By Shane Frederick
---- — MANKATO — The Minnesota State men's hockey team left town Wednesday afternoon for its season-opening series at Providence.
The series, which will take place Friday and Saturday features the 11th-ranked Mavericks against the 14th-ranked Friars in a nonconference series.
"It is a great test for us," MSU coach Mike Hastings said. "It will be a great challenge for our leadership on down, our whole club."
Minnesota State played an exhibition game on Sunday against Lethbridge, a Canadian college team, and won 7-1. Apples and oranges, compared to this weekend, Hastings said.
"I don't think we answered a lot questions after Sunday's game," Hastings said. "I will tell you a lot of questions will be answered after this weekend."
Most of the Mavericks' line combinations this week were the same as they were against Lethbridge.
Hastings said only three players are staying behind: third-string goalie Evan Karambelas, defenseman Nick Buchanan and defenseman Blake Thompson, a transfer who is ineligible until Christmastime.
Hastings has interviewed two people for the team's hockey operations position. The job was made fulltime last year and held by Garrett Lind, who had also done that job parttime and as a graduate assistant. Lind left to pursue other opportunities in the Twin Cities. Hastings said he hopes to have the position filled as soon as possible.
Meantime, the Mavericks have a new athletic trainer this season, Chad Brinkman. He replaces Sean Donley, who left MSU in the offseason after five seasons, for a position at a Twin Cities clinic. Brinkman, a 2012 Minnesota State graduate, spent some time working with the hockey team as an undergraduate. He was an intern at Adrian (Mich.) last year.
The Mavericks received a verbal commitment this week from Minnetonka High School's all-time leading scorer, Max Coatta.
The forward, who will join MSU in 2015, currently plays for the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League and leads them in scoring with seven goals and 12 points in 10 games.
"I felt really comfortable with coach Hastings and his staff," Coatta said in a Vees' press release. They're coming off a great season, and they've recruited well. It's exciting to be going to a program that's on the rise."
In high school, Coatta set Minnetonka's career records for goals (89), assists (101) and points (190) after playing four seasons on the varsity. As a senior he led the Skippers with 59 points in 27 games.
"In a short period of time Max has become a go-to guy in all situations," Vees coach/general manager Fred Harbison said in the release. "His maturity and approach matched with his offensive instincts make him a dynamic player who will have continued success at both the Junior A and NCAA level."
Minnesota State coaches cannot comment on Coatta until he has signed with the school.
Ferris State opened the regular season last weekend with a nonconfernece split at Colgate. The Bulldogs won 7-4 and lost 1-0.
Several other WCHA teams were, like Minnesota State, in exhibition action. But those nine teams will kick off the regular season this weekend.
Besides MSU at Providence, Alabama Huntsville goes to Northeastern, Bowling Green travels to Union, Lake Superior State hosts Robert Morris, and Alaska and Alaska Anchorage are in the latter's Kendall Hockey Classic with Air Force and Quinnipiac.
The most intriguing matchups involve former WCHA members. Michigan Tech goes to Minnesota Duluth, Bemidji State travels to St. Cloud State and Northern Michigan heads to Wisconsin.
Minnesota State moved up three spots to No. 11 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings this week. The Mavericks are now 11th in both national polls. ... Former Gustavus Adolphus standout Ross Ring-Jarvi is on the training camp roster of the Alaska Aces. ... Lake Superior State will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its 1988 national championship this weekend.