The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 23, 2013

Hockey Notebook: WCHA aims to fit Alabama Huntsville in quickly

By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Alabama Huntsville currently isn’t on Minnesota State’s men’s hockey schedule for next year. But that could change now that the Chargers have been voted into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

“It’s being worked on as we speak at the league level,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said.

The hope coming out of last week’s WCHA meetings at the NCAA convention in Dallas is that league schedules can be adjusted to make Huntsville a full member right away next season.

“Not having them in next year as a full member is likely an option of last resort,” Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman said.

The WCHA was set to play a 28-game league schedule next season among nine teams: MSU, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Alaska Anchorage, Alaska, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, Ferris State and Bowling Green.

Hastings said he likes that Huntsville will round out a 10-team league and also that the WCHA’s decision ensures college hockey of having all of its 59 Division I teams with a conference affiliation going forward.

“We don’t have 120 Division I programs, and I think it’s good for the league to have a 10th team,” he said. “The schedule still needs to be worked out. But they needed a place to play, and I think it’s important in our sport to maintain and develop Division I programs throughout the country.”

Alabama Huntsville has been an independent program since the College Hockey America conference folded in 2010.

Mavs get commitment

Minnesota State last week received a verbal commitment from forward C.J. Franklin, a Forest Lake native and current United States Hockey League player for the Sioux Falls Stampede.

Franklin, who is expected to play for the Mavericks starting in 2014, is the second Stampede player to commit to MSU recently, joining teammate Zeb Knutson.

The 5-foot-11, 184-pound Franklin has 15 goals and 15 assists in 35 games this season, which ranks third on the Stampede and is one point more than Knutson.

Former MSU defenseman Aaron Forsythe was Franklin’s coach at Forest Lake High School, and called him a “well-rounded player” and a “true athlete,” a three-sport standout who had received attention from Division I baseball coaches.

“He’ll be a great fit for Mankato,” Forsythe said in an email. “He’s a very physical player that empties his tank every shift. Great team guy, not a selfish bone in his body.”

Meaningful milestone

The Gustavus Adolphus women’s hockey team remained No. 2 in the latest Division III poll, but 300 was the number of the week.

That’s how many wins Gusties coach Mike Carroll reached when the Gusties defeated St. Catherine on Friday. A win on Saturday gave him 301 and kept the MIAC’s first-place team unbeaten going into this weekend’s series against second-place Concordia.

“I just want to thank Gustavus and everyone who has supported me to this point,” Carroll said after the milestone victory. “They have given me the opportunity to coach, and they’ve stuck with me. The longer you’re here, you’re bound to reach some milestones, but it still means a lot.”

One-timers

St. Cloud State last weekend became the first WCHA team to sweep Denver since the 2008-09 season, ending a streak of 60 consecutive conference series. ... No. 2-ranked Quinnipiac ran its national-best unbeaten streak to 17 games (15-0-2) on Tuesday. ... The Minnesota State women’s hockey team is idle this weekend and will play again Feb. 1-2 at home against North Dakota.