Minnesota State University-Mankato season preview

By DJ Powers

The Mavericks will open their 2005-06 regular season on October 14th when they travel to the John S. Glas Fieldhouse to face off against host Bemidji State.

MSUM comes into season needing to address the team’s defensive woes. The Mavericks finished a dismal 54th in the nation in team defense in 2004-05, giving up an average of over three and a half goals per game. This season, MSUM hopes to have an improved defense and a better finish to their season.

One contributing factor to the Mavericks’ woes last season was inconsistent goaltending. This season, MSUM hopes to be much improved. Junior Chris Clark is the lone returning goaltender. The San Mateo, CA native served as a backup last season and will likely inherit the starting job. Clark posted a 6-6-4 record that included one shutout in his sophomore campaign.

Two talented newcomers from the USHL – Dan Tormey and Mike Zacharias, will challenge Clark for playing time this season.

Tormey comes to MSUM from the Clark Cup Champion Cedar Rapids Roughriders, where he posted a 23-4-2 record that included three shutouts in 32 games. He led the USHL last season with a .926 save percentage and finished second with a 2.25 goals against average. His outstanding performance earned him a selection to the USHL All-League Second team.

Zacharias comes to MSUM from Tri-City, where he amassed a 27-17-5 record that included three shutouts in 53 games. He finished second in the league in minutes played (2997:51).

The Mavericks will return nearly their entire defensive corps intact. The only significant loss that the MSUM blue line suffered was that of Steven Johns, who has graduated. Among the returning players who will be relied upon to help shore up the defense are juniors Kyle Peto and Chad Brownlee (VAN).

Peto was one of the few bright spots on the Mavericks defense last season. The Lethbridge, AB native led all Mavericks defensemen in scoring with 27 points (three goals, 24 assists). Peto was one of, if not the Mavericks most consistent defensemen and this season will help lead the defense.

The hard-hitting Brownlee has become a leader on the Mavericks blue line. He finished the season with three points (one goal, two assists) in 36 games. He also finished with 60 penalty minutes. Brownlee provides not only a physical presence on the blue line, but also some stability as well.

In addition to all of the returning players, MSUM will welcome a two incoming freshmen to the defensive corps. The most notable of the two is Blake Friesen. The Excelsior, MN native has been on scouting radars since his days at Benilde-St. Margaret School but was not taken in the NHL draft. Friesen comes to MSUM from Sioux Falls (USHL), where he amassed 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 48 games. Friesen is an offensive-minded defenseman noted for his great vision.

The forward lines will be the Mavericks’ strength, specifically their top tandem of juniors David Backes (STL) and Travis Morin (WSH). The two have accounted for 71 (22.4 percent) of the MSUM’s 316 points last season.

Backes, who will serve as team captain this season, led the Mavericks with 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists) playing in all 38 games last season. He also led the team with ten power play goals. The biggest improvement that Backes made last season was his skating. His offseason work two summers ago paid significant dividends in Backes’ much-improved skating. His strides are smoother and his mobility is noticeably better.

This season, Backes is expected to lead the offense again and could become a prime candidate for the Hobey Baker award.

Morin finished behind Backes in scoring with 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 36 games. He missed two games last season due to the flu. The Brooklyn Park, MN native continues to make significant progress in his overall development. He continues to provide (along with Backes) an intimidating presence up front for the Mavericks. Two of Morin’s greatest attributes are his superb passing ability and his total commitment to better himself both on and off the ice.

This season, the Mavericks are expecting bigger and better things from Morin.

In addition to the returning forwards, and the loss of two in Adam Gerlach and Brad Thompson to graduation, MSUM welcome three new forwards. Among them is Jon Kalinski. Kalinski comes to MSUM from Bonnyville (AJHL), where he had 41 points (16 goals, 25 assists) and 195 penalty minutes in 58 games last season. Kalinski brings size, intensity and a knack for scoring timely goals to MSUM.

A 1987-born player, Kalinski was eligible for the recent NHL draft but was not selected. Many will be watching him this season, to see if he is picked up this season.

(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 3)

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