
31-Karambelas

Scratches: Burkemper (inj.), Grant (inj.), Heath (inj.), Knoll, Lee (inj.) Louwerse (inj.), Thauwald

WISCONSIN
7-Labate      9-Zengerle      7-Barnes
8-Paape      23-Lee      25-Mersch
26-Navin      14-Dahl      18-Little
21-Woods      12-Meuer      20-Little

27-Simonelli      6-Schultz
19-McCabe      55-Ramage
4-Springer      24-Faust

33-Rumpel
30-Peterson

Friday, January 13, 2012

Badgers 4, Mavericks 0

John Cross/The Free Press
Freddy's three thoughts of the game ...

1. Quieting the crowd: Minnesota State finally got a nice crowd for a game after six home games with the students out of town. The announced attendance was 3,656 and the student section was full. But the building stayed quiet throughout the night, as Wisconsin freshman goalie Joel Rumpel shut them out with 36 saves. It was the Badgers' first road win of the season and Rumpel's first college shut out.

2. Badgers' big guns: Wisconsin and Minnesota State are pretty evenly matched – with the exception of two players, forward Mark Zengerle and defenseman Justin Schultz. Schultz, the nation's top-scoring defenseman, was kept off the board but was brilliant at times, including on the power play. Zengerle had a goal and an assist. MSU center Joe Schiller was charged with sticking to him like glue and did a fairly good job. When Schiller did lose Zengele briefly in the first period, the Badgers sophomore promptly scored the game's first goal (photo).

3. Playing short-handed: The Mavericks appeared to come out of the game all right on the injury front, but had to play the last four minutes of the second period and all of the third without Max Gaede, who was called for checking from behind and, by rule, was booted from the game. MSU killed the major penalty but had to shuffle the lineup, including its top power play after that.

Deep thought: The loss kept the Mavericks buried in the WCHA basement. They are two points behind 11th-place Anchorage but now seven behind the Badgers and Bemidji State, who are tied for ninth. St. Cloud State is eight points ahead.

Quote of the night: "It was awesome coming out right away and seeing the fans in the stands and finally having a big crowd. To let them down really doesn't feel the best." — Mavericks senior forward Adam Mueller.

Read the Free Press game story here, and the Wisconsin State Journal coverage here.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech 6, Alaska Anchorage 2 ... Minnesota Duluth 6, Nebraska Omaha 2 ... North Dakota 2, Minnesota 1 ... Denver 6, Bemidji State 3 ... Colorado College 3, St. Cloud State 1

Minnesota State vs. Wisconsin — Game 1 live blog

Tonight's lines can be found below the live box. Notes: With C-Eli Zuck scratched for a team rules violation (he will be available for Saturday's game), D-Evan Mosey will fill in the center spot on the fourth line. Mosey was a forward until his last year of junior hockey. ... Check back between 7 and 7:30 p.m. for the live blog.


MINNESOTA STATE
23-Dorr                19-Lehrke         25-Hayes
12-LaFontaine      18-Leitner          8-Gaede
24-Mueller            26-Schiller       14-Jokinen
22-McInnis            17-Mosey          11-Leivermann

16-Elbrecht           27-Stern
7-Palmquist            2-Nelson
3-Cooper              10-Knoll

1-Lee
30-Cook
31-Karambelas

Scratches: Burkemper (inj.), Grant (inj.), Heath (inj.), Louwerse (inj.), Thauwald, Zuck

WISCONSIN
16-Labate           9-Zengerle            7-Barnes
8-Paape             23-Lee                  25-Mersch
26-Navin           14-Dahl                18-S.Little
21-Woods          12-Meuer              20-R.Little

27-Simonelli        6-Schultz
19-McCabe        55-Ramage
4-Springer          24-Faust

33-Rumpel
30-Peterson

Referees: Bruian Thul, C.J. Beaurline. Linesmen: Jarod Moen, Brandon Polich

East-West goalie wars

Pat Christman/The Free Press
Holy moly, what a bunch of goalies!

The Mankato East/Loyola and Mankato West girls and boys hockey teams clashed on Thursday night at All Seasons Arena, and both of the winning goaltenders recorded shutouts.

But it was the losing goalies who nearly stole the shows.

In the girls game, a 3-0 victory for East/Loyola, Melany Anderson (pictured) got the 16-save shutout victory. But West eighth-grader Maggie Cusey kept the game close by stopping 57 of 60 shots.

