Wednesday reading: Preseason teams, AFA, Gophers, Mavs, Tech

The WCHA was sprinkled throughout the College Hockey News’ preseason first and second team honorees.

Air Force’s Adam McKenzie is one of the top 10 preseason defensemen according to USCHO.

Here is Wild beat writer Michael Russo’s first impressions of the Gophers.

Nebraska Omaha coach Dean Blais, pictured,announced that senior forward Brent Gwidt will serve as captain of the 2012-13 team, and junior forward Matt White and senior goaltender John Faulkner will be alternate captains.

“All three players have experience as captains for our team last year, and they are natural choices by their fellow players to again lead our team,” Blais said in a press release.  “We expect our captains to set good examples for their teammates both on the ice and off, and these three players have the ability to do that.”

Getting the ‘A’ certainly suggests Faukner has an edge in the battle for the No. 1 goalie job.

Tyler Elbrecht and Eriah Hayes are the Mankato captains.

Former Tigers Joey Crabb and Tim Hall were joined by Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky on the ECHL Alaska Aces’ training camp roster.

Here is a look back at the formation of Hockey East. There are some familiar themes in there for WCHA fans.

Michigan Tech added its third defenseman commit in two weeks.

Here is the Western College Hockey Blog’s look at St. Cloud State.

Minnesota-Duluth will continue to reload, not rebuild. Here is a fan’s take on the Alaska-Fairbanks scrimmage.

NCHC hires Adam, current WCHA referee, as director of officials

Louisville Police Officer Don Adam is also a WCHA hockey referee. Adam was photographed at work Tuesday afternoon, June 12, 2012. Karl Gehring/The Denver Post

From NCHC media relations …

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) has announced that Don Adam will assume the role of Director of Officiating for the conference at the conclusion of the 2012-13 college hockey season.

NCHC men’s ice hockey will make its debut during the 2013-14 season with eight successful Division 1 programs- Colorado College, University of Denver, Miami University (Ohio), University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of North Dakota, St Cloud State University and Western Michigan University.

“We are excited about having Don Adam join the NCHC staff and look forward to having him assist us in overseeing the important officiating program,” said NCHC Commissioner Jim Scherr. “Don brings a proven level of on-ice and supervisory officiating expertise and his long term commitment to the college game is invaluable to our goals. Don’s hiring is another significant step for our conference as we move towards a new era in college hockey and the start of our new conference playing in 2013-14.”

Adam has served as one of the top NCAA Division I Ice Hockey officials in the nation for 24 seasons. As an on-ice official he has worked numerous WCHA championships, NCAA tournaments, and NCAA national championships. He was also selected by the International Ice Hockey Federation to officiate an impressive list of key international competitions which includes five World Championships, as well as the 1992 and 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France, and Nagano, Japan. Adam was also an NHL referee trainee for three seasons, as well as an NHL-contracted official for one season. He brings additional prior experience as the Director of Officiating for both the West Coast Hockey League and Roller Hockey International.  His reputation and involvement as a supervisor of officials for USA Hockey’s Officials Development Program to the professional hockey ranks reflects his commitment to ice hockey officiating at all levels for over 25 years.

“I am excited to join the staff of the NCHC and recognize this as a unique opportunity to positively contribute to what I believe will become one of the top conferences in the nation,” Adam said.  “I’ve had the good fortune to work with many of the NCHC’s coaches and administrators over the course of many seasons and, based upon my respect for them both personally and professionally, I look forward to continuing those relationships in the future.  Under the leadership of both Jim Scherr and Joe Novak, this opportunity will allow me to implement and develop an officiating staff that the NCHC will be proud of.”

Adam currently resides in Denver and is employed by the city of Louisville (CO) as a police officer, where he has served the public for the last nine years. Adam compares his two current professions and looks forward to applying his experiences to his new position: “Both professions require a lot of quick decisions in pressure-filled situations. Experience, judgment, common sense and clear communication are all huge factors in achieving success, and I’m excited to face the challenges that this new position will present me with.”

