By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
Less than two months after Mike Hastings was named Minnesota State’s new men’s hockey coach, he got his first commitment from a recruit.
On Wednesday, that player, forward Mike Huntebrinker of the United States Hockey League’s Waterloo Blackhawks, and three others signed National Letters of Intent to join the Mavericks next season. Wednesday was the first day of the NCAA’s week-long early signing period.
“I told him, ‘You’re my first recruit,’” Hastings said Wednesday.
The other three players signed include goaltender Cole Huggins and defensemen Carter Foguth and Sean Flanagan.
“We’ve filled some needs for a year from now,” Hastings said.
Huntebrinker missed the beginning of the USHL season due to offseason wrist surgery, but he has made a big impact since getting healthy. The 5-11, 187-pound Chesterfield, Mo., native has three goals and four assists in just four games.
Last season in Waterloo, he had 17 goals and 17 assists during the regular season. A strong late-season surge, including a 10 points in 13 playoff games, convinced Hastings to pursue the him for his new team.
“I think Mike can come in and contribute offensively right away,” he said.
Huggins might be someone who can make an immediate impact, too.
He currently ranks as the British Columbia Hockey League’s leader in save percentage at .938 through 18 games with the Coquitlam Express. The Englewood, Colo., native is 6-foot-0, 180 pounds and has a 10-5-1 record with a 2.25 goals-against average. The 20-year-old is in his third season in the BCHL. He won 21 games for Coquitlam a season ago.
“I really like his demeanor in the net,” Hastings said. “I like what he brings, and I think he can help us between the posts.”
The Mavericks need to improve on the blue line, and Hastings said Flanagan and Foguth will play different roles there.
Flanagan is a 6-1, 170-pound BCHL defenseman. He was an alternate captain for the Salmon Arm SilverBacks but on Wednesday was traded to the Penticton Vees. The Kindersley, Saskatchewan, native has three goals and five assists through 20 games. A year ago with Salmon Arm, he had 31 points in 60 games.
Hastings said Flanagan is more of a puck-moving, offensive defenseman who can play on the power play.
Foguth, meanwhile, is more of a defensive defenseman who can play physical a la Tyler Elbrecht, who is graduating after this season.
The 6-2, 210-pound Foguth, is a Fenton, Mich., native who in his third season in the USHL, playing for the Muskegon Lumberjacks. A two-year captain, he has one goal and one assist through 14 games. In 97 career games, he has 12 points and 233 penalty minutes.
“We’re losing two senior defensemen (Evan Mosey is the other), and I think it’s a good mix,” Hastings said.
Besides Elbrecht and Mosey, the Mavericks’ other seniors are forwards Eriah Hayes and Eli Zuck and goalie Phil Cook.
According to junior league press releases and recruiting websites, the Mavericks also have several verbal commitments for the future.
That group includes 16-year-old Steen Cooper, a forward from of Cowichan Valley of the BCHL; former Shattuck-St. Mary’s forward Ryan Schwalbe, who now plays for Salmon Arm of the BCHL; Italian forward Luca Frigo from Omaha of the USHL; defenseman Hunter Warner from Eden Prairie High School; and defenseman Eli May, formerly of Eagan High School, now with Tri-City of the USHL.
NCAA rules prevent coaches from commenting on recruits until those players have signed letters of intent.