It looked like Mike Hastings was entrenched in junior hockey as the head coach and general manager of the Omaha Lancers. The former St. Cloud State player and assistant coach spent 14 seasons with the Lancers before deciding to get back into college hockey when he accepted a position as an assistant with Minnesota in 2008. What made him decide to get back into the college game?
“When you’re in the USHL, it’s primarily a college developmental league and as the years went by, I had many athletes get the opportunity to go on in the collegiate game and a few went on to play in the National Hockey League,” Hastings said. “I’ve always been a fan of
college hockey because you have to be a well-rounded individual to play it. It is a student-athlete environment. You’re well-rounded. You have to figure out a way to get a degree in four years.
“You have to balance athletics and life. It’s something I really believe in. For everybody, the game ends. At some time, the game goes away and you can’t play anymore.”
The game ended sooner for Hastings than he wanted. He suffered two fractured vertebra in a game as a sophomore at St. Cloud State. He ended up being a graduate assistant and then an assistant coach for former Huskies head coach Craig Dahl.
Even with his love of the college game, though, it had to be difficult for Hastings to leave the Lancers. He won more games there than any USHL coach and won three playoff titles.
“Both my children were born in home and I’ve spent more time there than anywhere else in my life. It was a very good place for me and my family,” said Hastings, who was an associate coach at Nebraska-Omaha the past three seasons. “But I’m from Minnesota, my wife is from MInnesota. We both went to St. Cloud State. Whether recruiting or family wise, we were still spending a lot of time in in Minnesota.”
Hastings said his whole family will be at the National Hockey and Event Center for tonight’s game against St. Cloud State. Hastings was named the Minnesota State-Mankato head coach in May.
How are the Mavericks playing going into the series?
“It’s going OK,” said Hastings, whose team has played three straight overtime games. “There’s been some good and some bad. I’m still trying to continue to learn every week what we’re doing well and what we’re not. We’re trying to get going in a real positive direction. Last weekend, we played real well at the end of hockey games. But we’ve had a little trouble sustaining that for 60 minutes.”
A look at the roster might give some explanation for why. The Mavericks have 17 underclassmen (9 sophomores and 8 freshmen) on their 27-player roster. Eight of the 12 forwards and three of the six defensemen who are expected to be in the lineup Friday are underclassmen.
“Our freshman class has come in and contributed right away and we’re going to need them to continue to do that,” Hastings said. “I think we’ve been getting some good leadership out of (seniors) Phil Cook, Eriah Hayes and Tyler Elbrecht. Those have been bright spots.”
What needs work?
“Our power play (4-for-20) has been OK. Our penalty kill (75 percent) has not. We need to be better at killing penalties,” Hastings said. “St. Cloud typically has one of the best power plays in the league. They’ve got two groups this year that can kill you. One group, all five guys are dangerous.”
Hastings is referring to when the Huskies have a power-play unit of seniors Drew LeBlanc and Ben Hanowski with junior Nic Dowd at forwards with junior Nick Jensen on one point and sophomore Andrew Prochno at the other. That group of five was back together in practice this week as the Huskies try to break out after starting 2-for-21 (9.5 percent) with the man advantage.
“Hopefully, we took some steps (forward) last weekend and we’ve got to continue to see progress this weekend,” Motzko said of his team’s overall play. “Our goaltending has got to continue to move forward. The good news there is that Ryan (Faragher’s) been there for us. He’s just got to get comfortable and get back in there.
“Special teams definitely have to take a step forward, both sides of it,” said Motzko, whose team’s penalty kill is at 76.2 percent. “Our power play has looked good at times. But they can’t just look good. They’ve get it done and get something accomplished.
“We were much tighter in all of our play (last) Saturday,” Motzko said, referring to the series against Alabama-Huntsville. “We’re tightening our systems, get good puck movement and be opportunistic.”
Sophomore Ryan Faragher will start in goal for the Huskies on Friday. He is coming off an 18-save shutout of Alabama-Huntsville in the second game of last weekend’s series.
The rest of the lineup for St. Cloud State will be the same as last Friday’s game. Sophomore defenseman Jarrod Rabey and sophomore forward Joe Rehkamp are both back in the lineup after being healthy scratches Saturday. Rabey will be the defensive partner of freshman Ethan Prow, replacing senior Taylor Johnson. Rehkamp will be on the right wing of the fourth line, replacing sophomore Garrett Milan.
The Huskies and the Mavericks have played one another since 1969-70. The two teams will not play a series against one another next season when the Huskies leave the WCHA for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The Mavericks are staying in the WCHA. But Motzko said that he plans to schedule games against MSU-Mankato in future seasons.
“I’m sure that we’re going to play, but we had room to get two games in there and we’re going to play Bemidji,” Motzko said of next season’s schedule. “(Bemidji State coach) Tom (Serratore) called first.”
SCSU PLAYERS CAREER NUMBERS VS. MSU-MANKATO
Goalie Ryan Faragher is 1-1 against the Mavericks after stopping 63 of 69 shots (91.3 percent) in two starts last season at Mankato.
St. Cloud State leads the Division I era portion of the series against the Mavericks 23-15-7. St. Cloud State is 3-2-1 in the last six meetings and 3-5-3 in the last 11 games.