Minnesota State Collects Two Wins With Hastings Back At The Helm

On Friday afternoon, the Minnesota State bus pulled up to the back side of Ewigleben Arena in Big Rapids, Michigan. The last man out was Mavs head coach Mike Hastings, last seen on Jan. 5 collecting a World Junior Championship silver medal in Vancouver, 2,200 miles away. 

The World Championship might as well have been on another planet. Hastings led Team USA in an IIHF gold-medal game in front of 18,000 fans and a global television audience. Six days later, he pulled up to the WCHA’s smallest rink to play a Ferris State team that was 11 games under .500.

But with his Mavericks in a three-team dogfight for first place, Hastings’ game face was firmly in place. 

“It’s good. The league’s a battle. It’s nice to get back and be with our guys,” he said. He quickly dismissed the idea of burnout and strode into a hockey rink, something he’s been doing since he was mini-mite in northern Minnesota.

With the Mavs scoring star Parker Tuomie injured up in the press box, the Mavs couldn’t expand their early 2-0 lead, and found themselves in a supreme battle with Ferris State, a game the Bulldogs extended into overtime. Hastings was at his energetic best as the game approached its climax: shuffling his lines, calling a crucial time-out and insisting on official explanations over key calls and critical faceoffs. 

When Mavs defenseman Ian Scheid’s 50-foot shot pinballed into the back of the Ferris net, Minnesota State celebrated its nation-leading 17th win of the season, and one more point of breathing room atop the WCHA standings. Instead of entertaining NHL Network and TSN cameras in the mixed zone, Hastings’ press conference was a party of two, but he spelled out his concerns just the same. 

He justified his line shuffling because some of his players were “passengers.” Without Tuomie, the man he called his offensive engine, he said he needed his troops to do a better job “getting people to the net and staying there.” He mentioned that Ferris “tipped the ice,” on his club in the third period, and that the Mavs were “fortunate to win.” He complimented a pair of forwards before wrapping, heading out into the Michigan chill. 

Hastings had received a text from Josh Norris, one of his leading scorers from Team USA. Norris happened to be in Big Rapids to watch his older brother Coale, skating wing that night for Ferris. Although the Norris family had just spent two hours rooting against Josh’s World Junior coach, they made a point of connecting outside the arena. 

“I was able to meet [Josh’s] mom, his brother and some friends,” said the coach known as Hasty. “That’s a relationship that I hope continues forever. That group was special.”

The next morning, Hasty was back in his Mavericks warm-up suit running the morning skate, receiving and dishing passes from center ice during two-man rush drills. It was symbolic that the drills ran through him at center ice. He is the rudder on a team that dropped several places in the rankings during his absence. He wasted no time grabbing the reins of a Mavs squad that he built himself, unlike Team USA. 

“You’ve got your own players and your own program,” said Hastings, less than a week removed from the grandeur of the IIHF U20 World Championship. “Right now, you jump right back into the WCHA play.”

That night, the Mavericks followed the orders of their boss more closely, swarming the Ferris net for 44 shots and a 2-0 lead for the second straight night, with Tuomie passionately rooting on his mates from up above. But the Bulldogs’ junior goalie Justin Kapelmaster was brilliant, preventing the Mavs from pulling away, keeping Ferris close until they clawed within a goal in the closing minutes. 

Once again, the Bulldogs began tilting the ice, and Hastings loudly advocated for each call and faceoff. He got progressively outraged at what he thought were unpenalized liberties the Bulldogs were taking at the Minnesota State goal mouth, his face getting redder, his language saltier. With half a minute remaining, all the pent-up frustration of an excruciating gold-medal game boiled over, and Hastings exploded verbally at the officials, continuing his tirade after the game’s final buzzer. The horn signaled another hard-earned win, and a six-point weekend for the Mavericks. But the closing moments appeared to be an ordeal for Hastings, who clearly needed his five-minute cool down period.

“There were a lot of things that had been let go,” said Hastings in the post-game, now calm and collected. “You know what, I think the emotion got the best of me, probably should have left it alone.” 

