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
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)
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
Book on Fast
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."
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
CCHA is the toughest league, and he's proven himself night
in and night out for four years," MSU forward Jim Slater
definitely in that group."
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.
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.
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
your mullet!!!" – Michigan student section,
to a shaggy-coiffed Ferris State player during a TV
timeout at Yost Ice Arena Friday.
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.
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
In other words,
don't look for artist renderings of new rinks in Bemidji
RIPPED FROM TODAY'S HEADLINES
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.
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.
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.
Great Weekend Getaways
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
THIS WEEK'S NHL TRANSACTIONS
Flames: Recalled defenseman Jordan Leopold (Minnesota)
from Saint John of the American Hockey League.
Hurricanes: Assigned defenseman Steve Halko (Michigan)
to Lowell of the American Hockey League.
Blackhawks: Recalled forward Matt Henderson (North
Dakota) from Norfolk of the American Hockey League; assigned
Henderson to Norfolk.
Blue Jackets: Assigned defenseman Duvie Wescott
(St. Cloud State) to Syracuse of the American Hockey League.
Angeles Kings: Placed forward Mike Cammalleri (Michigan)
on injured reserve; recalled defenseman Joe Corvo (Western
Michigan) from Manchester of the American Hockey League.
Wild: Assigned goaltender Dieter Kochan (Northern
Michigan) to Houston of the American Hockey League.
Jersey Devils: Assigned forward Steve Guolla (Michigan
State) to Albany of the American Hockey League.
Senators: Recalled forward Josh Langfeld (Michigan)
from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.
MINOR LEAGUE TRANSACTION OF THE WEEK
Icecats (AHL): Assigned goaltender Phil Osaer (Ferris
State) to Trenton of the East Coast Hockey League.