Timeline of Terror: MSU to lose Coach Hastings and half of team

If you were to look up and down the Minnesota State Men’s hockey team’s roster from two weeks ago as it dropped its opening contest to St. Cloud State, a plethora of returning studs and the possibility of some returning seniors might have had you intrigued by what next year’s team has to offer. 

But look at it now and you’ll see 10 departing players — some early signees to pro contracts and some opting to enter the transfer portal — and the resignation of Head Coach Mike Hastings and his heir apparent, Todd Knott.

The moves are a crushing blow to Maverick hockey fans, but after a disappointing end to a highly anticipated season, moves to be made were inevitable. 

While Hastings’ unexpected departure was the biggest bomb to drop, the exodus began with players.

The first move came from last year’s leading goal scorer, Ryan Sandelin.

As a junior last season Sandelin tallied 21 goals and sat fifth on the team in points behind two returning Mavericks. The Hermantown native dropped significantly in points this year, a challenging 13 points behind where he sat last year. Despite this year’s lull in points, Sandelin inked a professional deal with the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League (AHL).

Hours after Sandelin’s announcement, fifth-year senior Andy Carroll announced the Abbotsford Canucks of the AHL signed him to an amateur tryout agreement with the team. The Northfield native has accumulated 64 points in five seasons with the Mavericks, including tying his career high of 16 this season.

Two days, Minnesota State was dealt a massive loss as its top defensive pairing of Akito Hirose and Jake Livingstone signed professional contracts. Hirose signed an entry-level contract with the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks and made his debut with his new club last Sunday. 

Livingstone signed his NHL contract with the Nashville Predators but has yet to make his debut. The CCHA Defenseman of the Year tallied 80 points in three seasons with Minnesota State.

Less than 24 hours after the exit of Hirose and Livingstone, Minnesota State was handed the biggest blow to the program in years as head coach Hastings announced he was leaving to take over the men’s program at the University of Wisconsin.

“Coach Hastings has had a transformational impact and left an indelible impact on our program,” said MSU Director of Athletics Kevin Buisman. “I am confident he will continue to do great things in Madison and I wish Mike and his family all the best moving forward.”

Minnesota State opened up a nationwide search to fill the head coaching position for its hockey team but was interested in working with associate head coach Todd Knott in filling the role. In the midst of a search for a new head coach, two more Mavericks announced their departures – Ondrej Pavel and Cade Borchardt.

With 41 career points as a junior, Pavel was able to sign his NHL entry-level deal with the Colorado Avalanche and has yet to join his new squad. Borchardt’s considerable 85 pts as a senior was all he needed to work out a deal with the East Coast Hockey League’s (ECHL) Kansas City Mavericks.

Minnesota State continued to search for a replacement for Hastings and offered Knott an “attractive offer” in the hopes of getting him to stay. But the team announced three days after Hastings stepped down that Knott had declined the offer. 

“Out of respect for the program, and understanding the urgency with how we need to proceed, he let me know that he was going to decline the opportunity to become our next head hockey coach,” said Buisman. 

“We love this community, the fans, and Maverick hockey,” Knott said in a statement issued by the university, “and as difficult as it is to say goodbye, it’s time to start a new chapter.” The emotional interview, as described by Buisman, leads many to believe Knott will follow Hastings to Wisconsin, leaving a vacancy in the assistant coaching position as well. 

On April 3, the Mavericks announced senior captain Brendan Furry inked a deal with Lehigh Valley in the AHL becoming the seventh Maverick to sign a professional contract in only a week.

Finally, just a few days ago, four additional Mavericks — Bennett Zmolek, David Silye, Simon Tassy, and Christian Fitzgerald — announced plans to enter the transfer portal. 

Header photo: Within the last week, roughly half of the players on the Minnesota State’s Men’s Hockey team have left the program. Akito Hirose (top), moments after an on-ice hit. The team (bottom left), moments after losing their final game. Former head coach, Mike Hastings (bottom right), who recently left the team for a job at the University of Wisconsin. (Photos by Dylan Engel/The Reporter)

Write to Karson Buelow at karson.buelow@mnsu.edu

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