Minnesota Hockey Magazine http://minnesotahockeymag.com Minnesota's leading online hockey destination. Wed, 06 Nov 2019 05:20:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-IMG_8923-1-32x32.jpg Minnesota Hockey Magazine http://minnesotahockeymag.com 32 32 Minnesota Hockey Magazine November 2019 (volume 8, issue 6) http://minnesotahockeymag.com/minnesota-hockey-magazine-november-2019-volume-8-issue-6/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/minnesota-hockey-magazine-november-2019-volume-8-issue-6/#respond Wed, 06 Nov 2019 04:13:01 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=32030 Eden Prairie soars to top of rankings with revamped roster

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November Pain http://minnesotahockeymag.com/november-pain/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/november-pain/#respond Sun, 03 Nov 2019 05:06:28 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=32023 New month, same results for Wild

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Wild forward Mats Zuccarello scored his second goal of the season in Minnesota’s 4-3 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

New month, same results for Wild

It’s pretty easy to say that the Wild were eager to turn the calendar to November. They finished a road-heavy schedule with just four wins – one on the road – and a start to the season that rivals that of their inaugural season back in 2000-01.

Unfortunately for the Wild, their first game post-Halloween was still a scary affair, even if it wasn’t all of their own doing (see: “Refs, you suck!” chant from the home fans). The Wild lost 4-3 in overtime to St. Louis on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center, although the Wild did put the puck in the net four times. One of them just didn’t count.  

“I thought we were playing well,” said forward Luke Kunin. “Just an unfortunate couple of plays there. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the job done.”

After falling behind 2-1 through the first 20 minutes, the Wild took a 3-2 lead in the second period on goals from Kevin Fiala, his first of the season, and Mats Zuccarello, his second of the season and in as many games.

It looked like the Wild (4-9-1) added a two-goal cushion when Mikko Koivu’s shot hit the back of the net with 5 minutes, 29 seconds left in the second period. But St. Louis challenged the good-goal call and successfully had the goal overturned. Zach Parise was the one in front of the crease deemed to have kept Blues goaltender Jake Allen from doing his job.

“They said his elbow touched his (Allen’s) head, inside the blue,” Boudreau said. “But to me… he was moving into Zach.”

Wild forward Kevin Fiala scored his first goal of the season in Minnesota’s 4-3 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Boudreau bluntly said after the game that “it wasn’t” goaltender interference. Parise said he didn’t agree with the call either, adding that he was a “good foot outside the crease.” Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk had the most to say about the call, having been on the other side of these things a time or two. He called it a joke.

“You just never know what you’re getting,” Dubnyk said, of the goal reviews. “That’s probably the worst I’ve seen since they brought the review in.”

With just a one-goal lead to cling to, the Wild didn’t generate much the rest of the game. The Blues outshot the Wild 22-13 in the final two periods.

The Blues tied the game at three goals apiece on another questionable sequence. St. Louis’ Sammy Blais blatantly tripped Kunin, who was going for the puck in the Wild’s zone. Play went on but quickly ended when Blais went to the side of the net and scored his fifth of the season with 13:55 left to play in regulation. That earned the Wild a bench minor when Boudreau offered his protests.

In overtime, the Blues took control throughout, ending it with a Ryan O’Reilly goal with 2:27 left to give St. Louis a second victory over the Wild this week. The Blues (9-3-3) defeated the Wild 2-1 in St. Louis on Wednesday.

Losses are still losses, of course, although the Wild does earn a point in that third column for the overtime game. Of the Wild’s 14 games this season, just three have been one-goal games: A 4-3 home victory over Montreal on Oct. 20 and the last two games to the Blues.

While the Wild’s schedule is arguably one of the most unbalanced they’ve had in recent memory, it’s also showed some trends for home versus road games. Yes, the sample sizes are noticeably different. The Wild went 1-8 on the road in October and 3-1 at home before Saturday. The road struggles were real as the Wild were outscored 14-34 in those nine games, giving up four-or-more goals in seven of those nine games.

The Wild faltered in their home opener with a 7-4 showing against Pittsburgh to complete their 0-4 skid to start the season. The Wild were outscored 21-10 overall through those first four contests. Boudreau acknowledged after that game that goal scoring is not going to be this team’s forte; it’s going to be defense.

At home, the Wild seem to have responded well, or at least slightly better, even if it’s just going by the small sample size of games in St. Paul. They have a 4-3 victory over Montreal, a 3-0 shutout of Connor McDavid and the Pacific-Division leading Edmonton Oilers, plus a 5-1 win over the lowly Los Angeles Kings on home ice.  

Overall, the Wild have been outscored 33-49 this season, with a glaring margin coming in the third period, allowing 21 goals in the final 20 minutes; and they’ve allowed 19 in the second.

Both Zuccarello and Parise talked after Saturday’s game about needing to generate more chances. The Wild just don’t spend enough time in the offensive zone, according to Parise.

“You can’t rely on one iffy play to win or lose the game,” Parise said. 

