Mavericks In Focus: Search for former MSU player Irwin mounts in British Columbia
A former Minnesota State captain has been missing in western Canada for more than two months. Police there don't expect foul play, but are looking for the public's help in locating him.
Police in British Columbia are searching for former Minnesota State University men's hockey player Geoff Irwin, who has been missing since late September.
According to a report in the Cowichan Valley Citizen, Irwin's vehicle, a black 2017 Ford Escape, was found by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Nov. 25 at a mall in West Vancouver.
Irwin, who is 6-feet, 196 pounds, was last seen in the West Shore area of Vancouver on Sept. 27 wearing a grey zip-up hooded sweatshirt, a black T-shirt and black shorts, while carrying a backpack. Police do not suspect foul play, the report said.
Irwin, 35, is a native of Victoria, B.C., on the southern edge of Vancouver Island. He currently resides in nearby Colwood, according to the report in the Cowichan Valley Citizen.
He played three seasons of junior hockey in the British Columbia Hockey League before joining MSU in the 2006-07 season. In four seasons with the Mavericks, Irwin scored 32 goals and added 52 assists for 84 career points in 143 games. He was MSU's captain in his senior season of 2009-10, then had a seven-year professional playing career in the U.S. and Australia.
Police in British Columbia are asking anyone with information to contact their local police immediately or report anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
MSU to play Sunday-Monday
The waiting game continues this week for the MSU men's team.
After winning their long-awaited season opener at Bemidji State on Nov. 22, 5-0, the Mavericks have had three consecutive games against BSU postponed.
MSU's series this weekend has been pushed back, too, but only by two days. A scheduled Friday-Saturday series at Michigan Tech has been moved to Sunday and Monday.
The No. 6-ranked Mavericks (1-0-0) and Huskies (0-1-1) are now scheduled to face off at 5:07 p.m. Sunday and 4:07 p.m. Monday in Houghton.
Like MSU, Tech has not played for nearly two weeks. The Huskies tied their season opener against Lake Superior State 0-0, at home on Nov. 21, then lost to the Lakers 4-1 on Nov. 22.
MSU went 2-0-0 against Tech last season. The Mavericks won 3-0 and 2-1 at Houghton in early November. The teams were scheduled to meet in a WCHA postseason semifinal series in Mankato, March 13-15, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to the 2019-20 season just days before that series was scheduled to begin.
MSU's home openers are still scheduled for Dec. 11 (7:07 p.m.) and Dec. 12 (6:07 p.m.) against Northern Michigan at Mayo Clinic Health System Events Center.
Leaning on veterans
During his eight-plus seasons as the head coach at MSU, Mike Hastings has leaned on his seniors to develop and carry on the strong locker-room culture that has made the Mavericks one of the best teams in the country on a yearly basis.
That goes all the way back to his first season in Mankato (2012-13), Hastings said, when he had a small, five-player senior class led by a high-scoring forward from a small town in southeastern Minnesota.
"The seniors, they're our foundation, they're our rock," Hastings said. "I go all the way back to my first year here and Eriah Hayes. He was the hammer and the team was the nail. When he spoke, everybody listened."
Hayes had 232 points in his four-year high school career at La Crescent, then played two seasons of junior hockey before joining MSU in the 2009-10 season. He increased his points total every season at MSU, finishing his career with 52 goals and 96 points. Hayes then went on to play four seasons of pro hockey, including playing 19 games in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks.
He is now the head coach of the boys high school hockey team in La Crescent.
"It was really hard on Eriah because of a lot of the expectations I had for him," Hastings said of Hayes' senior season at MSU. "Whether it was guys minding themselves on the forecheck or minding themselves at the bars on Saturday nights, I held Eriah responsible."
As much as ever, Hastings is leaning on his seniors to lead this season, on and off the ice. The Mavericks have a nine-player senior class, with grad transfers Todd Burgess and Ryan Edquist joining the team this fall. Senior defenseman Riese Zmolek has been selected by his teammates as the team captain, while fellow senior defenseman Jack McNeely and senior forwards Dallas Gerads and Jared Spooner are alternate captains.
"I really feel confident in the senior group we have and what they learned from the senior group that left," Hastings said prior to the season opener last month. "They understand there's a process and a culture here, from the administration to the community. ... They're responsible to themselves, to their families and to each other.
"I look forward to that group being the glue that keeps us together when things start to get hot."
MSU In The Polls
The Mavericks (1-0-0) are No. 6 this week in both the USCHO.com national rankings and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine national rankings.
