Reusse: Throw aside, MSU Mankato is now a national power under Hastings

The Big Ten announced on March 21, 2011 that Penn State’s decision to add men’s hockey would allow the conference to form a six-team league that would begin playing for the 2013-14 season.

This would remove Minnesota and Wisconsin from the 12-team WCHA and Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State from the 11-team CCHA.

Another announcement followed on July 9: North Dakota, Minnesota Duluth, Denver, Colorado College, Nebraska Omaha, and Miami (Ohio) were the founding members of a conference set to begin playing in the fall of 2013.

Two months later, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan added to form the eight-team National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Brad Faison, the North Dakota athletics director, stated that the NCHC teams were selected based on having demonstrated “a high level of competitiveness and institutional commitment to play at the highest level …”, etc.

The unspoken message to the Minnesota State Mankato Athletics Division after 15 seasons in Division I hockey was this:

“This is not you, Mavericks. You’re staying with WCHA / CCHA orphans, including both Alaska and Alabama-Huntsville.”

It was difficult for MSU Mankato officials to argue against that logic. The Mavericks finished in 11th place among WCHA’s 12 teams in 2011, and finished there again next season.

Mankato Free Press described the attendance at the downtown arena (then Verizon, now the Mayo Clinic) as “dwindling”.

Troy Jutting was sacked as coach at the end of March 2012 after 12 seasons, and Kevin Buisman, the athletic director since 2002, went in search of a replacement.

Mike Hastings, senior assistant to Dean Blais of Nebraska Omaha, was high on the list.

“We met some distance between Omaha and Mankato, at Pizza Ranch in Sheldon, Iowa,” Buisman said. “I thought we could talk for an hour. It turned into a 4 hour conversation, and most of it was Mike describing his vision of what could be done – really needed to be done – to make us a true factor in college hockey.

“I go back to that meeting, and what Mike saw as possible that day, if we made a commitment, is what has happened. He has been transforming for Maverick Hockey.”

That term was used often enough in a phone conversation with Buisman this week that it gets a cap H: Maverick Hockey.

The Mavericks played in the downtown arena in 2012, but they were headquartered and rehearsed at the All-Seasons Arena, the old arena with minimal amenities.

New locker rooms were built downtown in 2015, and the Mavericks moved there full time. Three years ago, there was a $ 4 million plus remodel, with hockey offices, training areas and excellent locker rooms for both men’s and women’s programs.

And now, a decade after MSU Mankato was left at the curb by the NCHC, this is blowing my mind:

An excellent Gophers team – including Olympians and mega-talents Ben Meyers, Matthew Knies and Brock Faber – will face the Mavericks in the national semifinals on Thursday night in Boston… and the game is basically a choice.

  • TV: Gophers Vs. Minnesota State, 7:30 p.m. ESPNU

Gophers, history program and its best talent for years, and Mavericks, smart program on the prairie and not as loaded as its 2020 club that did not get a title chance due to the pandemic and it is selected.

Hastings, the Blais’ assistant, was more than transformative. He has been a miracle worker.

Hi, my roots are in southwest Minnesota. Mankato was always the big city, located a little more than halfway in the 150 kilometer long drive through the pure basketball country to the twin cities.

Which also makes this mind-boggling: Mankato is now a hockey town.

In January, three weeks after Wild tried to steal all the thunder for outdoor hockey with the Winter Classic at Target Field, Mankato was the site of BSN’s Hockey Day in Minnesota.

The celebration cap was a Mavericks-St. Thomas mismatch that filled Blakeslee Stadium, college football facility.

The snow kept getting heavier, it was extra cold, and the stands remained full and loud. And also thirsty.

You have the floor from Jon Mueller, the owner of the nearby salon Jonny B’s, about it. Jon has been in the bar and nightclub business in Mankato in one form or another since 1989.

Boomtown, the bar he used to have a few doors away, is now closed. He took it over for the hockey party and built a fence next to it that looked like a hockey rink.

“The hockey events lasted for three days,” Mueller said. “Wow! I never thought I would see [sales] Such numbers in my life. ”

And how’s the fever for 37-5 Mavs right now, Jonny B.?

“For Thursday night, against Gophers … I wish I had a bar that held 500, not 70 or 80,” he said.

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