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Notre Dame Wears down Gophers http://minnesotahockeymag.com/notre-dame-wears-down-gophers/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/notre-dame-wears-down-gophers/#respond Sun, 03 Nov 2019 01:37:16 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=32019 Perbix picks up first college goal but Leivermann, Irish take series finale

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Former Elk River star Jack Perbix celebrates his first goal as a Gopher in the first period of Saturday night’s 5-3 loss to No. 5 Notre Dame at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Perbix picks up first college goal but Leivermann, Irish take series finale

Jack Perbix is no stranger to the score sheet. The University of Minnesota freshman winger racked up 121 points in 74 games for Elk River high school from 2015 to 2018. 

After finishing his high school career at Elk River in the spring of 2018, Perbix split his 2018-19 season between the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers and the Des Moines Buccaneers, scoring 12 goals among his 49 points in 60 games. But in his first seven games Gopher he had been blanked other than a pair of assists, although not for lack of opportunity.

“I’ve had Grade-A chances that I want back but after getting that first one, you know, it was definitely monkey off my [back],” said Perbix, a 2018 fourth-round pick (No. 116 overall) by the Anaheim Ducks.

The monkey is gone after Perbix notched his first collegiate goal which gave the Gophers a 2-0 first period lead over No. 5 Notre Dame on Saturday night. But a pair of goals by Eden Prairie’s Nick Leivermann helped lift the Irish to 5-3 win over Minnesota in the finale of the opening weekend of the Big Ten conference schedule for both teams.

Leivermann, picked in the seventh round (No. 187 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, scored twice in the second period, including a game-tying goal after which the Irish never trailed. The sophomore now has three goals to his credit at Notre Dame with all three coming at 3M Arena at Mariucci. 

“We’ve kind of seen what our good hockey can look like; it looks pretty good,” Minnesota coach Bob Motzko said. “We didn’t sustain it tonight.” 

The Gophers jumped out out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of first-period goals by Brannon McManus and Perbix 3:39 apart. McManus, a junior, finished a 2-on-1 with Sampo Ranta when he took Ranta’s feed and beat a sliding Morris from the right circle at the 12:34 mark.

Less than four minutes later, Perbix jumped on a loose puck off a turnover forced by fellow freshman linemate Jaxon Nelson and wheeled into the high slot before firing a shot high off the inside of the right post. 

“I came across the circle and I noticed that I couldn’t see the goalie’s face and that’s just telling me that he couldn’t see mine,” Perbix said. “So I knew that he was screened and I just picked open net and I hit it.”

“The Nelson line emerged looking like college hockey players this weekend,” Motzko said. “I think the first six games we’ve been waiting for a group of guys. We had much more energy at times throughout all of our lines were tonight.”

The Irish bounced back in the second period with a trio of goals, two of them by Leivermann. His power-play goal at 5:20 got the Irish on the board and Notre Dame tied it at 13:46 on a goal by Mequon Wisconsin’s Spencer Stastney. 

“(Coach Jeff Jackson) has kind of been preaching to our power play that we haven’t got enough pucks to the net,” Leivermann said. “So I mean, we just kind of moved it around, make five or six passes, and hopefully, one of them goes in.”

Motzko lamented missed opportunities on special teams on a night when Minnesota’s power play was 0-for-3 against the Irish.

“We lost the special teams battle in a big game when you need it,” Motzko said. “Our power play had a couple opportunities get us back in the game and it doesn’t.”

But the Gophers regained the lead just 42 seconds later on a pretty goal by Garrett Wait. The former Edina star carried the puck into the left circle and across the low slot — with a toe-drag to evade a sliding Irish defenseman — before patiently outwaiting Morris who went down as Wait lifted a backhand shot over him.

The lead lasted less than four minutes, however, as Leivermann cut across the slot and fired a shot from between the tops of the circles that beat Moe for his second goal of the game and just the third of his college career. 

“Both are goals that I had were plays made by other players so it’s nothing to be looked down upon me,” Leivermann said “But I think it’s really fun to play here and I know that the boys kind of get going, especially all of the Minnesotans. We’re excited to be here so it’s fun.”

Jackson said Leivermann, after struggling a bit on Friday night, bounced back solidly on Saturday. 

“He’s learning how to defend because he’s always had the offensive skill,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to be patient with him, trying to get him some playing time so we can build some confidence, and tonight I thought it was really good.”

Tied 3-3 to start the third, the Gophers could not mount any offense and were outshot 17-2 in the final period. Defenseman Charlie Raith’s goal, the sophomore’s first collegiate point, just 1:25 into the period held up as the game winner with Maple Grove’s Trevor Janicke finding an empty net with 11 seconds remaining. 

“The bad thing about tonight’s game in general is we got destroyed on the faceoff,” Motzko said of Notre Dame’s 41-18 faceoff advantage. “So you start the entire night on defense and that wears you down and give Notre Dame credit on that.”

