The Free Press, Mankato, MN

News Ticker

Sports Columns

April 16, 2013

Frederick: Time to start selling the Mavericks, not the opponent

— Did you see the publicity the Minnesota State men’s hockey team received during the Frozen Four championship game Saturday night?

It should be worth at least a handful of new season-ticket orders this week.

Between periods of the Yale-Quinnipiac game (which, by the way, Yale won in a 4-0 upset over the nation’s No. 1 team), ESPN analyst Dave Starman picked Mavericks center and junior-to-be Matt Leitner as one of the favorites to win the Hobey Baker Award next year.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

Not only will Leitner be Minnesota State’s top returning scorer after leading the team with 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists) this past season, but he’ll be fourth among the nation’s top returning scorers, barring any more early departures in the group ahead of him.

In two seasons, Leitner has 76 points, including 28 goals, in 79 games, which already puts him in a tie for 24th on the Mavericks’ Division I-era scoring list. By comparison, All-American Grant Stevenson scored 79 points in two seasons — including 63 as a sophomore — before signing an NHL deal. Leitner has a chance to tear up the new WCHA next season.

On Friday, the American Hockey Coaches Association released its All-Americans for this season. While no Mavericks were picked for one of the four teams (first- and second-team West, first-and second-team East), you could see how close one might have been.

Denver goaltender Juho Olkinuora was named second-team West. He was also a second-team All-WCHA pick this season, losing out on the conference’s first-team spot to MSU rookie Stephon Williams.

After talking to various WCHA media, I’m certain that the vote between Williams and Olkinuora was a close one, so I won’t quibble with how the All-American decision went down.

But, like this weekend’s Leitner prediction, it shows just what kind of talent the Mavericks will have on its roster next season.

Minnesota State needs to cash in on that potential.

A year ago, when Mike Hastings was hired as coach, Minnesota State officials fretted about the dwindling attendance.

It rose this season by 417 fans per game. Not bad but still lower than two years earlier. It helped that Minnesota and North Dakota each played a pair of games at the Verizon Wireless Center, as there were three sellouts, including two crowds of around 5,100. But the average was hurt by surprisingly small crowds for three playoff games against Nebraska Omaha.

For too long, MSU and the civic center have relied on the sale of beer, booze and big-name opponents to sell hockey tickets.

While the drinks are still flowing, the Minnesotas and North Dakotas aren’t coming back to Mankato in awhile.

But the team to watch shouldn’t be the opponent. Whether MSU is playing St. Cloud State or Lake Superior State, Minnesota Duluth or Alabama Huntsville, Wisconsin or Ferris State, the home team should be the main attraction.

And with Leitner and Williams, it will be.

Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter @puckato.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports Columns
  • Thoma column: Twins are scoring lot of runs; can this continue? The Minnesota Twins entered Sunday's play with the American League's second-highest number of runs scored. And, they haven't had the advantage of hitting off their own pitching staff. OK, it's dreadfully early in the season, far too early to draw co

    April 14, 2014

  • Courrier: Masters is first sign that winter has been conquered Don't know if anybody noticed but it's been a tough winter, with brutal cold and piles of snow that are now just disappearing. If not for an exciting season of local basketball and hockey, it would have an unbearable four months. Minnesota State had

    April 10, 2014

  • Thoma column: We all know the Ryan Braun saga: Winner of the National League MVP award, flunked a drug test, convinced the arbitrator to toss his suspension on the basis that his sample was mishandled, was snagged anyway in the Biogenesis investigation, suspended

    April 7, 2014

  • Focus will be on Mavericks' QBs this spring The Minnesota State football team began its spring practice period this week, 14 workouts in 27 days, trying to see who has been working hard to maintain a starting position and which backups might be ready to get more playing time in the fall. The b

    April 4, 2014

  • Thoma column: For the remade Twins, 2014 looks like more losing The start of the baseball season is supposed to be about fresh beginnings, wide open promises and the hope that springs eternal in the human breast. I'm here to quash that kind of optimism among the followers of the Minnesota Twins. (I strive to be a

    April 1, 2014

  • Shot clock isn't answer for high-school basketball A few weeks back, the state's basketball fans were all riled up that during a state-tournament game, the Hopkins boys spent much of the four overtimes holding the basketball, preferring not to shoot until the final seconds of each extra period in the

    March 28, 2014

  • Thoma column: Projected lineup is Mauer, Arcia and a bunch of outs The Minnesota Twins begin play in earnest in less than a week -- weather permitting -- and wow, do they have lineup issues. They scored 614 runs last season, 13th in the 15-team American League and almost 100 under the league average (702). Justin Mo

    March 26, 2014

  • Thoma column: Perkins extension may not be such a relief over time In the abstract, long-term contracts for relief pitchers are bad bets for teams. Nobody seems to be too concerned about that rule of thumb when it comes to Glen Perkins' new deal with the Twins. The contract, worth more than $21 million in guaranteed

    March 17, 2014

  • Courrier: No. 1 seed has brought no guarantees for MSU Since the Minnesota State men's basketball team started this nearly annual tradition of playing in the NCAA II tournament, the home team has almost been unbeatable in the regional. The Mavericks have played in nine of the last 10 national tournaments

    March 14, 2014

  • Thoma column: The many purposes of spring training

    March 9, 2014

Free Press news updates
Seasonal Content
Featured Ads
AP Video
Poll