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Players meet new coach, express confidence in future
MSU hockey players are confident in the insight Coach Hastings will bring to the team.
Shane Frederick, Mankato Free Press, 4-17-12
MANKATO — Members of the Minnesota State men’s hockey team huddled together following a weight-room session at Taylor Center and put their arms in the air.
“Family on three,” one of them said and then counted off. “Family,” they all shouted in unison.
Before the workout, the players met their new coach, Mike Hastings, for the first time since Hastings officially accepted the job.
“He brought a message of family across,” freshman forward Jean-Paul LaFontaine said.
After Troy Jutting was dismissed as coach and reassigned at the university on April 1, players had been wondering about who would take over and what kind of coach that person would be.
“We’ve got a guy, and we can relax a little bit,” freshman defenseman Zach Palmquist said. “Knowing we have a big-name coach is really exciting.”
The former Nebraska Omaha associate head coach said the cupbord isn’t bare at MSU when it comes to hockey.
“I’m a big believer that we have to turn to what we have already,” he said.
“Invest in the athletes that we have here, and try to make (them) better on the ice and off the ice.”
Hastings said expectations for his program are “going to be special.”
The Mavericks finished 11th in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association the last two seasons and have had just one winning record since their NCAA tournament season of 2002-03. Over the last couple of seasons, home attendance, season tickets and booster club memberships have dropped.
“We’re going to be better this year,” he said.
In 14 years as a head coach with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League, Hastings never had a losing season.
“We want to be a team that’s hard to play against,” Hastings said .”What’s hard to play against? Well, a team that’s on top of you, a team that plays in groups of five and really is committed. The more people you have committed to the greater goal, the harder you are to play against.”
Mavericks junior defenseman and captain Tyler Elbrecht played for Hastings in the coach’s final year with the Lancers. Omaha won a national championship that year.
“He’s going to be a good fit for this team,” Elbrecht said. “He knows how to push guys to the limit and be the best that they can. ...
He did a ton for me. He helped make me the player I am today.”
Palmquist agreed that Hasting will be demanding.
“He seems like a pretty relaxed guy,” he said. “We just have to work hard. As long as we’re putting the effort in, he’ll be there for us.”
Hastings said he plans to have individual meetings with players in early May, before the semester ends.
“I want to get the players’ opinions,” he said, “ things that they’ve liked, things that they didn’t. And then I’ll share what my expecations are and ask them to buy in.”
Hastings left Mankato on Monday afternoon and won’t be back for a few weeks. He’ll be on the recruiting trail and spreading that same message to future players.
To see the entire story, go to www.mankatofreepress.com.