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Wild shift the script http://minnesotahockeymag.com/wild-shift-the-script/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/wild-shift-the-script/#respond Mon, 21 Oct 2019 02:46:07 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31989 Determined Wild stop the bleeding, top Canadiens for first home win

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Minnesota forwards Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu watch Parise’s game-winning shot hit the back of the net in the third period of the Wild’s 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Determined Wild stop the bleeding, top Canadiens for first home win

ST. PAUL — For the first couple weeks of the season, the Minnesota Wild had played by the same script. Give up multiple goals in a short span of time, get down on the scoreboard and get down on themselves en route to a checkmark in the loss column. Rinse and repeat.

That pattern ballooned into a 1-6-0 start which prompted a players-only meeting following a shutout loss in Montreal.

As the team returned to St. Paul for their second home game of the season on Sunday, also against the Montreal Canadiens, the Wild seemed to repeat the pattern with a 2-1 deficit in the second period thanks to goals 16 seconds apart.

But the Wild weren’t deterred.

“It was a different feel of the game for us,” said forward Jason Zucker. “It wasn’t like we were playing poorly, and it was just a matter of time until they scored. We were playing really well.

“We just stuck with it.”

The Wild started doing things they hadn’t this season, in a good way. They didn’t collapse after the quick goals. They entered the third period in a tie game. They scored four goals for the second time this season (the other was the 7-4 loss to Pittsburgh in the home opener). They even scored off the rush for a highlight-reel game-winner off Zach Parise’s stick.

All these things helped lift the Wild to a 4-3 victory over Montreal at home for their second victory of the season. Perhaps most importantly, aside from the win, was stopping the bleeding after those two quick goals against. It’s something that’s happened in nearly every game, and coach Bruce Boudreau has talked about it with his team.

 “So when they (Montreal) scored the second goal, I think determination was there that this isn’t going to happen again,” Boudreau said. “We’re not going to let it happen again. And they fought back. It was huge to get that goal at the end of the period.”

That was Marcus Foligno’s goal with 12.9 seconds left in the second period to tie the game, 2-2.

The Wild faced a second deficit when the Canadiens came out strong to start the third period in the 2-2 game. After a 5-0 shots-on-goal advantage in the first three minutes, Phillip Danault put Montreal in front again with his second goal of the game for a 3-2 lead.

The Wild didn’t let the floodgates open again. They didn’t sulk, Parise said.

“We still liked the way we were playing, and it was still a game,” Parise said. “The game wasn’t over.”

Through the first seven games, the Wild consistently scored two goals a game while giving up an average of four goals per game. For a win this time, their offense needed to keep the pressure on and score. That was part of the script that changed, too.

Though the Wild only registered 5 of their 33 shots in the final 20 minutes, they made the most of opportunities. Already with a power-play goal in the game thanks to Zucker giving the Wild a 1-0 lead, the Wild had the man advantage with 11:29 remaining in regulation. Brad Hunt blasted a slapshot from the circle into the net to tie the game up at 3 a mere 6 seconds into the power play in the third.

Boudreau said he loves seeing the emotion on the faces of his players, “especially when it’s good emotion.”

“When everybody was going over to Huntsy after he scored that goal, you could see that they were pumped up about that,” Boudreau said.

The Wild stayed focused on breaking the tie, responding with Parise’s goal a few minutes later.


Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker celebrate Parise’s winning goal. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

The play started with a clean exit from the Wild’s own zone, according to Parise, something he acknowledged they haven’t done a lot of this season, which would explain the lack of scoring chances off the rush. Zucker, skating on a line with Parise and Mikko Koivu, said he had time to make a play and either feed the puck to Hunt or try to feed it through.

Zucker fired a pass across the ice toward Parise as he enclosed on the net. Parise deflected the puck into the net for the 4-3 lead. That pass through the zone was probably the hardest, in terms of speed, that Zucker said he’s ever made.

“I still don’t know how he did it,” Zucker said, of Parise finishing the play. “I need to watch the replay, but that was impressive. I had to rip that pass to get it through.”

The relief and excitement washed all over Parise as he celebrated with his teammates on the ice.

“The way things have been going, the time of the game, a lot of losses, a lot of frustration piling up,” Parise said.

His goal ended up as the game-winner and reflected a better trend when it comes to tallying the time between goals. The Wild erased the deficit with a pair of goals in 4 minutes, 17 seconds with 7:06 to play in regulation.  

Perhaps it was some hard studying that paid off after the Wild studied video the day before, focusing on their turnovers and bad passes. The Zucker-to-Parise play certainly was the opposite of what the team has seen and done so far.

Boudreau called that pass “tremendous.”

“Tape-to-tape passes create speed,” Boudreau said. “If you can pass tape-to-tape, it has the illusion that you’re skating a lot faster because I’ve never seen a guy skate faster than a puck.”

With so much not going right for the Wild to start this season, one game is still just one game in the first couple weeks of an 82-game season. The question on the minds of many Wild fans after Sunday’s victory might be: How can the team sustain this glimmer of success they had against one opponent to earn one important, confidence-boosting win?

“We need to remember this feeling,” Zucker said. “This feels great. It’s awesome to have a win.” 

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Gallery: Wild vs. Habs http://minnesotahockeymag.com/gallery-wild-vs-habs/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/gallery-wild-vs-habs/#respond Mon, 21 Oct 2019 02:36:14 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31991 Minnesota comes back to top Montreal on Parise goal for first home win.

