By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
TOLEDO, OHIO —
The WCHA co-champion, the CCHA champion, the CCHA playoff winner.
And, oh yeah, a pretty good Minnesota State team, too.
“It could be the toughest regional, in my opinion,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said of the NCAA Midwest Regional hockey tournament. “We know how tough Miami is, and obviously, Minnesota State and St. Cloud had great years. With the number of WCHA teams in the tournament, that certainly indicates the strength of their league. … There are four high-quality teams in this event.”
Notre Dame won the Mason Cup as the CCHA’s tournament winner last week. Miami, MSU’s opponent today, was that league’s regular-season champ. St. Cloud State shared the MacNaughton Cup, finishing first in the WCHA standings, and is the regional’s lowest seed.
“It’s not a cakewalk,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “I do think this is a quality field. They’re battle-tested. They’re programs that I think are playing the right way … and you’re going to have to put a pretty good product out there just to move on to Sunday, let alone trying to get to the final four in Pittsburgh.”
While the WCHA had six of its teams get berths into the NCAA tournament, there are just two CCHA teams still playing. Jackson said he was disappointed that both ended up in the same regional.
“It would have been nice for (Notre Dame and Miami) to be separated just so we had a better opportunity to get a team to the Frozen Four,” he said.
Blasi scouts MSU
Miami coach Enrico Blasi said it was hard not to take notice of what was happening with Minnesota State as the season went on.
“There aren’t too many holes in that team,” he said.
Blasi noted the Mavericks high-scoring forwards, calling them “as dynamic as any group of forwards we’ve seen all year. I don’t mean the CCHA but in the country. …
“They are a great team. They’ve earned the right to be here just like we have.”
Big trade hits Huskies
St. Cloud State senior forward Ben Hanowski wondered why his cell phone was blowing up on Thursday morning when he woke up in Toledo.
“I had a handful of text messages and phone calls from the night, and I was a little nervous that something had happened to a family member, a teammate or something like that.”
As it turns out, Hanowski’s NHL rights were traded to the Calgary Flames when the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired All-Star forward Jarome Iginla.
Hanowski was selected by the Pengins in the third round of the 2009 draft.
“I think it’s different for us college guys,” he said. “You’re never really wearing the jersey of the team or the team that’s affiliated with them. So I don’t think you ever come to realize you’re part of their organization fully. So it’s kind of a unique situation and an awkward situation for me.”
Zuck stays home
Minnesota State senior forward Eli Zuck did not make the trip to Toledo due to the lower-body injury suffered during the Mavericks’ WCHA Final Five game against Wisconsin.
The fourth-line center will be replaced in that spot by freshman Taylor Hendon. Herndon has played in 11 games this season, including seven prior to the Final Five when Zuck was out with a separate injury.
Youds in Toledo
The 4-year-old Huntington Center is the home of the minor-league Toledo Walleye. The ECHL team has at least one big Minnesota State fan this weekend in former player Ben Youds.
Youds, a defenseman, who played at MSU from 2007 to 2011, has played 43 games for the Walleye this season. He has also spent 22 games this season a level higher with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs.