MANKATO — Mike Hastings said the first news he received about a member of the Minnesota State men’s hockey team being sick came about 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
It snowballed from there.
“I’ve never seen anything go like that — that fast,” the Mavericks’ coach said. “At this point (around 2 p.m.) we’re sick and getting sicker. We couldn’t have put a team on the ice.”
A flu-like outbreak that affected about half of Minnesota State’s roster, caused the cancellation of Saturday’s game between the third-ranked Mavericks and nonconference opponent Princeton.
No players were hospitalized, Hastings said.
Flu-like illnesses have increased across the region, according to Kevin Burns, director of public affairs for Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.
"We've seen a spike, particularly in the past seven to 10 days," Burns said. He said the number of hospitalizations have increased as well.
Healthcare workers perform so-called rapid tests to provide an indication of whether the illness is true influenza or other flu-like illnesses. Burns said many of those tests are coming back positive for influenza, but they are only confirmed by more detailed tests performed by the Minnesota Department of Health.
State health officials said flu cases jumped first in southern Minnesota and have been increasing in the rest of the state. Burns said the level of flu-like cases is similar to a rash of cases two years ago.
He said the message is for people with flu symptoms is to stay home from work or school until people are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
It was to be the Mavericks’ final game before players went home for semester break.
According to an MSU press release issued by athletic director Kevin Buisman, several “stakeholders” were consulted on the cancellation, including the NCAA, the Verizon Wireless Center and the Western Collegiate Hockey Assocaition.
“There were several complicating factors in the decision, which involved facility scheduling, individual and team travel and the fact that there is no guarantee that we would have enough bodies to play (Sunday),” Buisman said in the release. “We know that our fan base and those that follow us would have wanted to see the third-rated Mavericks play (Saturday) and hope everyone can understand this difficult situation and the issues we faced in coming to this decision."
A Lorie Line Christmas concert is scheduled for Sunday night at the Verizon Wireless Center.
“Even by postponing it are we sure we could play it (due to the illnesses?),” Hastings said. “I can’t tell you that.”
According to MSU’s release, the Princeton game would be declared a “no contest” and plans for ticket reimbursement will be announced at a later date.
According to NCAA policies and guidelines, a no-contest may be declared in cases in which a team cannot appear, such as illness, weather conditions, accidents, vehicle breakdowns or catastrophic circumstances. It is not a forfeit.
Hastings said he’s had illnesses on teams he’s coached before and even played short-handed because players were sick, but he’s never seen anything that caused a game to be wiped out.
“Half the team couldn’t even come to the rink (Saturday morning),” Hastings said. “We don’t want to put our student-athletes in a position where they could get hurt.”
Princeton coach Ron Fogarty echoed Hastings in a press release:
"It's an unfortunate situation," Fogarty said. "As a staff, our priority is to the well-being of the student-athlete."
The first half of the Mavericks’ season ends with a 13-4-0 record. They will play again Jan. 2-3 against WCHA opponent Northern Michigan at Marquette, Mich. Their next home games are Jan. 9-10 against Lake Superior State.