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Minnesota comes back to top Montreal on Parise goal for first home win. [See image gallery at minnesotahockeymag.com]

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Woe is the Wild http://minnesotahockeymag.com/woe-is-the-wild/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/woe-is-the-wild/#respond Mon, 14 Oct 2019 02:57:29 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31972 Early-season struggles have Minnesota on quest for confidence and identity

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Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin (middle) appears to be pleading for divine intervention as fellow defensemen Carson Soucy (L) and Brad Hunt (R) look on in disbelief during the second period of Minnesota’s 2019 home opener, a 7-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 12 at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Early-season struggles have Minnesota on quest for confidence and identity

So far this season, the Minnesota Wild are proving there’s a first time for everything. Unfortunately for them, the firsts aren’t positive. Unless there are ways to positively spin an 0-4 start to the season.  

“Every year you have to create your identity, and the good teams get to that identity right away,” said defenseman Ryan Suter. “The teams that struggle out of the gates, I think that’s a big part of it. They’re trying to find that identity.

“Obviously, we’re that team right now.”

The Wild arrived back at Xcel Energy Center with an 0-3 record to start the season. They’ve never lost three straight games in regulation to start a season, and they made it four in a row with a 7-4 loss to Pittsburgh in their home opener on Saturday night. They woke up Sunday morning as the lone NHL team with a zero in the points column.

That makes an 0-4 start in which the Wild have been outscored 21-10. About the only positive from their latest game was the fact that they finally scored more than two goals. Although it could be argued that the biggest highlight of the night was Mike Modano with the “Let’s Play Hockey!” call or the fitting tribute to honor Jim Bowers with a video showing him singing the national anthem before a North Stars game in the Stanley Cup Final in 1991.

Until we learn how to quit feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s not going to work.

 – Wild coach Bruce Boudreau

After the home opener, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t single out any players but called on his team to shift from thinking about being 30 or 40-goal scorers to playing a 200-foot game.

“Goal scoring is not going to be our forte,” Boudreau said. “Defending has got to be our forte if we’re going to win.”

And it hasn’t been. Of the Wild losses so far, it’s not like they’ve lost games 2-1 or 3-2 with some bad puck-luck. The Wild seemed to make their own bad luck in 5-2, 4-2 and 5-2 losses in a string of divisional games at Nashville, Colorado and Winnipeg. Each game, the Wild dug themselves a hole in a hurry.

In Nashville, the Predators scored a pair of goals 1:29 apart to take the lead for good in the third. They made it a three-goal spurt in about the first seven minutes of that period to take a 4-2 lead, getting one of those goals from former Wild player, Mikael Granlund.

Wild assistant captain Ryan Suter says the team is still seeking its identity through four games this season. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

The Wild got behind early against the Avalanche, going down 2-0 in the first six minutes of the game with goals 1 minute, 27 seconds apart. In a tie game in Winnipeg, the Jets went up 4-2 in a flash with goals just 28 seconds apart. It was a 2-1 game in the home opener before a trio of Penguins tallies in 2 minutes, 28 seconds for a 5-1 deficit by the 13:39 mark of the second period.

The Wild have also allowed an empty-net goal in each game.

The formula for the Wild has been the same, allowing two quick goals, each time out, according to Boudreau.

“It’s like we get a woe-is-me attitude,” Boudreau said. “’Oh, we’re down,’ instead of picking up our shoes like we did the last five minutes (on Saturday) and saying, ‘let’s go get ‘em.’

“Until we learn how to quit feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s not going to work.”

After plenty of Wild fans had already flocked to the exits once the Penguins took a 6-2 lead with about 9 minutes to play Saturday, the Wild finally showed some life in the offensive zone. Defenseman Brad Hunt – with his second goal in as many games – got the Wild to three goals with a snipe from near the blue line. Luke Kunin scored 21 seconds later for a 6-4 game at the 15:44 mark.

Even when the Wild countered with their own quick tallies, it seemed to be a one-step-forward, two-steps-back scenario as they couldn’t hold the other team off the board. In Nashville, Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba’s goals 43 seconds apart gave them a 2-1 lead in the second before surrendering three third-period goals. The Wild had its first lead at 1-0 in Winnipeg thanks to Ryan Hartman. Against the Penguins, the Wild responded with a power-play goal in the second just 28 seconds after going down 2-0.

No one in the Wild’s lineup has played his “A game” for an entire 60 minutes, according to Suter.

“When we’re on, we look really good,” Suter said. “And then we start pressing too hard, I think, and then they get one and then two. You kind of go into a shell.”

The franchise-worst 0-4 start already surpasses the number of losses the Wild had in October last season, as they went 7-3-2 that first month last year. The Wild also fall to 14-1-4 in home openers played at Xcel Energy Center.

It’s a bad trend for a team that last season finished 16-18-7 on home ice (37-36-9 overall). Those 18 regulation losses set a team record for the most losses at home in a season, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Wild also set a team mark for the fewest points on home ice with 39.