The man who had spent 30 of the previous 33 nights on the road, serving both his country and his university, was finally ready to head home to Mankato for an extended stay and sleep in his own bed. His Mavericks had maintained their hold on first place in the WCHA, their 18 wins tops in the nation. It was time to get back to the Verizon Center and prepare for resurgent Lake Superior State. His time to process what he had accomplished with Team USA in Vancouver would have to wait until summer.

Author Tim Rappleye just released his latest book: Hobey Baker, Upon Further Review (Mission Point Press, 2018). He can be reached @TeeRaps.

Gustav Nyquist Headlines Juicy List Of Hockey East Alums In Trade Rumors

Hockey East’s history of NHL development has been impressive and as the NHL trade deadline of Feb. 25 nears, a handful of conference alumni are in the rumor mill.

WCHA RinkRap: Bowling Green & Lake Superior State Compose A Tale Of 2 Teams

Of all the pennant races in Division I college hockey, the battle for second place in the WCHA is arguably the most compelling. Lake Superior and Bowling Green each have 47 points with two weekends to play, but they are on entirely different tracks since New Year’s. The Lakers are 11-2-1 in that stretch, winning the Great Lakes Invitational, climbing up both the standings and the PairWise rankings within smelling distance of an NCAA bid. They may be on the outside looking in, but their knocks on the door are getting louder.

UMass Launches PR Campaign For Hobey Hopeful Cale Makar

In recent years the Hobey Baker Award has taken voting to the masses, engaging college hockey fans by allowing them to vote in the first of three voting tiers, the one that whittles approximately 80 candidates down to 10 finalists. The reality is that the fan input is merely a tiny fraction of the weight of the college coaches, whose votes are the primary driver in the Hobey Award’s list of 10. But it’s fun, it keeps the debate lively and the process has prompted the energetic UMass marketing department to come up with a pin reminiscent of the “I Like Ike” political pin of yesteryear.

Providence's Jacob Bryson Among 2019's Elite Defensemen

This college hockey season has emerged as the “Year of the Defenseman.” Prompted by sports information directors in the crowded Northeast Corridor, puck scribes are plugging three high-scoring defensemen for the Hobey Baker Award—Adam Fox (Harvard), Cale Makar (UMass) and Chase Priskie (Quinnipiac), who could all conceivably be wedged into the three Hobey Hat Trick finalist slots. This is without even taking a peek west of the Appalachians, where Bobby Nardella (Notre Dame) and K’Andre Miller (Wisconsin) lead their respective teams in scoring. 

Boston University's Dante Fabbro Eyeing The NHL, But Where?

Dante Fabbro continues to grow his game for Boston University but as the Terriers’ season slips away, so too may Fabbro.

Hockey East's Top 3 Hobey Baker Candidates: Makar, Davies, & Bryson

Last April, Northeastern forward Adam Gaudette became Hockey East's 10th Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner and fourth in the past 10 seasons.

Northern Michigan Aims For A Second-Half Push In WCHA

The Northern Michigan Wildcats have had a turbulent season spent battling through roster turnover, and they’ll look to gain momentum as the WCHA Tournament nears.

Minnesota State Mavs Go Trophy Hunting

Hockey is a primal game, played by clans carrying clubs and wearing blades. Championship teams live to conquer, preferably on foreign ice, celebrating with spoils provided by their vanquished hosts. That is exactly what the pride of the WCHA—Minnesota State—did this past weekend, when it crashed Michigan Tech’s annual Winter Carnival, exiting with the hallowed MacInnes Cup after claiming five of six points in the standings. Like the ancient Roman juggernaut, they came, they saw, they conquered.  

Goalie Matchup A Highlight Of Beanpot Title Game

BOSTON — It doesn’t seem too far-fetched to think that the goaltender matchup from Monday night’s all-Hockey East title game at the 67th annual Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden might be the same one you’ll see a few years down the road in the National Hockey League.

Beanpot Consolation Loss The Latest Disappointment For BU

BOSTON — Not even a few minutes into Monday night’s consolation game at the 67th annual Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden, and it was evident that one team clearly understood what was on the line.