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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

MSU Hockey History

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A Brief History of Maverick Men's Ice Hockey

It was January 16 of 1970 when Jim Lang's goal signalled the beginning. That goal, the first in MSU men's varsity ice hockey history, may not have meant all that much at the time since it came in the midst of an 8-2 loss to St. Cloud State. But what it did signal was the start of 26-year journey that the MSU men's ice hockey program would take en route to achieving Division I status which was approved in January, 1996 by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The 1995-96 year ended with the Mavericks holding an overall record of 16 wins - 12 losses - 4 ties in their final season as a NCAA Division II independent. The Mavericks finished the 1996-97 campaign with a 17-14-3 overall record with a 7-9-1 mark against NCAA Division I competition.

The First Years

1969-70 through 1976-77, were spent playing an independent small college schedule with no aspirations for post-season play. MSU became eligible for post-season play for the first time in 1977-78 and earned a third-place finish at the national tournament in MSU's first appearance. The Mavericks went on to earn a second-place finish the next year before reaching the apex of a NCAA Division II national championship in 1979-80. MSU would gain another third-place finish the following year, and when the NCAA decided to dissolve the Division II post-season tournament following the 1983-84 season, MSU would then switch to Division III competition for the next seven years.

The 1992 Struggle for Division I

MSU was forced to make an affiliation decision again prior to the 1992-93 season when NCAA legislation deemed that the Mavericks, along with other Division II affiliated schools, could not compete at the Division III level. With the approval by the community of a bond referendum in October 1991 for a new ice facility in downtown Mankato, former MSU President Margaret Preska announced that the program would join the NCAA Division I ranks for the 1992-93 season. That announcement would later be recinded in the fall, however, when the Minnesota State University Board denied MSU's attempt to make the switch. The Mavericks, began playing in the new Mankato Civic Center in February of 1995, and have been playing as a NCAA Division II independent squad since the 1992-93 season.

Strong Student Support Demonstrated

On October 22, 1991, when Mankato voters were voting on a $25 million bond referendum to build the Mankato Civic Center, high turnout in student precincts tipped the scales to the win column.The Civic Center was key to MSU's Division I dream because it was to include an olympic sized sheet of ice. Many opposed the measure because it included the addition of .5% sales tax to cover bonding costs. Without the support of Mankato State's student body the Division I drive would have failed.

Community Blue Line Club Created

A concerted fund-raising effort was undertaken by a group of Mankato business leaders in the summer of 1995, and, following a series of on-campus and off-campus discussions, MSU President Richard R. Rush announced his intention to ask for support from the Board of Trustees of the newly merged Minnesota State system (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities) to elevate the program from NCAA Division II to Division I. As a result of the efforts of the Greater Mankato community, the MSU student body and others, Rush's proposal was accepted. In January, 1996, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) approved MSU as a Division I team. (That group of business leaders later formed the Blue Line Club.)

WCHA Membership Drive

The next step in the journey will be an attempt to gain affiliation with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod paid a visit to Mankato in late January of 1996 and the WCHA changed its schedule requirements to allow a number of its members to play MSU during the 1996-97 season.

Through a direct vote on Mankato State's membership cannot occur until Spring, 1998, the WCHA has invited Mankato State to be part of its Playoff Tournament in March, 1998. (MSU is seeded #10 and will play the #1 seed.) Before the WCHA actually votes on a MSU membership bid. WCHA members include the University of Minnesota, St. Cloud State, University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota-Duluth, University of Denver, Colorado College, Michigan Tech, University of Alaska-Anchorage, and the University of North Dakota.

Transition Year as Division I Independent

The 1996-97 year was the first year as a Division I "independent". MSU's 34 game schedule included 7 NCAA Division I schools, 2 Division II, 4 Division III and one team from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The Mavericks finished the year with a 17-14-3 record with a 7-9-1 record against NCAA Division I opponents.

1997-98 Schedule Includes NCAA Division I Elite

Next year's schedule will undoubtedly be the toughest a Mankato State hockey team has ever faced. Eight of the teams listed (North Dakota, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Colorado College, Denver, St. Cloud State, Michigan State and Union) are either ranked, have been ranked or have received votes in NCAA Division I national polls this year.

The schedule for 1997-98 is comprised entirely of NCAA Division I opponents. Besides the 16 games against WCHA teams (two each with Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State, Denver, Colorado College, Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan Tech, and Anchorage Alaska), the Mavericks will also play for games against members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (two each with Michigan State and Ferris State) and two games are scheduled with a member of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conferece (Union). Another 14 games are against NCAA Division I independent clubs (four each with Air Force, Niagara and Nebraska-Omaha and two with Army).