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Austin's Gavin Morrissey finds his next home, commits to Minnesota State, Mankato

Gavin Morrissey has flourished in his second season with the Austin Bruins, having recorded 17 points through the first 22 games of this year. College coaches took notice and on Thursday, Morrissey committed to Minnesota State University, Mankato.

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Second-year Austin Bruins forward Gavin Morrissey has committed to play Division I college hockey at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Morrissey, a Rochester Hills, Mich., native, has 17 points through 22 games this season.
Photo illustration courtesy of Austin Bruins
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AUSTIN — Gavin Morrissey knows just how special the Minnesota State University, Mankato men’s hockey program has become over the past decade.

He knows about the coaching staff — led by head coach Mike Hastings — that has guided the Mavericks to more victories than any other Division I program over the past 10 years.

So all it took for Morrissey to become a Maverick was a trip to the Minnesota State campus, a look around the Mavericks’ hockey facilities and a talk with Hastings and assistant coaches Todd Knott and Paul Kirtland.

And one more thing: The Mavericks’ blue-collar style of play? That’s right in Morrissey’s wheelhouse.

“Obviously their success speaks for itself,” said Morrissey, a Rochester Hills, Mich., native and a second-year forward for the Austin Bruins. “It’s a great program and a great coaching staff. From what I saw, the culture and identity they have as a program is one I can see myself fitting into.”

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On Thursday, Morrissey made it official, giving an oral commitment to Hastings, Knott — MSU’s primary recruiter and the coach with whom Morrissey most closely communicated — and the Mavericks. He’ll join MSU either in the fall of 2023 or 2024.

As for Morrissey fitting in at Minnesota State, his current head coach said that wouldn’t be a problem, regardless of which college program Morrissey decided to commit to.

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Gavin Morrissey, Austin Bruins

“That’s the beauty of Gavin Morrissey,” Bruins head coach Steve Howard said. “He can play anywhere they need him to play. That’s the God’s honest truth and that’s what I told coach Knott and coach Hastings.

“Gavin’s a kid who didn’t get a chance on the power-play his first year here, but he was happy to go out and kill penalties and take big faceoffs in our defensive zone. He played a third- or fourth-line center role last year and he ran with it. He trusted the process, came back this year and he’s running the halfwall on our power play now. He did all the right things as a first-year guy and it’s paying off now.”

Minnesota State offered Morrissey at the right time; as a handful of other Division I programs began to put on a heavy press with recruiting calls and messages.

There had been a steady build in interest from college coaches in Morrissey since the North American Hockey League Showcase in mid-September. The recruiting calls and texts picked up even more over the past six weeks as the 5-foot-11, 182-pound left-shot forward has gone on a scoring tear. Having settled in with linemates Damon Furuseth and Josh Giuliani, Morrissey has produced 16 points in the past 12 games for the Bruins, who sit in first place in the NAHL Central Division with a 15-3-4 record entering a two-game series at home against the second-place Minot (N.D.) Minotauros this weekend.

Morrissey has already surpassed his season points total from his rookie season in Austin; he had five goals and 11 points in 45 games last season. This season, he already has four goals and 17 points in just 22 games. He was named the NAHL Central Division Star of the Week on Monday after recording six points and a plus-4 plus/minus rating in three games last week.

“It was a huge difference coming in this year, knowing what to expect,” Morrissey said. “I gained a ton of experience last year and this year, too. It allowed me to approach this season with a different mindset, a calm demeanor. It’s a long season. There are a lot of ways I can help my teammates, too, and put them and us in positions to succeed.”

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Morrissey’s best attribute is his willingness and ability to play a 200-foot game. He is as solid defensively as he is in the offensive zone. And that versatility keeps him on the ice more than some of Austin’s defensemen. With power-play and penalty-kill time factored in, Howard said Morrissey played more than 25 minutes in a game against North Iowa last weekend.

“He’s so good in the faceoff circle,” Howard said, “and he’s our first guy over the boards on the penalty kill and the first guy over the boards on a power play. Whatever Minnesota State needs from him, he can do it for them.”

Recruited to Austin

Morrissey comes from an athletic family. Morrissey’s grandpa played professional hockey and his grandpa’s cousin played in the NHL. Morrissey’s younger brother, Shane, plays for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies AAA program in Michigan, the same program Gavin grew up in. Their older sister, Cam, plays Division I hockey at the University of Vermont.

A pair of former Jr. Grizzlies are perhaps the primary reason that Morrissey signed a tender with the Bruins prior to the 2021-22 season.

Former Bruins captains Alex Trombley and Carson Riddle both reached out to Morrissey prior to his signing with Austin, giving him a high-level sales pitch on why Austin would be a great place for him to begin his junior hockey career.

“Trombley and I played for the same coach in youth hockey,” Morrissey said. “(Trombley) reached out and convinced me about how great the (Bruins’) coaches are and how the culture is here. He was spot-on about everything. It has been perfect for me and I’m excited for the rest of the year.”

Howard hadn’t seen Morrissey play when he signed him to a tender, taking the words of scouts and Morrissey’s coaches with the Jr. Grizzlies about the type of player he is and the value he could bring to the Bruins. But when Morrissey showed up at the Bruins’ main tryout camp in the summer of 2021, Howard didn’t see it. He didn’t see Morrissey “flash” during the week of camp, so he had the young forward play in the first All-Star Game on the final day of camp. That game is generally used for Austin’s coaches to watch “futures” — players they think can help the team down the road.

Steve Howard, Austin Bruins
Steve Howard

“I just needed to see him play,” Howard said. “I started noticing him in that first All-Star Game, and then as the first month of last season went along it quickly became more and more evident that he does things the right way and he’s accountable.

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“If there’s one word I’d use to describe Gavin Morrissey, it’s ‘accountable.’ He plays a 200-foot game. I compare him to watching (former Detroit Red Wings great) Pavel Datsyuk in that he’s always on the right side of plays. He’s very good offensively and also defends very well.”

That word — accountable — resonated with Minnesota State’s coaching staff. It resonated so much that, when Morrissey arrives at the campus in Mankato either next fall or in the fall of 2024, he’ll be just the fourth Bruin ever to suit up for the Mavericks, joining goalie Jason Pawloski and defensemen Riese Zmolek and Ian Scheid.

“I think (MSU’s coaches) appreciate the fact that I’m versatile and there are a lot of different positions I can succeed in, different roles I can fill,” Morrissey said, when asked what the Mavericks’ staff said they like about his game. “I try to play the game with grit and skill, and that combination fits well with what they want to do.”

Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or jfeldman@postbulletin.com.
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