When Minnesota State University Mankato head coach Mike Hastings leads his players onto the ice this weekend, he’ll be facing a fellow alum, Bob Motzko, on a weekend designated for SCSU hockey Alumni. Both former players and assistant coaches at SCSU have carved out extremely successful careers in US college hockey and bets are both will make a run for the NCAA tournament this season. Although these are not the only two SCSU alumns currently coaching in college hockey, they are the most prominent.
Hastings, a 1993 graduate of St. Cloud State played for coaches Herb Brooks and Craig Dahl and was an assistant with Craig Dahl. He had a 14 year tenure with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL and departed as the leagues all-time winningest coach with a record of 529-210-56. He was a three-time USHL Coach of the Year, GM of the league five times and won three Clark Cup titles. Following his career in the USHL, coach Hastings spent three years as the associate head coach at Nebraska-Omaha and one year at the University of Minnesota as an assistant to Don Lucia. His results since taking the helm at Mankato have been nothing short of exemplary. He’s compiled an overall 79-36-7 record racking up more wins than any other program in college hockey the past three years. He was named WCHA Coach of the Year in 2012-13 and 2014-15 and Spencer Penrose Award as the National Coach of the Year in 2014-15. His Mavericks squad have won the Broadmoor Trophy the past two seasons, was ranked #1 in the country five times in 2014-15 and qualified for the NCAA tournament three consecutive years.
Motzko, a 1987 SCSU graduate is beginning his 11th season as head coach of SCSU and has compiled an all-time record of 206-155-41. He too was a player during the Herb Brooks era and an assistant for both Herb Brooks and Craig Dahl. Like Hastings, Motzko honed his coaching skills in the USHL, first at the North Iowa Huskies where he won a USHL championship and was named USHL Coach of the Year and then at the Sioux Falls Stampede handling both head caching and GM duties. In 2000 he was named the USHL GM of the Year. His collegiate coaching career took him from Miami to Denver to the University of Minnesota. At Minnesota, he was instrumental in the teams National Championships in 2002 and 2003. He took the helm at SCSU in 2005-06 and has catapulted the Huskies to becoming one of the most successful programs in college hockey. He was named WCHA coach of the year in 2006 and 2007, finalist for the Spencer Penrose National Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2014 NCHC Coach of the Year. In addition to a Frozen Four appearance in 2013, he has led his teams to five NCAA Division I tournament appearances. He also won the WCHA and NCHC league titles in consecutive seasons.
This weekends non-conference series will continue a rivalry between two MNSCU schools that began in the 1969-70 series. The two squads have faced each other 132 times with the Mavericks owning a 69-53-10 record vs the Huskies. However, during the Division I era SCSU holds a 26-15-7 edge vs Mankato including a recent four-game winning streak going back to the 2010-11 season. SCSU earned a 6-4 win in the last meeting between the two schools on 1/25/14 in the North Star Cup. Coach Motzko has an all-time 9-11-4 record vs Minnesota State Mankato.
The teams have started off the 2015-16 season in opposite directions. The #12 Huskies defeated the University of Alberta 6-2 in an exhibition contest and then captured the Kendall Classic title last weekend with a 3-0 win over Alaska Fairbanks and 6-2 win vs Alaska Anchorage, two WCHA member schools. MSU-Mankato was edged by the University of Alberta 3-2 in an exhibition game and was then swept on home ice by NCHC member school Omaha by scores of 3-2 and 2-0. This was the first time the #14 Mavericks have been swept at home since the 2013-14 season.
Despite losing twice last weekend, the Mavericks did dominate #3 UNO on Saturday outshooting them 40-16. However, what is concerning is the lack of offense the Mavs have generated in their first three games (including the exhibition) – 4 total goals. Granted, Mankato lost 124 points in offense due to graduation but before you feel sorry for them they return an excellent cast of forwards. Bryce Gervais (27-9-36), C J Franklin (9-19-28), Brad McClure (15-14-29) and Teddy Blueger (10-18-28) could all skate for any D I team in the country. Add to that, Miami Transfer and senior Jimmy Mullen who had a 11-15-26 his freshman season and you have some expectations on offense. Goaltending appears to have fallen into the hands of Cole Huggins who was saddled with both losses last weekend. But again, Huggins has proven his abilities in the past logging 1880 minutes in the 2013-14 season compiling a 21-8-1 record and .926 SV% and 1.88 GAA. Certainly, there’s a lot of pressure on his shoulders with an unproven backup and the team will probably go as far as he can carry them. Coach Hastings has always dedicated his teams to strong defense and once again expect that to be a strength of this squad. Blake Thompson, Carter Foguth, Casey Nelson and Sean Flanagan all provide size and talent back on defense. Sophomore transfer Clint Lewis (Cornell) adds additional depth and size to the defense. In contrast to the Huskies, Hastings only inserted one first-year player into the lineup last weekend.
The Huskies have had an excellent start to the 2015-16 season. The long trip to Alaska ended with a successful weekend but most importantly answered additional questions for the coaching staff. Having inserted eight first-year players into the line-up they’ve found that these players have responded nicely to the transition to DI hockey. Robby Jackson who sat on Friday, responded with two goals on Saturday and first-year players picked up five points on the weekend. The first-year trio of Borgen, Lizotte and Schulte have been extremely reliable on defense and at times have shown play worthy of veteran blueliners. The goaltending was solid, the power play effective, and the senior leadership of Benik, Morley and Kossila has been impressive. Sophomores Russell, Peterson and Winiecke have all been putting the puck in the net emphasizing how much depth there is on this years team.
This should be a dandy of a weekend series with much on the line for each team. Crucial pairwise comparison points will be on the line and adding to this the rivalry between two intrastate MNSCU schools and NCHC vs WCHA battle will only add to the competition this weekend.
Enjoy the games. It should be fun.