By Shane Frederick firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mankato Free Press
---- — In the buildup to the NCAA East Regional at Worcester, Mass., last week, Boston native Johnny McInnis talked about the opportunity he got by leaving New England to play hockey after high school — first in juniors at Alberta, Canada, then in college Minnesota State.
After four seasons at MSU, that decision has turned into a professional opportunity.
McInnis has agreed to an amateur tryout contract — known as an ATO — with the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League. The Monsters are an affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche.
McInnis is expected to sign the contract join the Monsters, who play in Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday and finish out the season with them.
“It was fun,” McInnis said about fielding calls this week. “I had to wait around a little bit. I just waited for an opportunity, hopefully, to try out in the AHL. I’m just happy something came about. This was the best opportunity.”
McInnis, a senior forward and the Mavericks’ captain this past season, had career highs in goals and points this season with 21 and 38, respectively. His goal total led the team and was the most by an MSU player since the 2002-03 season.
For his college career, McInnis had 43 goals and 36 assists in 131 games. His 79 points put him in a tie for 25th on MSU’s Division I-era scoring list. He ranks second in program history with 14 game-winning goals, including six this year.
McInnis said the idea of playing professional hockey was always a dream but not necessarily a realistic one when he first arrived at MSU. He was not drafted during his eligible years and was a free agent.
“I was just looking for an opportunity to play a little more, to be honest,” he said. “It’s a goal in the back of your mind, but you have to keep achieving little goals, too.”
McInnis was named third-team All-WCHA this season, leading the Mavericks to a second-place finish in the regular-season and the Broadmoor Trophy championship in the WCHA tournament. The Mavericks’ season ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Worcester, about an hour from where McInnis grew up.
McInnis, a history major, said he’s scheduled to graduate this summer. He said his current professors have been supportive and helpful as he pursues this professional opportunity. Lake Erie will have six games remaining in the regular season after McInnis arrives, so he’ll be able to return to school April 20.
“There will be some school to try to keep up with,” he said.
In other Minnesota State news, junior defenseman Zach Palmquist confirmed that he will be returning for his senior season.
Palmquist, a first-team All-WCHA pick who has gone to NHL development camps the past two summers, was seventh on the team with 23 points this season. The free agent ranks eighth on MSU’s Division I-era list of scoring by defensemen with 67 points in 120 games.