Boudreau has often used the phrase “your best players have to be your best players” when talking about his team in the past. Well, through four games, it’s the third-pair defender Hunt as the team’s points leader with two goals and two assists. Zucker’s goal on Saturday was a deflection in the slot after a Hunt shot from the blue line. Marcus Foligno has three assists so far. Jordan Greenway, Wild-newcomer Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Donato (healthy scratch on Saturday) have not registered a point yet.

The Wild, who play six of their first seven games on the road, head out for a Canadian swing against Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal in search of their first win to try and stop the bleeding.

“You don’t get anything in this league,” said captain Mikko Koivu. “I don’t care if it’s game one or game 82. You’ve got to earn every single point in this league, and we’re not doing that right now.”

A victory would stop the season-opening skid from snowballing and provide a shot of confidence to his players.

“We have to figure it out quick, or it’s going to be a long year,” said defenseman Jared Spurgeon.

Opening-night photo gallery by photographer Rick Olson. Follow Rick on Twitter: @rickolson77

[See image gallery at minnesotahockeymag.com]

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Gallery: Whitecaps vs. Riveters http://minnesotahockeymag.com/gallery-whitecaps-vs-riveters/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/gallery-whitecaps-vs-riveters/#respond Sun, 13 Oct 2019 01:41:16 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31946 Minnesota Whitecaps kick off 2019-20 season with 9-2 win over the Metropolitan Riveters.

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The Minnesota Whitecaps kicked off the 2019-20 season with a 9-2 win over the Riveters. A great crowd at TRIA, along with former MN Governor Dayton for a ceremonial puck drop, were there to witness the unveiling of the 2018-19 championship banner.


[See image gallery at minnesotahockeymag.com]

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Mavericks hope 2020 is their time to shine http://minnesotahockeymag.com/mavericks-hope-2020-is-their-time-to-shine/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/mavericks-hope-2020-is-their-time-to-shine/#respond Fri, 11 Oct 2019 14:43:57 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31922 Series of disappointing first-round exits at the NCAA Tournament the only blemish on Hastings' era in Mankato

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Minnesota State senior forward, and returning captain, Marc Michaelis has his sights set on leading the Mavericks over the NCAA regional hump and into the Frozen Four in 2019-20. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota State University Athletics)

Series of disappointing first-round exits at the NCAA Tournament the only blemish on Hastings’ era in Mankato

The Minnesota State Mavericks have had their hearts broken just about every way imaginable over the years.

In 2015, MSU was the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and saw its season end in the first round on a goal that, by the letter of the law, shouldn’t have counted.

Three years later, the Mavericks jumped in front by a pair of goals early and watched their opponent slowly claw back, drawing even in the final period before winning in overtime.

That opponent would go on to win the NCAA title.

Last season, in a hostile environment, MSU took a three-goal lead — and very a nearly a four-goal lead — before watching that advantage wither away in a blink in an eventual 6-3 loss.

They’ve lost in empty buildings. They’ve lost in full ones. They’ve lost out east. They’ve lost in Sioux Falls, just a two-hour drive from their Mankato campus.

MSU G Dryden McKay (Photo courtesy of Minnesota State University Athletics)

It hasn’t mattered much the circumstance or the quality of opponent, Minnesota State has known only losing when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. And for a program that has won more games than any other in college hockey since Mike Hastings became head coach in 2012, winning games in the NCAAs is really the only measuring stick that matters anymore.

Since college hockey realignment in 2013, Minnesota State has proven its mettle in conference play. MSU has won three WCHA regular season championships and two more playoff titles.

They’ve also reached the NCAA Tournament four times during that span, more than any other team in the conference.

Unfortunately for MSU, the Mavericks are 0-4 once there. And of all the heartbreaking losses once there, last season may have the most staying power.

Minnesota’s State’s 32 victories were a program record. Just a week prior, a miracle comeback in the final minute of the WCHA Championship game allowed MSU to raise yet another banner.

It was almost as though they were a team of destiny.

But placement in the Providence, Rhode Island regional — and a game against Providence College — would be a challenge. An early three-goal lead seemed to put those worries to bed. An apparent fourth goal was waved off for offsides, and from that point on, the game changed.

Providence scored the next six goals and would go on to reach the Frozen Four by winning the following afternoon.

The job of leading the Mavericks to new heights will fall largely on the shoulders of senior captain Marc Michaelis. A native of Mannheim, Germany, Michaelis is one of the top returning players in the country. The WCHA’s Preseason Player of the Year was also named to the All-College Hockey News first team nationally.

Michaelis has been a model of consistency over the years for the Mavericks, scoring between 36 and 42 points in each of his first three years on campus.

He led the team in both goals and points a year ago and could be a darkhorse candidate for the Hobey Baker Award.

Michaelis, who wore the ‘C’ for MSU last season as a junior, will do so again after being named co-captain, along with fellow senior Nick Rivera.

Perhaps no contender in the country had a better offseason than MSU. The Mavericks lost one regular contributor off last year’s team, where former captain Max Coatta will be missed more off the ice. His eight goals and 15 points should be easily replaceable.

Coatta ranked 14th on the Mavericks in scoring last season. The 13 players in front of him all return, as do the next eight behind him.

