February 6 , 2003
West Notebook

Maverick Stampede
MSU, Mankato makes its mark

By Mike Eidelbes

With his team in the middle of a 13-day break, Minnesota State University, Mankato's Troy Jutting did what any head coach with a late-season hiatus would do. He hit the recruiting trail.

No better time, really, because he's got a couple great selling points. The Mavericks (12-7-9 overall, 10-5-7 WCHA) are second in the WCHA standings with one month left in the regular season, and the team is in the midst of the nation's longest unbeaten streak at 13 games (8-0-5). Not bad for a team that was expected to post a second-division finish in conference play, including a 10th-place forecast by this Web site (mea culpa).

"Our goaltending has been very good," said Jutting of his duo of Jason Jensen and Jon Volp. "If you're winning hockey games, you're getting good goaltending most of the time. Grant Stevenson and Shane Joseph have played extremely well for us and we're getting great leadership from our three seniors (B.J. Abel, Joe Bourne and Peter Runkel)

Forwards Stevenson and Joseph have garnered most of the attention -- and deservedly so, as they rank second and fourth, respectively, in the WCHA in scoring. Stevenson, a sophomore, has 50 points thus far while Joseph, a junior, has scored 48 points.

"You see it in hockey where two kids have a great feel for each other," Jutting says. "I think it's the case with those two. They know where each other is going to be and they're both very skilled."

Despite the offensive prowess of Stevenson and Joseph, everyone on Jutting's roster has chipped in at one point in time this season. Take MSU-Mankato's crucial tie against Minnesota Jan. 25, for example; the Mavericks got third-period tallies from Brad Thompson (his third goal of the season) and Jeff Marler (his fifth goal on the year) to earn the point.

"No question that's been one of the keys," Jutting said. "While (Stevenson and Joseph) have played extremely well and contributed to our success on a nightly basis, we're getting contributions from the rest of the team every night as well. If it's not somebody one night, it's another person."

While MSU-Mankato is second in the WCHA, they are by no mean a lock for a home-ice berth in the first round of the conference playoffs. The Mavericks have just six league games remaining – every team within striking distance has at least two games in hand coming into the weekend – including upcoming series against Colorado College and North Dakota. Those two facts give skeptics the fuel they need to predict MSU-Mankato's fall, but Jutting doesn't seem too concerned.

"I don't know how the rest of the country is viewing us," he says. "You earn your respect. That's something that we don't worry about, and we can't worry about. We just have to keep doing the best job we can as a hockey team."


During the course of his collegiate career on the Michigan State blue line, Brad Fast has always been the "other" guy, quietly laboring in the shadow of more heralded defensemen such as All-Americans Mike Weaver and Andrew Hutchinson and smooth-skating classmate John-Michael Liles.

Even though he's managed to elude the spotlight for the most part doesn't mean he hasn't been a valuable part of the Spartans' success over the past four seasons. He followed a solid freshman campaign by scoring 27 points as a sophomore and 26 points as a junior.

The Book on Fast

A CCHA coach breaks down Brad Fast's game:

"He's offensively gifted. He makes plays, sees the ice extremely well and he can skate. And he's a lot bigger than people think. Being as offensive-minded and aggressive as he is, it makes him a better player because he doesn't have to play defense."

Fast has been the most consistent player for coach Rick Comley in an up-and-down season for the Spartans. With 10 goals and 16 assists, he's second only to Liles among CCHA defensemen in scoring and he's been even better in conference play with 8-14--22, tops among defensemen and tied for sixth overall.

"Since Coach Comley has come here," Fast said following the Spartans' split with Miami at Munn Ice Arena last weekend, "he emphasizes offense a lot and he wants us to join the rush more – moreso than we have in the past."

That comment alludes to the defensive system employed by Fast's coach at Michigan State for his first three years in East Lansing, Ron Mason. The Fort St. John, British Columbia, product says his overall game has benefitted from the influence of both Mason and Comley.

"I'm fortunate that I've got to play with both these coaches, so now I can say that I've learned both these systems," Fast explains. "I feel comfortable in either one. I feel like I could go play a strict, defensive style of hockey or play offense.

"When Coach Mason was here, he definitely emphasized defense first and he knew for me to get to the next level you definitely have to learn how to play defense. He instilled that in all of us back on the blue line. The guys on the team – Weaver, Jon Insana, Hutchinson, Brad Hodgins – they all taught what Coach Mason preached and passed it on down."