The shots were even more lopsided in the nightcap, an 8-0 victory for the West boys. Zach Fox got the win with just 10 saves. However, East/Loyola's Lucas Weihe shut out the Scarlets for two periods and finished the game with 53 saves. Earlier this season, Weihe stopped 65 shots against the Scarlets.

Friday Morning Skate

The second half of the WCHA season begins tonight with all 12 league teams in action against each other. Here in Mankato, Minnesota State will host Wisconsin in a matchup of teams that haven't won a conference game since Nov. 11.

The Mavericks are hoping to get out of the WCHA cellar, and senior defenseman Cameron Cooper is putting almost all of his focus on that (he can afford to, since he has just one class this semester before graduating in May).

Minnesota State's line chart will have some changes today. Coach Troy Jutting said on Thursday that Eli Zuck will be sitting this one out due to a team rules violation. Zuck will be available for Saturday's game, though. Defenseman Brett Stern will be back after missing a good chunk of the season with an injury. J.P. Burkemper and Mike Louwerse remain out (as do Danny Heath and Chase Grant, of course).

Speaking of Grant, he's back in town, said surgery was successful and is now working to rehab his hip for next year.

Lines will be official later today, but the top three lines should be as they've been, and Austin Lee will get the start in goal for the Mavericks. See more on the Freep's gameday preview here.

As for the Badgers, they, too, are too deep in the WCHA standings for their liking and are not only going on the road, where they have yet to win this year, but are going to the "hostile environment" of the Verizon Wireless Center, a place that hasn't been overly kind to them. Also, like MSU, Wisconsin has had its share of injuries, but it will be getting junior wing Ryan Little back this weekend from a broken hand.

Going around the rest of the WCHA ...

Minnesota at North Dakota: The Gophers are tied atop the conference but after a 9-1 start to the season they are 6-6-1 and looking for some consistency. ... In Grand Forks, meanwhile, they are noting that this will be Minnesota's final trip there for a WCHA series. The rivalry, like many in the league, is ending after the 2012-13 season with the conference breakup.

Minnesota Duluth at Nebraska Omaha: More than 14,000 people are expected to fill Omaha's CenturyLink Center (formerly Qwest Center ... are people going to make fun of this name change confusion like they do Mankato's arena?) tonight as the No. 1 Bulldogs, the nation's top-scoring team, is there for another matchup of future NCHC teams. Duluth also remains the hottest team in the country, riding a 16-game unbeaten streak. ... Meanwhile Omaha coach Dean Blais isn't sounding like someone who's only a couple of years from retirement; he has big plans.

Bemidji State at Denver: The Beavers are in the midst of a five-game winning streak, on that started with a victory over Denver on Dec. 10. ... The Pioneers, meanwhile, are lauding the way freshman forward Ty Loney (son of former NHLer Troy Loney) stepped up while Jason Zucker was playing in the world junior tournament.

St. Cloud State at Colorado College: In another matchup of future NCHC rivals, the Huskies will head to Colorado Springs. For St. Cloud, Travis Novak is having his best — and most pain-free — season of college hockey. ... For the Tigers, star forward and Team Canada junior captain Jaden Schwartz was back at practice this week and raring to go.

Alaska Anchorage at Michigan Tech: Despite the departure of leading scorer Mickey Spencer this week, the Seawolves feel like the schedule sets up for a second-half run. ... As for the Huskies, they have added a couple of players for the second half of the season and now appear to have a lot of depth at all of their positions.

Other stuff to check out: I was asked to participate in Wisconsin blogger Chuck Schwartz's weekly Take Five post regarding this week's series. ... Read the USCHO weekly conference preview here. ... Inside College Hockey looks at some second-half storylines in the WCHA.

Be sure to check my Twitter later for tonight's official lines and any other college hockey happenings, and jump on the live blog right here during the MSU-UW game.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wristbands for Jabs

The Mankato Area Hockey Association acquired 500 of the 50,000 wristbands made as a fundraiser for paralyzed Benilde-St. Margaret's hockey player Jack Jablonski and will sell them for $2 apiece during Thursday's girls and boys games between Mankato East/Loyola and Mankato West. All proceeds will go to the Jablonski family. If and when the wristbands sell out, orders for more can be made.

Meanwhile, check out my Wednesday Free Press column on how local high school teams are reacting to the tragic injuries to both Jablonski and, more recently, St. Croix Lutheran's Jenna Privette.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

MSU recruit picked for prospects game

Lincoln Journal-Star
Minnesota State's goalie of the future, Stephon Williams was chosen to play in the inaugural USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game later this month in Muskegon, Mich. The game will feature the USHL's top players who are eligible for this summer's NHL draft.