In this day and age of college hockey, it’s a remarkable statistic: the Mavericks return 20 of their top returning 21 scorers.

Also back is sophomore goaltender Dryden McKay, who was CHN’s Freshman of the Year nationally after posting a 24-7-2 record to go with a 1.76 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.

Joining McKay between the posts will be freshman Jaxson Stauber, son of former University of Minnesota Hobey Baker Award winner, Robb.

MSU D Connor Mackay (Photo courtesy of Minnesota State University Athletics)

Up front, the Mavericks bring in a player with another familiar surname to college hockey fans in Minnesota, Ryan Sandelin. The son of Minnesota Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin, Ryan stands 6-foot and 192 points and is coming off a 31-goal season with Penticton last year.

Also added to the mix is forward Nathan Smith, a third-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2018 who hails from Hudson, Florida. Smith led Cedar Rapids of the USHL with 53 points in 59 games last season and had 47 points in 51 games the year prior.

On defense, the Mavericks are buoyed by the return of Connor Mackey, a junior who had plenty of NHL options following last season. Mackey led Maverick blueliners in goals (seven) and was tied with Ian Scheid in points (25). Scheid returns for his senior campaign as well.

Edwin Hookenson, Jack McNeely, Riese Zmolek and Wyatt Aamodt all return having played at least 36 games last season, with Hookenson and McNeely having played in all 42.

Skill? Check.

Experience? Check.

Motivation? Check.

All the pieces seem to be in place for the Mavericks this season, leaving just one box left to be checked. And while an NCAA Tournament win would be one giant monkey off the back of the program, there’s no reason why MSU shouldn’t aim significantly higher than that in 2020.

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Minnesota Wild 2019-20 preview: He’s Baaaack http://minnesotahockeymag.com/minnesota-wild-2019-20-preview-hes-baaaack/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/minnesota-wild-2019-20-preview-hes-baaaack/#respond Wed, 02 Oct 2019 04:10:21 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31907 Muscle injury a memory as Dumba, Wild count down to zero hour

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Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba searches for an open teammate in the Wild’s Sept. 21 preseason meeting with Central Division rival Colorado at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

Muscle injury a memory as Dumba, Wild count down to zero hour

Matt Dumba didn’t notice anything wrong until he felt a throbbing feeling once he settled into the penalty box.  

Dumba “threw a wild punch that didn’t connect” during a fight with Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk on Dec. 15, 2018. Dumba sustained a ruptured pectoralis muscle which required season-ending surgery.

“You have to deal with it and live with it,” Dumba told the media on Jan. 18, 2019, following his surgery.  “I’ll be back. I’ll be back eventually, whether it’s this year or next.”

The Wild defenseman is back. He’s talked about how much he missed the game last year, especially considering he hadn’t been sidelined like this before.

“I’ve never been taken that far out of the game for that period of time,” Dumba said, after a Sept. 20 practice. “It was kind of a new experience for me.

“I’m just looking forward to contributing to the squad and trying to get back to where my game was.”

He’s certainly counted down the weeks until the season opener, set for Thursday in Nashville, on his Twitter and Instagram accounts. Dumba has posted brief hype videos marking six, five, four and two weeks until the 2019-20 season begins. He acknowledged it’s a little like a kid waiting for Christmas, counting down with the advent calendar.

Dumba said he’s excited to be back and isn’t taking anything for granted.

At the time of his injury, Dumba led all NHL defensemen in goals with 12, just two short of his career-high mark of 14. Even right after his surgery last winter, he told the media that he thought he’d be able to get back to where he was last season or even surpass that.

Without Dumba, and later without captain Mikko Koivu and a few players who were traded away before the deadline last winter, the Wild finished 37-36-9 for a spot as the Central-Division basement dweller in the Western Conference. The Wild only won 16 home games, with 7 of their 11 shutouts coming on home ice as well. They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

The Wild no doubt missed Dumba’s powerful shot from the blue line. He scored 12 goals and 10 assists in just 32 games last year during his sixth NHL season, all with the Wild. He came off a career year with 14 goals and 50 points in all 82 games during 2017-18.

There’s the physical part of getting injured and the recovery process, of course, but it can also take a mental toll for a player that’s used to playing every single game. He even got bored last spring and posted an April Fool’s joke on teammate Joel Eriksson Ek’s car, plastering it with Post-It notes. (For the record, Eriksson Ek hasn’t retaliated yet, but Dumba said he knows it’s coming.)

All jokes aside, Dumba said that initially he was caught up in getting frustrated with being out before realizing he simply couldn’t dwell on it.

“I’d beat myself up thinking about it every night if I was to go down that road,” Dumba said.

With the recovery following surgery, Dumba said that it wasn’t until August that he felt back to normal where he could “do almost everything that I wanted to.”

Once camp opened, Dumba was back playing with veteran Ryan Suter, just trying “to pick up where we left off,” Dumba said.

Dumba’s presence at training camp this fall was enough for coach Bruce Boudreau, even if the defenseman was still getting back into form early on.

