By Shane Frederick
The Free Press
Blake Thompson left Eden Prairie after his sophomore year of high school to play junior hockey in the United States Hockey League. He played in Sioux Falls, S.D., for one year and Waterloo, Iowa, for two more before going to the University of Minnesota.
When he decided to transfer from the Gophers in December, he hoped he could land somewhere close to home.
Minnesota State fit the bill.
"I've been on the road since I was 16," Thompson said after skating with the Mavericks for the first time on Monday. "I didn't want to go far from home."
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound defenseman began attending classes at MSU on Monday, the first day of the spring semester. Due to NCAA rules, he won't be eligible to play in games for the Mavericks for one academic year, meaning after the 2013 fall semester is completed next December.
"The best thing we can do is allow him to get a foundation built academically, first and foremost, and have him continue to develop," Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said. "We all need to have time to learn about each other and learn about everything. He has to learn about us, and we have to learn about him."
Thompson played in five games as a freshman at Minnesota, recording two assists and 25 penalty minutes. He did not appear in any games this season before leaving the program and will have 2 1/2 years of eligibility remaining.
"Hastings, I knew, was a good coach, and he's done good things here," Thompson said. "I thought it was a good place where I felt like I could fit in the lineup. ... I wanted to go somewhere and get a fresh start."
Minnesota announced Thompson would be transferring in a press release on Dec. 11.
"While I'm disappointed in Blake's decision to transfer, I respect his choice and appreciate his contributions to the program over the last two years," Gophers coach Don Lucia said the release. "Our team and our staff wish him the best as he moves forward."
Thompson played in 177 junior games, compiling eight goals, 24 assists and 317 penalty minutes. In Waterloo, he was a teammate and sometime defensive partner of current MSU player Zach Palmquist.
"I think he's a big, strong defenseman that moves real well for a kid his size," Hastings said. "He's not going to be a real big guy as far as point totals; he's a real defensive defenseman."
The Mavericks will lose two defensemen to graduation after this season, Tyler Elbrecht and Evan Mosey.
Thompson isn't the first Gophers player to transfer to Minnesota State. Michael Dorr left Minnesota in 2009 and played the last 2 1/2 seasons for the Mavericks.