Not only has Fast's game been solid on both ends of the ice, but as the MSU captain, he's been responsible for being a steadying influence during the Spartans' struggles earlier this season and providing leadership as the team lost defensemen because of injury (Corey Potter) or departure to the major junior ranks (Duncan Keith and Evan Shaw). His contributions beg the question, should he be considered for All-America honors? While Fast deflects such talk, his teammates say he deserves to be mentioned in that category.

"The CCHA is the toughest league, and he's proven himself night in and night out for four years," MSU forward Jim Slater said. "He's
definitely in that group."


Officials from Bemidji State were at the Minnesota State Capitol on Thursday talking hockey. The Beavers play in John S. Glas Fieldhouse on the BSU campus. The rink's 2,500 bench seats were adequate when BSU was a D-III power, but school officials want more as the Beavers continue their D-I adventure. They are seeking state funds to help build a new on-campus arena for the men's and women's hockey teams at the school.

Things People Say

"I think we had him rattled...the first shot on net I had went over his glove, and it wasn't a hard shot or anything. We just kept pressuring and pressuring him, and he kind of fell apart for his team." – Ferris State forward Chris Kunitz, on Michigan goaltender Al Montoya, who allowed four goals in the first 21:36 of Saturday's loss in Big Rapids.

"This sucks. You get up 3-0 and you feel like you blew it." – North Dakota forward Jason Notermann, following the Sioux's come-from-ahead loss to Colorado College Friday.

"Cut your mullet!!!" – Michigan student section, to a shaggy-coiffed Ferris State player during a TV timeout at Yost Ice Arena Friday.

Among the complaints about Glas Fieldhouse noted by Carl Baer, the school's director of university advancement, is the fact that all of the arena's seats are on one side of the ice, which means the school can sell advertising on only one side of the arena. In addition, there have been recent complaints about the quality of the ice there.

Minnesota's new Governor Tim Pawlenty is a hockey fan, which, in a normal year, would be good news for the Beavers. (The state funding that built the National Hockey Center at St. Cloud State was a pet project of late Governor Rudy Perpich, another Minnesota hockey fan.) But the state faces a $4.5 billion budget deficit, and Pawlenty has pledged not to increase taxes, meaning that deep cuts in state services are on the horizon.

In other words, don't look for artist renderings of new rinks in Bemidji anytime soon.

Jess Myers


Big-time Players Making Big-Time Plays: With their performances in key series last weekend, forwards Peter Sejna of Colorado College and Chris Kunitz of Ferris State solidified their standings as 2003 All-Americans and front-runners for the Hobey Baker Award as well as player of the year honors in their respective conferences.

Sejna extended his scoring streak to a school-record 29 games during the Tigers' sweep of North Dakota in Colorado Springs. He notched an assist Friday and added a goal and two helpers Saturday. The nation's leading scorer, Sejna enters this weekend's series against Minnesota with 28 goals and 29 assists for 57 points.

Kunitz contributed a pair of highlight-reel goals in a loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor Friday then scored two goals and an assist in a win against the visiting Wolverines the following night. While he hasn't reeled off a point streak of Sejna's magnitude, Kunitz does have eight goals and 10 points in his last five games and 14-14--28 in his last 14 outings.

Three Great Weekend Getaways
120x60 - Brand Red

1. Minnesota at Colorado College: It's not really a cop-out to revisit Colorado Springs this weekend. The Tigers try to maintain momentum after last weekend's sweep of North Dakota. The Gophers, meanwhile, are in the thick of the WCHA standings, where seven points separate five teams.


2. Northern Michigan at Michigan: Here's your weird statistics fix for the week. The Wildcats are the only CCHA team to have a winning record at Yost Ice Arena (8-5-0). They've won five straight against the Wolverines. Goaltender Craig Kowalski has posted shutouts against Michigan twice in four career starts in Ann Arbor. Coincidence or trend? Find out this weekend.

Denver at Minnesota-Duluth: The Pioneers have had their share of troubles at the DECC, and the two teams split a series in Colorado in November. If Denver wants to make a bid for home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, they'd better take at least three points here what with North Dakota, Minnesota and Colorado College still on the schedule.

Wild, Wild WCHA: Can you imagine facing a tougher opponent in the first round of your conference tournament than you would in the first round of the NCAA Tournament? That scenario is shaping up in the WCHA.