“I think he’s got to rein his shot in a little bit,” Boudreau said after the Sept. 20 practice. “It’s not as accurate as it was, but that’s at the beginning. Let’s get him a few games… to get his timing down.”

It seems as though Dumba got something down so far, enough for a pair of goals and four points in four preseason games. Boudreau acknowledged a couple of days before the season opener that Dumba is fully back to being the player he was last year, also noting his preseason points total in those first few games.

“(Dumba) probably took a few more chances than I’d really like to see him take, but that’s Matt. When he gets going, he’s hard to rein in,” Boudreau said. “But that’s part of his DNA, and that’s part of the reason we love him.”

Dumba makes no secret about what he tries to give to the team and does what’s best for the team, even if it means sometimes getting caught up in that and needing to dial things back a bit, he said.

“But I’d rather tame the tiger than paint stripes on the cat,” Dumba said.

Koivu, who suffered an ACL and meniscus tear in his right knee on Feb. 5 in Buffalo, is also back in the fold and proved in this preseason that his leg is fine, Boudreau said. Both Koivu and Dumba back healthy has already affected the team in camp and the preseason, according to veteran forward Zach Parise.

“It just adds a different dynamic to our roster with those two guys healthy and playing,” Parise said.

Other roster/personnel notes:

The biggest change within the organization was the firing of general manager Paul Fenton at the end of July. New GM Bill Guerin was later hired and didn’t waste much time getting things done and leaving a positive effect on the Wild players and others within the organization.

WIld defenseman Jared Spurgeon in action in a Nov. 13, 2018 game against the Washington Capitals at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

It’s been a good transition with Guerin so far, according to Dumba.

“He definitely wants the best for all of us,” Dumba said. “He wants to instill that winning culture, that attitude. Hearing him talk, I think it excites a lot of people.”

The most notable move was securing defenseman Jared Spurgeon to a 7-year extension at the start of camp. Spurgeon, who will turn 30 at the end of November, is coming off a career year last season with new high marks in goals (14), assists (29) and points (43) while playing all 82 games last year. He also led the team in blocked shots with 145 and averaged 24:09 on the ice. Spurgeon can often fly below the radar as far as his abilities on the ice, but make no mistake that his presence was certainly felt as one of the team’s top defensemen, especially with the absence of Dumba.

The Wild will also start the season without defenseman Greg Pateryn, whose nagging lower-body injury evolved into bilateral core muscle repair surgery, the Wild announced on Oct. 1. He’s expected to miss about six weeks.

The Wild also signed center Joel Eriksson Ek to a two-year deal in August. The 22-year-old scored 7 goals and 14 points in 58 games with the Wild last season.

Just before camp opened in September, the Wild re-signed 23-year-old forward Kevin Fiala to a two-year contract. Fiala came over to the Wild last winter in a trade that sent Mikael Granlund to the Nashville Predators.

One of the bigger signings for the Wild in the offseason, under Fenton’s tenure when free agency opened on July 1, was a 5-year, $30 million deal for veteran winger Mats Zuccarello. He already has 511 career NHL games under his belt with the New York Rangers and Dallas Stars.

Right-winger Ryan Hartman is also added to the mix as a free-agent signing. He’s coming off a year split between the Predators and Philadelphia Flyers. He scored 12 goals and 26 points in 83 games. 

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Sunday Fun Day http://minnesotahockeymag.com/sunday-fun-day/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/sunday-fun-day/#respond Tue, 24 Sep 2019 06:46:03 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31880 Minnesota's first family of women's hockey takes reunion to the ice

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From L to R: Minnesota Whitecaps D Chelsey (Brodt) Rosenthal, Whitecaps coach Jack Brodt, University of Minnesota D Maddie Wethington and Whitecaps D Winny (Brodt) Brown. (MHM Photo by Rick Olson)

Minnesota’s first family of women’s hockey takes reunion to the ice

Photo gallery by Rick Olson (@rickolson77) for Minnesota Hockey Magazine

[See image gallery at minnesotahockeymag.com]


MINNEAPOLIS — On any given summer Sunday afternoon families across Minnesota and beyond will gather in organized reunions, catching up on each other’s lives over pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad and green bean casserole. In many cases friendly, and not so friendly, competitions ritually ensue on the softball field, at a volleyball net or over an intense Cornhole tournament.

University of Minnesota freshman defender Maddie Wethington’s family on the other hand — at least for one Sunday — took their battle to the ice.

Maddie Wethington (MHM Photo: Rick Olson)

Wethington stepped onto the Ridder Arena ice for Sunday afternoon’s exhibition game against the National Women’s Hockey League’s Minnesota Whitecaps with much more on the line than her Gopher teammates. As she surveyed the defending Isobel Cup champions as they warmed up, Wethington exchanged glances with two of her aunts, former Gophers Winny (Brodt) Brown and Chelsey (Brodt) Rosenthal, while her grandfather, Jack Brodt, watched from behind the visitor’s bench.