Williams, who is one of four goalies selected for the game, plays for the Sioux Falls Stampede. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound native of Fairbanks, Alaska, currently ranks second in the USHL in save percentage at .917 and is tied for fifth with a 2.54 goals-against average.

The prospects game will take place Tuesday, Jan. 24.

It will be interesting to see if and where Williams gets drafted this summer. The Mavericks have never had a goaltender who has been drafted nor one who has gone on to play in the NHL.

Weekend reaction

With the Mavericks playing at St. Lawrence, I ended up covering some Mankato East basketball and Gustavus Adolphus men's hockey over the weekend (check out my story on the Gusties' 6-foot-8 goaltender — yes, 6-foot-8 — John McLean, here ... he's helped Gustavus to a seven-game winning streak).

Anyway, I wasn't able to get reaction to Minnesota State's split with the Saints until after what appeared to be a pretty hard-skating practice on Monday (MSU has today off). You can see some of coach Troy Jutting's comments in this story.

Jutting said his team played five good periods against a fast-skating St. Lawrence team that has a real stud player in Kyle Flanagan. The one not-so-good period, however, was not the one in which they allowed two late goals. It was the first of the weekend when the Mavericks took some time to adjust to the small rink. Jutting said the Saints' game-winning goal was a combination defensive breakdown/soft goal.

The Mavericks bounced back to win on Saturday, thanks in part to a spectacular outing by Phil Cook in goal. Jutting said Cook got back to playing "like Phil" and that Austin Lee did a fine job on Friday night.

Now, it's back to WCHA action. If you want a jumpstart on what's going on with Wisconsin, this weekend's opponent, you can read the transcript of coach Mike Eaves' Monday press conference here.

In other WCHA news, St. Cloud State forward Cam Reid is leaving the team to play in the Western Hockey League. Reid has 15 points in 22 games for the Huskies, so that's a bit of a blow for St. Cloud.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mavericks 3, Saints 1 (updated)

Watertown Daily Times photo
Minnesota State stayed out of the box for the most part and got a senior to step up on Saturday night as it defeated St. Lawrence for a weekend split.

Senior forward Justin Jokinen scored the game-winning goal with 4:09 left in the third period, and senior Adam Mueller's empty-netter sealed the nonconference win.

The Mavericks, who went to the box 10 times in Friday's 4-3 loss to the Saints, committed just five penalties on Saturday and were perfect on the penalty kill.

Freshman defenseman Zach Palmquist put MSU up 1-0 with 18 seconds left in the second period, scoring a power-play goal from fellow rookie Matt Leitner. St. Lawrence tied the game at 6:56 of the third, but Jokinen took back the momentum with what would stand as his first game-winner since his freshman year. Evan Mosey assisted on the goal.

In another good sign for the Mavericks, goalie Phil Cook, making his first start since Nov. 26, stopped 29 of 30 shots for his first win of the season. He had struggled in his his previous two regular-season appearances, although he was perfect in one period of action in last week's exhibition game against the Under-18 National Team.

UPDATE: Read coverage of the game from the Watertown Daily Times here.

Minnesota State (6-15-1) finished its nonconference schedule with a 4-4-0 record. From here on out, it's all WCHA action, starting Friday when Wisconsin comes to Mankato.

Friday, January 6, 2012

St. Lawrence 4, Minnesota State 3

The Mavericks did what they do well on Friday. They got scoring from their young players and two goals from their power play. But their Achilles heels did them in again, as they went to the penalty box 10 times and gave up a pair of power-play goals in the nonconference loss to St. Lawrence on Friday night.

Jean-Paul LaFontaine had a goal and an assist. Matt Leitner had a goal, and Zach Palmquist had two assists. The freshmen again! LaFontaine and sophomore Johnny McInnis had power-play goals.

LaFontaine's goal put MSU up 3-2 midway through the third period. But MSU's ninth penalty of the game — a high-sticking call on Justin Jokinen (his second trip to the box) — led to St. Lawrence's second power-play goal of the game (the Saints also had a 5x3 goal in the first period), with 5:19 to play. Seventy second later, St. Lawrence scored the game winner.

See postgame comments by coach Troy Jutting here. See the box score here.

