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Hastings named Spencer Penrose Award winner as college hockey’s top coach

Mike Hastings guided Minnesota State to its sixth WCHA regular season championship and its first NCAA Frozen Four this year. Tuesday he was named the winner of the Spencer Penrose Award as the top coach in Division I college hockey.

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Minnesota State University-Mankato goalie Ryan Edquist (35) warms up and goes in to the goal in the second period Friday, March 19, 2021, during the WCHA Tournament at the Mayo Clinic Health Systems Events Center in Mankato. Mavericks coach Mike Hastings (middle) talks with his team. (Jason Wachter / The Rink Live)

Mike Hastings’ top priority when he became Minnesota State’s head men’s hockey coach in the spring of 2012 was simple.

It wasn’t winning a national championship or piling up awards and banners.

It was making sure that everyone in the program — from coaches to players to equipment managers, trainers and university administration — were all on the same page about what needed to be done in order for the Mavericks to achieve those loftier goals.

“Really, he’s just taught me accountability from top to bottom,” MSU associate head coach Todd Knott said about Hastings. “He’s very driven and passionate. There’s no one more passionate about the program.”

Nine years of work to get everyone in the program on the same page has led the Mavericks to this week, when they’ll play in the NCAA Frozen Four for the first time. MSU faces St. Cloud State at 4 p.m. Thursday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, in a national semifinal (ESPN2).

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It’s also led to conference and national awards piling up.

That pile got bigger on Tuesday morning when Hastings was named the winner of the Spencer Penrose Award, given annually to the top coach in Division I men’s college hockey.

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Minnesota State Mankato head coach Mike Hastings

It’s the second Penrose honor for Hastings in his nine seasons at MSU, having also won it in 2015.

The Mavericks have won six WCHA regular season championships under Hastings, a native of Crookston, Minn., and have an all-time record of 236-89-24 during his time as head coach. No program in the country has won more games in that nine-year span than MSU.

“The first thing that jumped out for me (when Hastings took over as MSU’s coach) was how our student-athletes will be treated,” Knott said. “That was No. 1 for him, that our student-athletes always will come first. From coaching staff to trainers to strength coaches, everybody better be pulling in the same direction.”

Hastings has guided Minnesota State to a 13-1-0 league record and a 22-4-1 overall mark this season, as well as the No. 5 ranking in the latest Division I national polls.

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MSU leads the NCAA in team defense with a 1.52 goals allowed average. The Mavericks are also averaging 3.56 goals per game, fifth-best in the NCAA. Their power play, at 25.8 percent, is fourth best in the country.

MSU advanced to the Frozen Four by earning the first two NCAA Tournament wins in program history. The Mavericks rallied from two goals down to beat Quinnipiac 4-3 in overtime on March 27, then put together their most complete game of the season the following night in a 4-0 victory against Minnesota. That game marked the 10th shutout of the season for Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay, the first Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick finalist in MSU history.

“I don’t know if there are many people in hockey who work harder or are more passionate about the people around them than coach Hastings,” long-time MSU assistant coach Darren Blue said. “The effort he puts in to make sure our guys are most prepared and ready for success... to get over that (NCAA Tournament) hump has been rewarding for (Hastings) end everyone involved.”

Massachusetts coach Greg Carvel was the runner-up in this year's Penrose Award voting.

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