Hastings, fresh from Olympic gig, returns as Mavericks No. 1 in Bemidji State – Reuters
MANKATO, Minn. — Minnesota State didn’t miss a beat when coach Mike Hastings left for the Olympics, and the nation’s No. 1 team stayed on the pace when it returned.
Hastings was back on the Minnesota State bench on Friday night after being out since Jan. 31 with Team USA in Beijing, where he served as an assistant coach.
The American men lost in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, giving Hastings an opportunity to return to his varsity team. A 30-hour travel day ended in Mankato just before Friday’s game against CCHA rivals Bemidji State, which the Mavericks won 5-1, and he surprised his team ahead of warmups.
“It was a surprise,” said senior Reggie Lutz, who had a goal and an assist. “We heard he was in the States this morning. We came here for warm-ups, and he was there. It’s great to find him on the bench. Obviously, he’s one of the best coaches in the country, so it’s a plus to see him again. »
Mavericks center Nathan Smith, the CCHA’s leading scorer, had not yet returned from China. The junior, who had one goal and one assist in four games at the Olympics, will stay in Beijing until the closing ceremonies, Hastings said, and is expected to be on a charter Monday.
“I texted him before the game to tell him how much I wish he was here,” Hastings said.
Hastings missed two of Minnesota State’s games, thanks to a timely bye week. With associate head coach Todd Knott leading the bench, the Mavericks swept Bowling Green on the road on Feb. 4-5 to extend their winning streak to seven games.
That streak grew to eight Friday in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,038 at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center. The win was the 1,000th in Minnesota State history, making the Mavericks the 28th NCAA program to achieve the milestone in men’s hockey.
“I appreciate the preparation that has been done by (Knott), Paul Kirtland, the entire staff and management of our club,” Hasting said. “I think we played a really solid game tonight, and they worked hard in my absence.”
Minnesota State (28-5, 20-3 in CCHA) took on its state rival, scoring twice in each of the first two periods, conceding two of four power plays and holding the second-best power play the country scoreless on three occasions.
Lutz, a fifth-year senior who set the MSU record for games played with 164 on Friday, had two points, as did Ryan Sandelin and defenseman Benton Maass, who each finished with two assists.
One of the reasons I wanted to come back was for seniors day. What they have done here is more than special.
Cade Borchardt and defenders Jake Livingstone and Wyatt Aamodt scored MSU’s other goals. Goaltender Dryden McKay made timely saves early and on the Beavers’ power play and finished with 21 saves for his 103rd career win, which ranks second all-time in Men’s Division I history.
Owen Sillinger scored the Beavers’ lone goal to make it 4-1 at 6:57 into the third period. Bemidji State keeper Gavin Enright made 24 saves. The Beavers (14-17, 12-11) have won just one of their last eight games.
Hastings said he was lucky to have his name picked out for an early flight out of China so he could return home. If Team USA had finished, he said, he wanted to be in Mankato for the final regular season home games for Lutz, McKay and fellow seniors Jack McNeely, Julian Napravnik, Wyatt Aamodt and Andy Carroll. (Maass, a transfer graduate, is also in his final season.)
“One of the reasons I wanted to come back was senior day,” Hastings said. “What they’ve done here is more than special.”
The group has a chance to help Minnesota State clinch a fifth consecutive MacNaughton Cup — the first as CCHA champions after winning the last four WCHA regular season titles — on Saturday against the Beavers. The Mavericks could have won on Friday, but Michigan Tech won in overtime at Ferris State.
Hastings said the USA team’s surprise loss to Slovakia after a 3-0 pool score was “a bitter pill to swallow”, but he treasured his experience and that of Smith.
“To have the opportunity, I have to say thank you to USA Hockey and thank you to (head coach) David Quinn and a phenomenal staff and athletes. We were surrounded by top notch, quality hockey players.