The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

July 16, 2008

Learning from the pros

MSU alumni share their knowledge of hockey with area youth players

MANKATO — The puck was dropped and Joe Gustafson got his stick on the rubber first, drawing it away from the hockey player opposite him.

Gustafson, a senior-to-be at Mankato West High School, whooped and hollered after the faceoff victory, and a few of his Scarlets teammates quickly skated over congratulated him.

So what was the big deal?

“Second in the NHL, compared to a fourth liner for Mankato West,” Gustafson said with a smile as he headed toward the All Season Arena locker room Tuesday afternoon.

Gustafson was facing off against Ryan Carter, the former Minnesota State player and current Anaheim Ducks forward.

Last season, Carter’s first regular season in the NHL, he won 61.5 percent of his faceoffs. For those who had taken at least 250 draws — Carter took 299 — he was indeed second.

If Carter is an up-and-coming faceoff man, Gustafson is a fast learner.

“In 15 minutes, I think I learned everything I know,” Gustafson said.

Carter, who played at MSU from 2004-05 through 2005-06, spent the day teaching players some of the finer points of winning faceoffs to high school and youth players during the Maverick Skills Camp. He also taught quick-release shooting, something he was well known for during his college-hockey days, especially on the power play.

“(Coaches) can always tell you how it’s done, but how much more does it mean when a guy from the NHL comes back and tells you?” Minnesota State assistant coach and camp organizer Darren Blue said.

On Monday, ex-Mavericks defenseman Andy Hedlund was at the camp, teaching one-time shots and puck-ready passing. Today and Thursday will feature forwards Tim Jackman (small-area skills and front-of-the-net play) and Shane Joseph (open-ice moves and breakaways).

A year ago, Carter spent part of a summer day in Mankato, parading around town with the Stanley Cup, which he got his name engraved upon after getting called up by the Ducks during the 2007 playoffs.

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