NCHC coaches are enthusiastic about the new conference executive:

George Gwozdecky- University of Denver– “For over two decades, Don Adam has been regarded as one of the top hockey officials in the NCAA. His leadership skills, organizational ability along with his experience will be a valuable asset to the conference and will assure that, under his direction, the league will receive the finest collegiate officiating available.”

Rico Blasi  – Miami University Ohio “It’s very exciting to have someone like Don with the knowledge and experience leading our on-ice officials.  Along with his experience, his communication skills make Don a great asset.”

Dean Blais – University Nebraska at Omaha- “Don Adam brings a wealth of experience in officiating to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.  Don, as Director of Officiating, will be active in evaluating, recruiting, coaching and directing our conference officiating staff according to NCAA rules and regulations. He is a great communicator and will have a lot of significant responsibilities with our new conference. We are all looking forward to his role and leadership with our officiating program.”

Dave Hakstol/ University of North Dakota– “Don is very well respected throughout college hockey. Over the years his officiating style has constantly evolved as changes have come to the way the game is played and he is very well equipped to build a quality staff of officials for the NCHC.”

And: “Don has always been the personification of an honest, well-prepared and knowledgeable official. What more can you ask for?”  – Lou Vairo 1984 United States Olympic Hockey Coach • Former Assistant Coach; New Jersey Devils (NHL) • Currently: Director, Special Projects; USA Hockey

Summary of Don Adam’s officiating career

 One year under contract as an NHL referee (1993-94).

Two Olympic Winter Games as a referee (1992 in Albertville, 1998 in Nagano).

Two NCAA Frozen Fours as a referee (1997 in Milwaukee, 2003 in Buffalo, N.Y.).

Director of Officiating for both the West Coast Hockey League and Roller Hockey International

USA Hockey Officiating Development Program staff member

22 years as a Western Collegiate Hockey Association referee (plus two as a linesman).

It’s official: Jutting is new Omaha assistant

From UNO sports information …

University of Nebraska Omaha head hockey coach Dean Blais announced today that Troy Jutting has been named the team’s new assistant coach.  Jutting takes over for Brian Renfrew who left Omaha after one year to take a position with the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League.

Jutting is well known to fans of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, having served as the head coach of Minnesota State for the last 12 years.

“We are fortunate that we have been able to add someone of Troy’s experience to our staff,” said Blais.  “After so many games coaching against us, he knows our program and our players.  Just as important, he knows the WCHA and what it takes to be successful there.  I think he can help us as we compete for league and national championships.”

For more, click here.

UNO loses another assistant coach

Nebraska-Omaha assistant coach Brian Renfrew, pictured, has left the Mavericks after accepting a scouting position with the Winnipeg Jets, according to the Omaha World Herald.

Renfrew spent the 2011-12 season at UNO after the previous eight seasons as an assistant coach at Michigan State. Renfrew will be able to work out of Lansing, Mich., where his family had maintained its residence after Renfrew took the UNO job last summer.

“We’ll look for just the best available coach no matter the position [of expertise],” Nebraska-Omaha head coach Dean Blais said. “At this time of year, you just find the best guy available. We all share in the position responsibilities and specialty teams. There are good people out there who are willing to move.”

This is now Blais’ second coaching change this offseason as former associate head coach Mike Hastings left in April to become head coach at Minnesota State. Steve Johnson was named Hastings’ successor in June.

UNO recently added Sam Spomer as its director of hockey operations, while Bliss Littler, who worked as a volunteer assistant coach for the Mavericks after dismissal by the United States Hockey League’s Omaha Lancers midway through last season, was recently named head coach of the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild of the North American Hockey League.

UNO goalie sits out upcoming season

OMAHA, Neb. – University of Nebraska Omaha head hockey coach Dean Blais announced today that sophomore goaltender Ryan Massa will be taking a year off for personal reasons and will not compete again for the Mavericks until the 2013-14 season.

“We respect Ryan’s decision and wish him the best in the upcoming year,” said Blais.  “Per NCAA rules, he has five years in which to complete four years of competition, and we’ll look forward to his return in 2013-14.