According to the latest Pairwise Rankings, six WCHA members are among the nation's top 14 teams. They are Colorado College (second), North Dakota (fourth), Minnesota (eighth), St. Cloud State (ninth), Denver (13th) and Minnesota State, Mankato (14th).

If the season ended today – and thankfully, it doesn't – Denver would meet St. Cloud State in a best-of-three series in St. Cloud. Hard to imagine a Pioneer team that currently stands at 17-7-4 overall, ranks first in the conference in fewest goals allowed (in all games) and third in the league in goals scored (again, in all games) starting the postseason on the road. But it could happen.

Thanks, Brother: The morning after winning the NHL All-Star Game MVP award, ex-Wisconsin star Dany Heatley told ESPN Radio hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic he planned on giving the 2003 Dodge Ram truck that accompanied the honor to his younger brother, Mark. The younger Heatley, an 18-year-old who has 16 goals and 21 assists in 52 games with the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Calgary Canucks, has yet to commit to a college program.

Seems Like Old Times: For most of the nation, the Jan. 27 Nashville-Buffalo game was about as attractive as one of Don Cherry's suits. But the Nielsen ratings were probably through the roof in East Lansing. On the ice that night: Nashville rookie wing Adam Hall and veteran forward Rem Murray, Buffalo first-year netminder Ryan Miller and referee Wes McCauley, all former Michigan State skaters.

Hall and Miller were teammates for the Green and White from 1999-2002, while Murray and McCauley played together from 1991-93. Spartan insiders, meanwhile, were surprised to see McCauley sans ex-MSU star and current Los Angeles King Bryan Smolinski.

News of the Weird: Alaska Fairbanks split and tied at Northern Michigan last weekend, giving the Nanooks a 0-13-3 all-time record against the Wildcats. NMU got a spark from the return of senior Chris Gobert Friday, who tallied a goal and three assists in his first game back from a groin injury...Bowling Green's 5-0 shutout of Nebraska-Omaha marked the first time the Mavericks had been blanked at home, a streak of 62 games...What's in the water in the Minnesota state university system? Both MSU, Mankato and Bemidji State have played 12 overtime games this season which is one shy of an NCAA record held by five different teams...Michigan Tech closed the month of January with five wins, the team's most victories in one month since 1988...Wayne State is a long shot to win the CHA title – they're eight points behind conference leader Alabama-Huntsville with five weeks left in the regular season – but the Warriors do their best work in January, February and March. Last season, WSU was 14-3-1 in those three months; they're 6-1-2 in 2003 thus far.


Colorado College: Rallied from a three-goal deficit against North Dakota Friday and didn't trail for the rest of the weekend. The nation's best team played its best when it counted.

Dany Heatley: The list of players to score four goals in an NHL All-Star Game: Gretzky, Lemieux, Gartner, Damphousse, Heatley. That's pretty good company.


St. Cloud State:
Michigan Tech is vastly improved, and the recent Pairwise Rankings indicate you'd earn a bid. Still, you're not going to the NCAA Tournament with 19 wins, which is the pace you're on right now.

An anonymous Ann Arbor vandal: Thanks for bending the antenna on my car as it sat in the Yost Ice Arena parking lot Friday night. You know that colorful language U-M students use to describe an opposing player as he sits down in the penalty box? That's what you are.


Calgary Flames: Recalled defenseman Jordan Leopold (Minnesota) from Saint John of the American Hockey League.

Carolina Hurricanes: Assigned defenseman Steve Halko (Michigan) to Lowell of the American Hockey League.

Chicago Blackhawks: Recalled forward Matt Henderson (North Dakota) from Norfolk of the American Hockey League; assigned Henderson to Norfolk.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Assigned defenseman Duvie Wescott (St. Cloud State) to Syracuse of the American Hockey League.

Los Angeles Kings: Placed forward Mike Cammalleri (Michigan) on injured reserve; recalled defenseman Joe Corvo (Western Michigan) from Manchester of the American Hockey League.

Minnesota Wild: Assigned goaltender Dieter Kochan (Northern Michigan) to Houston of the American Hockey League.

New Jersey Devils: Assigned forward Steve Guolla (Michigan State) to Albany of the American Hockey League.

Ottawa Senators: Recalled forward Josh Langfeld (Michigan) from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.


Worcester Icecats (AHL): Assigned goaltender Phil Osaer (Ferris State) to Trenton of the East Coast Hockey League.

A variety of sources were used in the compilation of this report.

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