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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

See Yah at The Rink

Former MSU forward Bill Techar and
coach Don Brose on the outdoor rink.
The Minnesota State women's hockey team is scheduled to play the University of Minnesota Jan. 17th in an outdoor game played at TCF Bank Stadium. They won't be the first college team from Mankato to have played some outdoor puck.

The photo to the left looks like it's gone through some sort of Instagram process.   Only it hasn't.  This photo doesn't need any filtering to make it look like something from yesteryear.

Because it is from yesteryear.

The player pictured in the photo, Bill Techar, played hockey for Mankato State for the first four years of varsity hockey from 1969-70 to 1972-73. One of MSU's first "great" players, the Hibbing, Minn., native was team Most Valuable Player, team captain and an All-American as a senior.

On Techar's left is Don Brose, who guided the MSU's men's hockey program in its infancy before it was granted varsity status in 1969-70 until the 1999-2000 season, MSU's first year as a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.  Brose coached the Mavericks to a 536-335-79 record in 30 seasons behind the bench.

The picture shows Techar and Brose facing north and in the background is Searing Center which served as a MSU student housing community.  This building is still there, but was converted to an apartment building a decade ago and is now known as Cherry Ridge. Techar is wearing leather gloves and tube skates, while Brose looks dapper in his sport coat and horn-rimmed glasses.

The men's hockey program called the outdoor rink, which was located just off of Glenwood Avenue as it winds its way towards downtown, home for the first four years of club hockey and then from 1969-70 through 1973-74 prior to the opening of Mankato's first indoor rink - the Ice Palace (now called All Seasons Arena). The Mavericks still practice at All Seasons, but play their home games in newly-renovated Verizon Wireless Center.  Verizon seats nearly 5,000 fans and is located adjacent to Riverfront Drive in downtown Mankato.

Don Brose stands where the MSU hockey rink used to sit.
Old Main appears in the background as Brose looks southward.
"When I first came here," said Brose, "there were no outdoor rinks in Mankato and we rented an outdoor rink at Gustavus in St. Peter.  Eventually our first outdoor rink was built on what used to be the MSU football field and this was where we practiced and played for the first few years of varsity hockey."

The flat piece of land that must have been ideal for building a rink, is still there, but sits unused.  Immediately to the north looms Old Main, another remnant of an earlier era, which has been repurposed into a retirement community.

No boards. No lights. No scoreboard or stands.

Just memories from an earlier time.

It's great to be a Maverick.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Project

Minnesota State senior quarterback
Jon Wolf is a regional finalist for the
Harlon Hill Trophy, which goes to
the top NCAA DII football player in
the nation
It was announced last week that Minnesota State senior quarterback Jon Wolf is one of seven players in Super Region 3 under consideration to advance to the Harlon Hill Trophy national ballot. The Harlon Hill Trophy honors the NCAA Division II College Football Player of the Year. 

There are four super regions in NCAA DII and the top two players from each super region, based on voting conducted by sports information directors in each region, advance to the national ballot when regional voting concludes on November 22.  The sports information directors vote again on the eight national finalists with the winner of the 2013 award announced at the 28th annual Harlon Hill Trophy Presentation Banquet Friday, December 20.

As one of the top multi-purpose quarterbacks in the nation playing for an undefeated and number-one ranked team in the country, one would think that Wolf would receive a lot of consideration for this award.

The Oak Forest, Ill., native presents an unusual package of size and athleticism.  With 1,047 yards and 13 touchdowns along the ground, statistically Wolf is MSU's top rushing threat. And in the Mavericks' 11 games this year he's completed 63.4 percent of his passes with 104 completions on 164 attempts for 15 touchdowns.  Importantly, he's only thrown one interception and his passing efficiency rating stands at 180.4.

His numbers would be even more impressive if it not for MSU claiming several victories by large margins, which has meant he's not calling the signals for entire games. In the recent win over Upper Iowa, for example, the Mavericks held a 49-0 lead at the end of the first half and eventually won 73-7.  Wolf played the first two quarters during which he ran for 201 yards on ten carries and completed five-of-eight passes for 77 yards. The 201 yards are the most ever by a MSU quarterback.

"Jon has truly been a difference maker on a championship contending team," said head coach Aaron Keen. "His ability to lead the team as our quarterback, to throw the ball and run the ball so effectively against defenses designed to stop him has been remarkable. He's quiet but competitive and a perfectionist when it comes to making plays.  It's been special to see him develop.  He's grown up with us and it's been fun to watch."

Including Wolf, a total of seven Minnesota State players have appeared on the regional Harlon Hill ballot.  A pair of them, quarterback Jamie Pass in 1993 and wide receiver Josh Nelsen in 1994, advanced to the national ballot.  Nelsen finished seventh in the final tabulations.   Pass, not unlike Wolf, was a threat to run and throw and ended up third in the final balloting.  At 6-4 and 230 lbs., Wolf is taller and heavier than Pass and he runs a different offense. Pass threw the ball 490 times in '93 for 30 touchdowns and more than 3,700 yards and racked up 4,261 yards in total offense in 13 games as a senior. Wolf is closing in on 3,000 yards in total offense in 11 games with the play-offs looming.

