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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Franklin Finding His Niche

Minnesota State's C.J. Franklin was a member of the
 2014-15 WCHA All-Rookie Team as a freshman

Success can have a different meaning to many people.  For Minnesota State hockey sophomore forward C.J. Franklin his success doesn’t always have to show on the stat sheet after a game.

Franklin has spent his entire hockey career playing at the wing position, specifically left wing. However, things have recently changed for the second year Maverick and about six weeks he was moved to the center position.

“ I think I switched mainly so I could get speed coming through the zone and attacking from the middle,” Franklin said. “I did go through a slump earlier this year but then we made the switch and it’s helped a lot I think.”

When the 2015-2016 season started Franklin had high hopes as he came off a very impressive freshman year with the Mavericks. Selected to the 2014-2015 WCHA All-Rookie Team, Franklin registered nine goals along with 19 assists for 28 points in 37 games Those numbers tied for sixth on the Maverick scoring charts as the program rolled to Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular season and postseason championships. However, through the first half of this season, the shots weren’t going in as easy as they use to for Franklin.  A switch to the middle of the ice helped get things going.

“Playing center is a lot different than playing wing,” Franklin said. “We’re getting the puck out a lot quicker which means more time on the offensive end. So I feel like that’s a big part of why my offense is succeeding.”

Mike Hastings, who in his first three years as head coach of the Mavericks has guided his program to a trio of NCAA tournament appearances, feels that while Franklin’s numbers haven’t necessarily taken the leap that some thought they might in his second year with the program, knows that there are other ways to measure a player’s impact on the team.

“His success in the second half of the season is really a combination of a few things. The move to center was fresh and just allowed him to receive the puck inside the dots,” Hastings said. “But ultimately it’s his work ethic and him getting his confidence back that have been just as important and just because he hadn’t been scoring doesn’t mean he wasn’t playing well.”

Franklin’s work ethic started long before he advanced the junior and college hockey ranks. He played at Forest Lake (Minn.) High School under coach Aaron Forsythe, who played defense for Minnesota State for four seasons (2000-04).

“You know, I didn’t really put two and two together (that Forsythe is a former Maverick) right away because I didn’t talk to that many schools when I was playing in high school,” Franklin said. “I knew he supported Minnesota State and we may have an a conversation once or twice, but it’s more of a coincidence more that anything.”

Before arriving in Mankato, Franklin toiled with Sioux Falls of the United States Hockey League where he was named an alternate captain his last season with the Stampede and tallied 54 goals an 111 points 115 games in his two years with the Stampede.

Joining the Mavericks last year was very exciting for Franklin and he knew right away he wanted to do his best for the team.

“Last year was a turning point in my career because I came in expecting to make a difference,” said Franklin, who was selected in the fifth round (129th overall), by Winnipeg in the 2014 National Hockey League draft.  “Coach made it obvious that he wanted me to come in and play so I felt more pressure last year and I think the difference this year is that it has been more of a learning experience.”

“Right now our team goal is to finish the second half strong and try to win out the rest of the year going into the playoffs,” Franklin said. “I think we need to take it one weekend at a time and we can’t be dropping points, every point and every goal is crucial for us and our goals.”

As it is with most college athletes, being a part of a program is what Franklin feels is enjoying the most about his Minnesota State hockey experience. “Being a part of a tradition, really a winning tradition if I can help that out that’s a morale booster,” Franklin said. “And really just coming to the rink every day with the all the guys, it’s really just something special.”

Contributed by Kelcie Richmond, Minnesota State Athletics communications intern

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