“We are fortunate to have John Faulkner and Dayn Belfour returning as well as incoming freshman Anthony Stolarz joining our roster, and we think all three will do a very good job for us.”

Massa shared the top job with Faulkner but had superior stats. The native of Littleton, Colo. also authored UNO’s only shutout of the season, turning aside 35 shots in a 4-0 win at Michigan Tech on Feb. 11.

Massa finished 7-8-2 with a .914 saves percentage and 2.60 goals against mark but it was Faulkner (5-9-2, .886, 2.93) who started in Saturday’s elimination game during the WCHA playoffs when St. Cloud State ended the Mavs’ season.

Stolarz is well regarded and could end up being the new No. 1 while incoming sophomore Belfour, son of former NHLer Ed, posted good numbers in six games: 2-1-2, .902 saves, 2.55 gaa.

Regardless, the news loosens up a logjam at that position. Colorado College plays a WCHA series at Omaha Jan. 4-5, 2013 in their only scheduled games this upcoming season before both joining the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

UNO announces assistant coach hire

From Nebraska-Omaha sports info …

OMAHA, Neb. – University of Nebraska Omaha head hockey coach Dean Blais announced today that Steve Johnson has been named the team’s new assistant coach.  He replaces Mike Hastings who left UNO following the 2011-12 season to take the head coach position at Minnesota State.

“I’m very pleased to have a coach of Steve’s caliber fill the void left by Mike Hastings’ departure,” said Blais.  “Steve has the ability to be a great recruiter for us, and his on-ice skills as a coach are very strong as shown by his work in both the United States Hockey League and at the college level.  His knowledge and experience will make our team stronger. ”

Johnson spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at WCHA rival school St. Cloud State.  Prior to that, he succeeded Blais as the head coach of the Fargo Force of the USHL where he coached for one season, leading the Force to the 2010 Clark Cup Finals.

For more, click this link. The search to replace Johnson at St. Cloud State is already underway judging from this job posting.

UNO’s Hastings accepts Mankato head coach job

Combined from a UNO press release and a story by the Omaha World Herald …

Minnesota State University Mankato announced earlier today that Nebraska Omaha associate head hockey coach Mike Hastings has been named the new head coach of its men’s program.

Hastings succeeds Troy Jutting who was reassigned within the MSU athletic program following the end of the 2011-12 season.  Hastings will be just the third head coach in Minnesota State history.

Hastings has been the associate head coach at UNO since the 2009-10 season after spending one season as an assistant coach at Minnesota. He had been considered the heir apparent for Dean Blais, who is nearing retirement age.

“We are extremely pleased to introduce Mike Hastings as our new men’s hockey head coach,” said Dr. Richard Davenport, MSU President. “Mike brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from his work as an assistant coach and associate head coach within the Division I hockey ranks and comes to us with a history of unprecedented success at the junior hockey level. He has demonstrated a great ability to identify talent and is committed to developing student-athletes on the ice, in the classroom and in the community. We’re excited to begin this new era of (Minnesota State Mankato) Maverick Hockey under his leadership.”

He had a 14-year run as head coach of Omaha of the United States Hockey League. The USHL’s all-time winningest coach, Hastings compiled a 529-210-56 record with the Lancers, never had a losing season and led Omaha to three Clark Cup titles as the USHL’s play-off champions. He was named USHL Coach of the Year three times and as the team’s general manager, earned league GM of the Year honors five times.

“I am extremely excited to have been selected as head coach of the Minnesota State men’s hockey program,” said Hastings. “During this process I’ve been struck by the University’s commitment and expectations for excellence and those will be our tenets moving forward. I believe we can win here and we’re thrilled to get started with this new era of Maverick Hockey.”

Hastings’ contract is for four years at a salary of $225,000 per year with a portion of that funded privately, according to the Omaha World Herald. Buisman also told the newspaper that Hastings will assume his responsibilities on Monday.

A press conference has been scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Monday with a public reception for Hastings to be announced at a later date.