Any way you slice it, Wolf undoubtedly ranks as not only one of MSU's best, but also amongst the best in the nation.

It's great to be a Maverick.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Senior Nicole Bennett, a four-year letterwinner with the
Minnesota State women's swim team, has taken full advantage
of her time in Mankato.
A senior captain with the Minnesota State women's swim team, Waukesha, Wis., native Nicole Bennett's four-year career with the Mavericks has run the gamut.

Majoring in sport management and mass media and carrying a 3.40 grade point average, Bennett has taken full advantage of her time in Mankato.  Not only has she done the job in the classroom and with her team.  She's also assisted within the department of athletics during the school year and taken the initiative to find work during the summer that would relate back to her major.

How did you decide to come to MSU?
Bennett: "I had read information online about Maverick swimming and came on an unofficial visit during the summer during Viking training camp.  During that time I met coach Owens and thought that really this might be a place I should consider. After that I started doing some additional research and saw that there was a good sport management program.  I then came back on an official visit and got to meet some of the team members. Basically I verbally committed on that trip.  I had taken a look at some other schools but didn't consider going anywhere else. It was a the type of deal where I wanted to go to a program where I would have a chance to improve and I could see that coming here.  I wanted to go to a program in which I could make a difference and make strides and improvements within the team."

You're in your fourth year with the Mavericks.  Has it gone like you thought it would?
Bennett: "It has flown by and can't believe after my more than a decade of swimming, I will be done in February.  I knew that the longer college season (compared to high school) wasn't going to be an issue for me coming in and it hasn't. I've had a chance to do some things during the summer (in college) that I wasn't doing in high school.  I've been in our distance training group for four years and some one new every year has coached us with different graduate assistants, but they've all been great and I have nothing to say but good things about the coaches we've worked with.  They deserve alot of credit for what we've done here. They've been very relateable and took time out to specify workouts towards me."

Outside of swimming, during your time at MSU, you've been busy. Speak about some of the things you've done during your time in Mankato.
Bennett: "Ever since my freshman year I've taken high course loads.  Typically 16-19 credits, plus summer credits. So basically, for the most part it's been class, studying, practices and competition. With sports management, I've had opportunity to work with the Milwaukee Brewers (summer of 2012) and in 2012-13 worked in MSU Athletics on the development side. I worked with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA affiliate of Kansas City Royals) on a game day internship this past summer, and this school year I've been interning in athletics communications at MSU (relating to mass media and sport management majors). Every year I've done Swim With the Mavericks which consists of two six-week sessions with kids aged two through eight. With that program I've had the opportunity to have met numerous families within the community and that's helped me grow as a person.  I don't take that for granted and it's been lots of fun."

Swimming highlights.
Bennett: "Well, this year's still in the works, but last year I finished in the top eight in all three of my individual events at the mid-season taper meet in Rochester and swam a lifetime best in the 100-yd breast there. Then, I also swam three individual events at the NSIC championship meet and finished tenth at the 400-yd IM.  I was a member of NSIC All-Academic team last year and am pretty proud of that. My sophomore year I placed 10th in 200-yd breaststroke at Minnesota Challenge meet.  And as a freshman I swam at Midwest Collegiate Championships and I finished 7th in 400 IM and 8th in 200 IM."

You're going to going to graduate in the spring. Then what?
Bennett: "I'm still trying to figure that out.  I've worked in pro baseball for two summers and have really liked the experience.  I love the game - I grew up twenty miles away from Miller Park and it was truly a dream come true to work for the Brewers two summers ago. I've had good experiences within intercollegiate athletics, so grad school down the road is a possibility or something else along those lines if that works out. I have some connections at the University of Arkansas as a result of working with the Naturals, but I have nothing set in stone. I think once my swimming career gets done, I'll have some time to sit down and consider some of these things."

What types of memories will you take with you once it's all said and done?
Bennett: "Going from a coed team to a just a women's team following my freshman year was not something that I expected coming here.  But after it happened, and talking with Coach about potentially going somewhere else,  and after looking for a short time, I was reminded of why I came here in the first place. By staying and experiencing change, it was a good lesson.  Change is something that always happens.  It's constant.  And although it wasn't an ideal situation at the time, it made me appreciate what we have. My sophomore year was the year with most change and we're stronger now.  Our coaches have done a good job of recruiting, bringing in people with right attitudes and mindsets.  The team chemistry the past two years is better than my first two years. Late nights, road trips, who was swimming beside me in my lane in practice.   Those are the things I'll remember the most."