By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
In 2007, the Stanley Cup came to Mankato along with Ryan Carter, the former Minnesota State hockey player who got his day with the world’s most famous trophy thanks to the whopping 2 minutes and 45 seconds of ice time in the Anaheim Ducks’ championship series that spring.
Carter got his name on the Cup and brought it to the town where his two seasons of college hockey earned him a pro contract with the Ducks.
When this year’s playoffs began, hockey fans in these parts might have been wondering if the Cup might make a return trip to Mankato. After all, the St. Louis Blues, captained by Mavericks All-American David Backes, were a heavy favorite to win the Western Conference and perhaps even win it all.
But Backes and his team were stunned and swept out in the second round by the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings.
“(The Kings) get credit,” Backes told the Associated Press on Sunday, “but we are going to have a long summer of thinking about how we could have been better in the series.”
Backes had two goals and two assists and was minus-5 with 18 penalty minutes in nine playoff games.
There is still someone for the folks in Mankato to cheer for, though, and once again that is Carter.
Carter began the season with the Florida Panthers and was waived in mid-October after just seven games. The Devils quickly signed him and made Carter into a third- or fourth-line defensive grinder. He finished the regular season with four goals and four assists in 65 games. His 84 penalty minutes famously included his part in an opening-faceoff brawl with the New York Rangers on March 19.
A month later in the first game of the playoffs, Carter scored the game-winning goal in a Devils’ victory over his former team, the Panthers, in Florida.
The Devils won that series and, on Sunday, went up 3-1 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Carter missed Sunday’s game with an illness, but for the playoffs, he has a goal, two assists and six penalty minutes while averaging a little more than 8 minutes and 13 shifts a game.
Carter isn’t the only former Maverick still playing professional hockey in April.
In the American Hockey League, eight teams are still alive in the playoffs, including Tyler Pitlick and the Oklahoma City Barons.
The ECHL playoffs are down to the Kelly Cup Finals. Who do you like? The Florida Everblades with Trevor Bruess and Rylan Galiardi? Or the Las Vegas Wranglers with Channing Boe and Joe Schiller?
If future Minnesota State players pique your interest, a few of those are still competing as well.
In the United States Hockey League playoffs, goaltender Stephon Williams is keeping the Waterloo Black Hawks alive. His 5-0 shutout over the Lincoln Stars gave Waterloo a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five Western Conference Finals. The winner will play the Green Bay Gamblers for the Clark Cup.
Two MSU recruits are playing for the RBC Cup, Canada’s Junior A national title, in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. Forward Bryce Gervais, defenseman Nick Buchanan and the Penticton Vees won the British Columbia Hockey League playoffs and the Doyle Cup against Alberta’s champions. But they’re down 0-2 so far in this week’s five-team tournament.
Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @puckato.