MSU's loss was part of a tough night for the WCHA. While Duluth and Wisconsin won against Western Michigan and RIT, respectively, Colorado College lost to Cornell, and — how about this stunner — Alabama-Huntsville defeated Denver 3-2 Friday night.

Friday Morning Skate

The Mankato East/Loyola girls hockey team's tribute to Jack Jablonski.

Judging by the tweets from various Minnesota State players, they made it to Canton, N.Y., last night after a long day of travel (Mankato —> Minneapolis —> Atlanta —> Syracuse, N.Y. —> Canton, N.Y.) for this weekend's series against St. Lawrence.

(Meanwhile, PucKato is safely nestled back home where he'll be covering East High School basketball and Gustavus Adolphus men's hockey this weekend.)

It's the last nonconference series of the season for the Mavericks, who are hoping to get on the winning track against the Saints and build momentum for the second half of the WCHA season. Co-captain Tyler Elbrecht insists the team is not that far from being a winner.

Looking at some of the conference coverage from USCHO, neither the WCHA correspondents nor the ECAC writer have much confidence the Mavs can do that this weekend.

Going around the rest of the WCHA ...

Minnesota Duluth at Western Michigan: In a meeting of future NCHC mates, the Bulldogs will go to Kalamazoo, Mich., for the first time and will try to keep their No. 1 ranking and unbeaten streak (currently at 14 games) intact as they continue a long road trip.

RIT at Wisconsin: The Badgers, like MSU, will try to kick start a second-half surge after a tough first half of the season with a pair of nonconference games against Rochester Institute of Technology. The two teams last met in the 2010 Frozen Four semifinals.

Alabama Huntsville at Denver: While it's no longer a farewell tour, Huntsville's long and winding road of a schedule stops in Denver where, despite the potential return of their top two goalies, the Pioneers appear to have found a gem in their third guy, freshman Juho Olkinuora, who has been outstanding in 14 games this season.

Cornell at Colorado College: While lots of coverage around CC and other NCHC teams this week are looking toward 2013-14 with the announcement of the conference's first commissioner, there's still a year and half to go, including the Tigers' series this weekend against Cornell. CC could get a boost by having Jaden Schwartz back in the lineup after his stint in the World Junior Championship.

Notre Dame at Minnesota (Saturday): The Hall of Fame game should be a good one with No. 3 hosting No. 5. But it will also be a bittersweet one after the passing of the Irish's legendary coach, Lefty Smith. Smith was Gophers coach Don Lucia's college coach and ex-Gophers coach Doug Woog's high school coach at South St. Paul.

Clarkson vs. North Dakota at Winnipeg (Saturday): Now-nicknameless and logoless North Dakota will head north a couple of hours for a game that has the Manitoba natives on the roster pretty excited. (Going to Canada ought makes College Hockey Inc. pretty excited, too.)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Burkemper out and other odds and ends

The Mavericks left Mankato this morning for a long trek to northern New York (Canton) and a nonconference series against St. Lawrence. The games will take place Friday and Saturday. PucKato will not make the trip but will try to monitor the games from Mankato and have updates right here.

A few notes about the Mavericks and other happenings in college hockey to the start of the second half of the season:

• J.P. Burkemper indeed broke his wrist in Friday's game against the U.S. Under-18 Team. He said on Wednesday that he's not sure how long he'll be out and it has yet to be determined if surgery is necessary. It's just another blow to the Mavericks in what has been an injury-riddled season.

• Players not on the trip to St. Lawrence: Burkemper, Mike Louwerse, Danny Heath, Chase Grant, Evan Karambelas. Of that group, only Karambelas, the third goalie, is not injured.

• One injured player who may play this weekend is defenseman Brett Stern. Stern practiced this week but with a "red cross" helmet on, meaning no contact. Coach Troy Jutting said on Wednesday Stern is making the trip but did not know for sure if he'd put Stern in the games.

• In case you were wondering about that 3-3 tie wit the U.S. team, the U18s went to Wisconsin the next night and lost to the Badgers 4-3.

• The National Collegiate Hockey Conference on Wednesday named its first commissioner, former United States Olympic Committee CEO Jim Scherr. According to the Grand Forks Herald, Scherr, who was also the head of USA Wrestling, will make $150,000 per year over the next 4 1/2 years. The conference, which starts up after the 2012-13 season, will also be hiring a director of hockey operations since Scherr's expertise is in sports business and sports marketing. A 16-game national TV contract with the CBS Sports Network apparently is also in the works.