Farm background serves hockey athlete well

 

C.J. Franklin
C.J. Franklin

Minnesota State returns to WCHA action this weekend, hoping to extend their first-place lead in the conference over second-place Bowling Green, the Mavericks’ visiting opponents.

The Mavericks have won three of their last five games, including last weekend’s third-place finish in the North Star College Cup in St. Paul. Sophomore forward C.J. Franklin is largely responsible for the winning streak, according to Head Coach Mike Hastings. The coach told the media during his post-game comments Sunday that Franklin has been the Mavericks’ best player in the last two weeks.

Franklin, the Mavericks’ lone Black player, was named last week co-WCHA Offensive Player of the Week after scoring his team-leading 11th goal and assisting on another in the 3-2 win over Minnesota, the team’s second win in three meetings this season.

“He [Franklin] made a move [from wing to center] about two weeks ago,” explained Hastings to the MSR. “He’s been playing wing all year and had a lot of success. He moved to the middle, and we tried to get him to receive pucks in the open ice a little bit more. He’s a really strong kid on the skates.

“I think once he made that move, where there was more room…[he] then had some success,” said the coach.

The 5’-11” Franklin joined Minnesota State last season after two seasons with Sioux Falls of the United States Hockey League (2012-14), where he scored 54 regular season goals. He was a fifth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He made the WCHA All-Rookie Team last season.

“I thought it was the right fit for me,” Franklin said on choosing Mankato during an interview with the MSR Sunday.  “The coaches were exactly what I was looking for. The school fit what I wanted — not too big or not too small.”

When told of his coach’s post-game comments, Franklin downplayed them. “It’s not one player but the whole team. I couldn’t do it without my linemates.”

However, on his play of late, he said, “I definitely feel myself on a roll. Over the past couple of weekends, I definitely started to play my game. I’ve been overthinking it.”

“The confidence is there, and he doesn’t cheat from Monday through Thursday,” noted Hastings. He doesn’t cheat in the weight room or in practice. He does everything you ask. He comes out when there is extra ice [time] to get better and work. I think all that is why he probably has been our best player.”

The coach added that Franklin’s qualities also were evident during his recruiting of the young man. “I was hoping he was going to be a player. The combination of character, work ethic — he grew up on a farm and did a lot of things from sunup to sundown. He’s never changed.”

On his position switch, Franklin said, “There is a lot more space going to the middle. I like it for sure.”

“He struggled at the beginning of this year, but his demeanor didn’t change,” said Hastings. “I’m happy for him. Sometimes the game is cruel to you, and sometimes it pays you back, like it has the last two weeks.”

On growing up on a farm, the Roseville, Minnesota-born Franklin points out, “The farm wasn’t too bad. I started [playing hockey] with my cousins when I was three years old.”

Sunday’s win “definitely will help us down the road” as far as rankings are concerned, concluded Franklin. “It is always nice to get a win over an in-state rival, especially Minnesota. It was a good weekend for us. I feel we are in good shape for the rest of the year.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.