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Season Preview: Minnesota State

My pick for 8th place in the WCHA is Minnesota State Mankato.

Projected Depth Chart

LW Kurtis Kisio C Travis Morin RW Joel Hanson
LW Mick Berge C Zach Harrison RW Jon Kalinski
LW Kevin Huck C Kael Mouillierat RW Geoff Irwin
LW Lucas Fransen C Jason Wiley RW Jerad Stewart
LD Steve Wagner RD Brian Kilburg G Mike Zacharias
LD R.J. Linder RD Chad Brownlee G Dan Tormey
LD Nick Canzanello RD Blake Friesen G Chris Clark

Strengths:

The Mavericks are solid in goal with sophomore tandem Dan Tormey and Mike Zacharias. Tormey was one of the WCHA’s better goalies last year and should see most of the action. The Mavericks will be surprisingly deep on defense as well. While they may lack household-name talent, they’ve got a lot of hard-workers that make the Mavericks difficult to play against. Teams won’t enjoy playing against them, and they may upset a few teams that don’t bring their best effort, but they lack the top-end talent to consistently win in the WCHA.

Weaknesses:

Losing forwards David Backes and Ryan Carter, and defenseman Kyle Peto to early defections will really hurt MSU’s scoring ability. They went from having one of the better top lines in the league to being one of the weakest. Effort won’t be a problem for this team, but talent and goal-scoring probably will be. They’ll be able to beat weaker teams and surprise a few of the better teams, especially at home, but they’re not going to score enough goals to be overly competitive.

Overall:

This season has gone from the Maverick’s year to really surprise people back to a rebuilding year over the course of this summer, thanks to some defections to the pro ranks. This will be a very young, and very hard-working Minnesota State team.

Question Marks


Can Travis Morin be as effective this season without David Backes? I think he has the ability to, though it may be difficult because he will definitely be the other player teams focus on. Which, if any, of Mankato's many underclassmen will step up and really contribute to the team? The impression I've gotten is that Jason Wiley may be that guy from the freshmen class, but he's making a big jump from the NAHL to the WCHA. Nick Canzanello is another player making a huge jump, coming from Minnesota HS hockey, but could be effective, especially if he's given time on the powerplay.

Key Player: Joel Hanson. Hanson is a big, but enigmatic forward. Sometimes he’ll look great, and other times he’ll disappear. Last year he’d play one game on the first line, and be a healthy scratch the next night. Now that Backes and Carter have left the team, the Mavericks will need Hanson to step up and be a first line-caliber forward every night.

Breakout Player: Jon Kalinski. Kalinski is a hard-worker that showed some flashes of also being a good goalscorer. Last year, as an 18 year old, he was still extremely thin, and wasn’t as effective as a scorer or a hitter. Now that he’s a year older and stronger, he could develop into a pesky goal scorer that people hate to play against.

Bellwether:
The Mavericks are notorious for starting the season slow. That could be the case again as they break in a lot of young players and try to find the right lineup. But they do begin the season with some winnable games at home. If they start out hot, they could continue that momentum throughout the season. The Mavericks were more successful in the second half of the season when they started to be more effective on the powerplay. They’ll have to replace three of the main cogs on their top powerplay unit. If that unit can crack the 20% on the powerplay, the Mavericks could challenge as one of the better teams in the second-tier of the WCHA.

Did You Know:

Mankato is the Dakota word for blue skunk.

Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper played in Mankato just days before their plane crashed in Iowa, in what was known as The Day the Music Died. To commemorate this death of music, local radio stations in Mankato insist on playing at least one Sheryl Crow song every God-damn day.

The curveball was said to be invented by a pitcher from Mankato.

Mankato is home to the largest mass killing in United States history. After a Sioux Uprising in late 1862, 303 Dakota Indians were sentenced to death. President Abraham Lincoln thought that killing 303 people wouldn’t look great on his resume, so he decided to pardon 265 of them, leaving only 38 to be hanged.

If You Go There

You Have to Eat At: A visitor to Mankato once asked a local for the name of a really good local restaurant to eat at, and the local replied: "Ruby Tuesdays". True story.

Mankato mostly has chain restaurants but there are a few nice places downtown, including T.J. Finnegan’s, a bar which makes excellent gourmet pizzas.

You Have to See:
Sibley Park is one of the most scenic of Mankato’s many parks. It used to feature a large zoo with animals from around the world until it was wiped out by a flood in 1965. They still keeps a few exotic animals in the park, however.