After the game, a visibly emotional Wethington looked toward her cousins Jack and Haley, Chelsey’s children, playing nearby and said, “I was these kids’ age, like five and under, when I got to watch them put on the ‘M.’ To be able to get to do that and then also play against them is something that’s really unbelievable and I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Wethington, a six-time letter winner in both hockey and golf at The Blake School in Minneapolis, is a member of Minnesota’s most famous women’s hockey family. Her mother, Kerry, the first Division I women’s hockey head coach at St. Cloud State (1998-2002), is Winny and Chelsey’s sister and another of Jack’s daughters.

All three women play defense so opportunities for 1-on-1 battles were scarce on this day but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any on-ice interaction. Rosenthal’s moment came as the teams were warming up.

“I gave her a little tap on the shins as we were both at center ice,” Rosenthal said. “Didn’t really say much but just gave her a look like ‘good luck.’”

Wethington said it really set in for her what the game meant when she locked eyes with Brown on a faceoff and was met with an ear-to-ear grin.

Minnesota Whitecaps D Winny (Brodt) Brown (MHM Photo: Rick Olson)

“I was smiling across the way, you know, when we were on the faceoff draw but we’re very competitive too,” said Brown, Minnesota’s first Ms. Hockey winner in 1996. “In our family, it’s competing all the time whether it’s on the ice or checkers, or you know, getting shotgun in the car. I think it’s kind of a culture that probably my parents have created that has kind of been passed on to my sister Kerry and her daughters.”

That competitive spirit propelled Wethington to become a four-time all-state, four-time all-conference, and three-time all-metro honoree as well as a two-time Minnesota Girls State High School Tournament All-Tournament Team member. She helped Blake to three state championships (2014, 2016 and 2017) and one state runner-up finish (2015) to go with six conference titles.

In addition, Wethington has competed internationally for several U.S. Under-18 teams and, not surprisingly, has played club hockey since 2012 for the Minnesota Junior Whitecaps. While it is been an honor to wear those colors, nothing compares to the realization of Wethington’s childhood dream of donning the maroon and gold sweater with the ‘M’ across the front and No. 5 on the back.

The number is significant in that she wears it in honor of her aunts who both wore it as Gophers, Brown from 1998-2000 and Rosenthal from 2002-06. That Wethington got to wear it as a freshman she says is a matter of the stars aligning for her.

“I realized that the defenseman that was leaving (Sophie Skarzynski) was number five,” Wethington said. “So it just happened to work out perfectly.”

The number choice is an emotional one for Brown and Rosenthal as well.

“Both me and Chelsey are honored that, you know, she respects us enough to want to carry on that number and represent the Gophers with it,” Brown said. “It’s pretty special.”

Rosenthal expressed her pride in her niece while praising her play and added the experience of playing against her was something she never expected to happen

Minnesota Whitecaps D Chelsey (Brodt) Rosenthal (MHM Photo: Rick Olson)

“It was very cool to see her wearing in the ‘M’ and she’s worked so hard, Rosenthal said. “I remember her being in a stroller and now I’m playing against her so that kind of just says a lot how … I’m getting old.”

Wethington said she believed Sunday’s game was the first time her grandfather had coached against her but the day’s events conjured up fond memories of coaching alongside him as a young girl.

“I remember growing up he would coach some of their WHAM (Women’s Hockey Association of Minnesota) league (games) with my mom even playing and and I’d be on the bench with him pretending to coach when I was five years old,” Wethington recalled with a smile. “At the end of last season, my senior year, he was like, ‘Just wait, I’ll have all these players on you forechecking you so hard.’ He was looking forward to it; I was looking forward to it; it was a great moment for my whole family.”

Brodt, who played hockey at Hamline University and co-founded the Whitecaps in 2004, said the game was a proud grandparent moment and he is confident Wethington will make her own mark at the University of Minnesota.

“My granddaughter is a good player and she’s been wanting to play against her aunts so it was fun,” Brodt said. “It wasn’t exactly the way we wanted it to turn out but, it is what it is.”

It turned out to be a 5-1 Gopher win which saw them outshoot the Whitecaps 57-12, despite trailing 1-0 after one period on Jonna Curtis’ buzzer-beater. The Gophers proceeded to reel off five unanswered goals — led by Taylor Heise’s three-point effort (2-1—3) and a goal and an assist from Grace Zumwinkle — to overwhelm their guests.

To be fair, the Whitecaps had practiced only twice and a labor dispute has them, and every other NWHL team, playing with a significantly depleted roster compared to the one fans celebrated with on the ice in March.

Minnesota Whitecaps coach Jack Brodt (MHM Photo: Rick Olson)

“It’s always fun to play the Gophers,” Brodt said. “We didn’t give them much of a test but when we originally scheduled, we figured we were going to have all our players. We’ve only had one and a half practices. They’ve been practicing for two or three weeks so you can see that we were slow to all the pucks. They just took it to us and I kind of figured that that’s what they were going to do.”

To the Gophers’ credit, they took full advantage of the opportunity and Wethington even got on the score sheet, chipping in an assist on Zumwinkle’s game-tying goal in the second period. But that was secondary to the win in Wethington’s eyes.

“I think I got a little bit of an advantage at the table when it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Wethington said with a competitor’s grin. “But I’ll try not to rub it into their face too much.” 

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