They received one first-place vote and stayed even at the No. 6 spot in the USCHO.com poll, while dropping one spot in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, where they were leapfrogged by the University of Minnesota.
MSU travels to Michigan Tech for a non-conference series on Sunday and Monday. Game time is set for 5:07 p.m. Sunday and 4:07 p.m. Monday. Both games can be streamed on FloHockey.TV.
The Mavericks play their home openers on Dec. 11 and 12 against Northern Michigan at Mayo Clinic Health System Events Center. Those games are also available on FloHockey.
MSU's home series against Bemidji State, originally scheduled for Nov. 27-28, is now scheduled to be played Dec. 18-19, with a 7:37 p.m. puck drop on Dec. 18 and a 5:07 start time on Dec. 19.
TRL's WCHA Power Rankings
1. Minnesota State (1-0-0): The Mavericks haven't played since Nov. 22, but the only look we've had at them so far was a good one. Their 5-0 victory against Bemidji State was a statement victory. MSU remains at No. 1 this week.
2. Bowling Green (3-0-0): The No. 18-ranked Falcons picked up their first win against a Division I opponent on Tuesday, going on the road and beating Robert Morris 6-3. BGSU scored three power-play goals in the win.
3. Bemidji State (0-1-0): The No. 19-ranked Beavers' only game action so far came in the 5-0 home loss to Minnesota State two weeks ago. Bemidji has had five consecutive games postponed since then. They're scheduled to get back on the ice Dec. 12-13 at home against Michigan Tech.
4. Northern Michigan (0-0-0): The Wildcats have yet to get on the ice and they're hoping their series at Minnesota State Dec. 11-12 in Mankato will go off without a hitch. Junior forward Griffin Loughran had 23 goals and 39 points last year; his production will go a long way towards determining NMU's success this season.
5. Lake Superior State (3-0-1): The Lakers earned two victories against Division III power Adrian College last weekend, after opening the season with a win and a tie against Michigan Tech. LSSU is getting votes in the USCHO national poll and cleaned up on the monthly WCHA awards for November. Ashton Calder is the league's Forward of the Month, Will Riedell is the Defenseman of the Month, and Mareks Mitens is the WCHA Goalie of the Month.
6. Michigan Tech (0-1-1): The Huskies haven't played since a season-opening loss and tie at Lake Superior State two weeks ago. Neither have the teams below them. Tech has some talented players back from last year's 21-win season, and they added a goalie transfer in Matt Sinclair (Alabama-Huntsville) who will help solidify things for the Huskies on the back end. We'll find out a lot more about Tech when it faces Minnesota State this weekend.
7. Alaska (0-0-0): We won't get our first look at the Nanooks until a Jan. 1-2 series at Lake Superior State. They surprised some last year by earning their first winning record since 2014-15 and getting a home playoff series. They also lost their top scorer, Stephen Jandric, who transferred to Denver, and one of their top goalies, Anton Martinsson, who transferred to Providence. Those are two big losses to overcome.
8. Ferris State (0-0-0): Stop us if this sounds familiar, but the Bulldogs had their first three games postponed due to COVID concerns. They hope to get on the ice three times next week. They're scheduled to host Huntsville on Tuesday and play a home-and-home against Bowling Green on Dec. 11 and 12. Ferris found two solid defensemen last year in now-sophomores Jake Willets and Blake Evennou, but the question is where will its offense come from?
9. Alabama Huntsville (0-2-0): The Chargers hung with Robert Morris in two games in late November and freshman forward Tyrone Bronte this week was named the Rookie of the Month by the Hockey Commissioners Association and the WCHA.
MSU women notch first 'W'
Minnesota State women’s hockey at a glance:
Record: 1-3-0 overall, 1-3-0 WCHA
Last week: The Mavericks split a series at WCHA rival St. Cloud State, falling 1-0 on Friday and picking up their first win of the season, 4-2, on Saturday.
Noteworthy: Freshmen Jamie Nelson and Sydney Langseth led the way for MSU in its first win of the year, both recording their first college goals and first three-point games of their careers. Nelson had two goals and an assist, while Langseth had a goal and two assists in Saturday's victory. ... Charlotte Akervik scored the game-winning goal in the second period and Clare Butorac had two assists, as MSU outshot the Huskies 42-23. ... Calla Frank made 21 saves to earn her first victory of the season. ... MSU's 42 shots on goal set a season high.
This week: Minnesota State's series at Bemidji State, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, has been postponed. The Mavericks are scheduled to host Bemidji State Dec. 17-18 at 2:07 p.m. both days, their final series before the holiday break.