By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
Give a little credit to Minnesota State men’s hockey associate head coach Darren Blue. During his regular postgame appearance on the radio broadcast of Saturday’s game at Denver, he was offered several chances to use an excess injuries as an excuse for the Mavericks’ 10-2 drubbing, and he refused to take the bait.
In short, the healthier guys needed to play better, he said, more like they did in Friday’s 4-2 loss to the now-second-ranked Pioneers.
It would be difficult not to blame Blue or head coach Troy Jutting or anyone else on that road trip for dwelling on the team’s injury woes amid that series sweep. By the end of the weekend, the over-crowded training room appeared to catch up to the Mavericks in spades.
When freshman defenseman Brett Stern left the game with another one of those pesky “upper-body” injuries, the short-handed Mavericks were left with just 16 skaters to compete against the powerful Pioneers.
On Friday night, sophomore forward Chase Grant went down with a “lower-body” injury, while six other players were back in Mankato nursing a plethora of plights.
The number of injuries the Mavericks have over the course of just six games is like nothing I’ve seen in 11-plus seasons covering the team.
Jutting lamented not being able to put a dress a full lineup for Saturday’s game at Magness Arena, and that would have been the case no matter where the game was played.
Starting with junior defenseman and co-captain Tyler Elbrecht’s broken arm in the first game of the season at Rensselaer — the Mavericks’ only victory so far — 10 players have suffered some kind of injury or ailment and missed at least one game this season to the tune of 26 man-games lost. Thirteen of those games were missed by veterans Elbrecht (five), J.P. Burkemper (four), Michael Dorr (two) and Eriah Hayes (two).
The Mavericks could have used all of those players against Denver, especially Elbrecht and Hayes, a couple of physical, 6-foot-4 players. Hayes also has four goals and two assists in 10 career games against the Pioneers.
Minnesota State doesn’t play this weekend, and the bye couldn’t have come at a better time for the beat-up club.
Not everyone will be back for the Nov. 4-5 series at Michigan Tech, but it sounds like the Mavericks have a chance to get some of their players back in the coming weeks.
Three series into the season, Minnesota State is 1-5-0. It’s a rough start, to be sure, but is it a bad team?
I’d like to see the Mavericks play with a full, healthy roster before making that call.
Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @puckato.