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Steel Defenseman Commits to Minnesota State

03/16/2014, 7:00am CDT
By bwerger

Chicago Steel defenseman Alec Vanko has committed to play collegiate hockey at Minnesota State University, Mankato following his USHL career.

“I am really excited and it feels great to be committed to Mankato,” Vanko said.  “It was just a good fit for me and my family.  I really liked the campus and out of all the visits I took, I liked Mankato the best because it felt like home for me.  The Mankato coaching staff was great throughout the recruiting process and everyone involved with the program was very genuine.”

Vanko is one of the USHL’s top scoring defensemen, totaling 26 points (8g, 18a) in 43 games this season with the Steel.  He currently ranks ninth among all League defensemen in scoring.  During one span in December, he scored four goals over four games and led the Steel to a 3-0-1 record.  That included a two-goal effort when he netted the winner in overtime of the 4-3 victory against the Youngstown Phantoms on December 6th.  The 19-year-old from Oregon, Wisconsin has put up 11 points (2g, 9a) over his last 12 games.  Vanko also earned recognition last month when he was voted by League coaches and general managers as a midseason USHL All-Star, receiving a spot on the Second Team in the Eastern Conference.

“We are pleased to support Alec and his family in his decision to attend Minnesota State University,Mankato,” said Steel head coach Scott McConnell.  “With what they have endured over the last six months, to have this news makes everyone in our organization happy.   Alec has worked extremely hard and has been a great teammate during this season.   He took his time and carefully thought out where the best fit in a university would be for him as a person and as a player.   Mankato will welcome in a great kid, great family, and great hockey player when he is finished with his junior career.”

Six other current USHL players are committed to Minnesota State, including Hunter Warner (Fargo Force), Jason Pawloski (Indiana Ice), Luca Frigo (Omaha Lancers), C.J. Franklin (Sioux Falls Stampede), Zeb Knutson (Sioux Falls Stampede), and Ryan Schwalbe (Sioux Falls Stampede).

The Mavericks of Minnesota State are a member of the WCHA and have 15 USHL alumni on the roster this season; Blake Thompson (Waterloo/Sioux Falls), Carter Foguth (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Zach Palmquist (Waterloo Black Hawks), Max Gaede (Sioux City Musketeers), Jean-Paul Lafontaine (Green Bay Gamblers), J.P. Burkemper (Fargo/Des Moines), Jordan Nelson (Fargo Force), Mike Huntebrinker (Waterloo Black Hawks), Matt Leitner (Fargo Force), Zach Lehrke (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Chase Grant (Fargo Force), Zach Stepan (Waterloo Black Hawks), Dylan Margonari (Youngstown Phantoms), Brett Stern (Green Bay Gamblers), and Stephon Williams (Waterloo/Sioux Falls).

The entire Mavericks coaching staff also has ties to the USHL.  Head coach Mike Hastings is the League’s all-time wins leader (529) as he led the Omaha Lancers for 14 seasons, assistant coach Todd Knott played in the USHL and coached in both Des Moines and Sioux City, and assistant coach Darren Blue played two seasons for the Des Moines Buccaneers.

USHL stats – Alec Vanko


Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 12th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2013-14.  A record 32 players were chosen in the 2013 NHL Draft and more than 300 players on team rosters last season have committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.  For more information, visit us on the web at or visit the League’s social media platforms, including Facebook (, twitter (, and YouTube (  Fans can also watch USHL action all season long, live or on-demand via FASTHockey (

It’s not just hockey. It’s the USHL.

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