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Minnesota State relishing moment as flagbearers of state's southern hockey hotbed

“We had … people come and enjoy and see what it is now and to understand there’s hockey in southern Minnesota, and throughout our borders, that it’s not just the Iron Range. Down here in Mankato the saying was, ‘This is how we hockey,’’” said Mavericks coach Mike Hastings.

Mike Hastings behind bench
Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings and players wait for the referees call while reviewing a play against St. Cloud State in the third period Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, at the Mayo Clinic Health System Events Center in Mankato.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

MANKATO, Minn. — Years from now, kids sitting around the campfire at Lake Zumbro or Sakatah Lake or on the banks of the Minnesota River may hear their parents tell stories of the glory days of southern Minnesota hockey, and the amazing winter of 2021-22.

Long before a coach originally from Austin (Minnesota’s Bob Motzko) had beaten a coach from Rochester (Western Michigan’s Pat Ferschweilier) and a woman from Lake City (Gophers star Taylor Heise) had claimed the top individual honor in women’s college hockey, they had somehow crammed 10,000 frostbitten fans into a 6,500-seat football stadium on the Minnesota State Mankato campus to watch the Mavericks beat CCHA rival St. Thomas as the showpiece of Hockey Day Minnesota 2022.

Follow the 2022 NCAA men's hockey tournament coverage on The Rink Live for previews, recaps, photos, information and more as the teams play for a national championship in Boston.

“We had … people come and enjoy and see what it is now and to understand there’s hockey in southern Minnesota, and throughout our borders, that it’s not just the Iron Range. Down here in Mankato the saying was, ‘This is how we hockey,’’” said Mavericks coach Mike Hastings, who has his roots in the 218, in Crookston. “There’s just a lot of quality hockey and a lot of quality hockey people within this state. We’re proud to be a part of it, and it just continues to grow the game.”

Of course, the biggest accomplishment — which could forever hang on a banner inside the Mavs’ rink — would involve getting two more wins (to add to the ridiculous 37 they already have) in Boston and claiming MSU’s first Division I national championship. The Mavericks got to Pittsburgh last year, falling to in-state rival St. Cloud State in the semifinals. The luck of the draw has them head-to-head with Minnesota in the semis this year. They’re hoping to draw on experience when they face the Gophers, who MSU beat in a regional final last season.

Todd Inkrott and new Badgers hockey coach Mike Hastings had worked together for more than a decade at MSU Mankato. He becomes the latest former Mavs staffer to follow the coach east.
Keith Paulsen has been the video coach for the Minnesota Wild's top affiliate in Iowa since 2016.
Toledo, Ohio, native has a 3.81 GPA majoring in sports management with a marketing minor.
Four months before the Mavs will take the ice for their first practice, new MSU Mankato men's coach Luke Strand has alumni and the community excited about building on past successes with new faces.
Troy Ward brings a lengthy resume and a ton of familiarity to Mankato as he and Luke Strand reunite behind the Minnesota State bench
Paul Kirtland was a Mavericks assistant under former head coach Mike Hastings. He leaves the MSU program to return to his alma mater after Luke Strand was named the Mavs' head coach in April.
Rice's commitment is a bright spot for Mavericks fans who have had a rough few months watching players leave to follow previous head coach Mike Hastings to Wisconsin.

“There’s a little bit different vibe because they have had an experience of being in a Frozen Four,” Hastings said, admitting that with a full complement of fans in the building and a post-pandemic experience ahead, they’re looking forward to having more fun this time around.


And if nothing else, they could provide a story fans can tell their grandkids someday about the best of times for hockey in southern Minnesota.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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