Coming off a breakout season, Jerry Cunningham has lost his fourth year of eligibility at Minnesota State-Mankato because he didn’t meet NCAA eligibility requirements.
As a partial qualifier when he entered college, Cunningham had to sit out his first season, 1998-99, and then had three years of eligibility. He could earn the fourth year by completing a degree by this summer, but Mavericks coach Troy Jutting said the forward did not pass his last class of the second summer session and is four credits short of an economics degree.
Cunningham scored 15 goals and had 30 points last season, both highs for his collegiate career. On the team, he was second only to Shane Joseph (20) in goals and was expected to be a big contributor to the Mavericks’ offense in the 2002-03 season.
A 5-foot-7, 175-pounder, Cunningham broke out of his role as a playmaker to become more of a scoring threat for the Mavericks last season, when the Mavericks were 16-20-2 and 11-15-2 in the WCHA, finishing in sixth place.
The 25-year-old native of High Prairie, Alberta, had 29 goals and 43 assists in 99 career collegiate games.
Jutting said Cunningham is weighing his options on a pro career and has plans to complete his degree.
“It’s unfortunate because he worked hard to try and finish it up in four years,” Jutting said, “and unfortunately, he fell one class short.”
Cunningham’s loss is the second hit taken by the Mavericks’ offense in the offseason. Tim Jackman signed with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets last month.
With Jackman and Cunningham out of the mix, only two of the top four scorers from last year’s Mavs team will return for the upcoming season.
“We’re losing two kids who have contributed quite a bit to our team and to our program over the last couple of years,” Jutting said. “Would I prefer it not to happen? You bet.
“It’s unfortunate, but everybody loses kids now and then. Unfortunately for us, we lost a couple of real contributors late in the summer.”
Before the 2000-01 season, Cunningham was one of three Mavericks players suspended by Jutting for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Cunningham, Ryan Severson and T.J. Guidarelli missed the first six games of the season.
He returned with some scoring punch, however, collecting seven points in his first four games of the season, including a three-point night against Michigan Tech on Nov. 4, 2000.
Last season, he had a seven-point weekend with three goals and four assists against Findlay on Nov. 2 and 3. He had nine multiple-point games and three games with two goals.