After a nearly six-month wait since their heart-breaking loss to the University of Denver in the national championship game, the #3-ranked Minnesota State University, Mankato men’s hockey team is set to return to the ice this weekend to kick off the 2022-23 season. This season, the Mavericks will be led by senior forwards Brenden Furry and Cade Borchardt as captains, alongside junior forward Sam Morton and junior defenseman Jake Livingstone as alternate captains.
In addition to a veteran leadership group, the Mavericks will be coached by longtime head coach Mike Hastings who is heading into his 11th season with the program. Over his 10 seasons with Mankato, Hastings has racked up a national-best 274-96-24 overall record including capturing three Spencer Penrose Awards as national coach of the year.
“We’ve been fortunate to have some consistency in our staffing, where there hasn’t been a ton of change,” Hastings said. “Providing support and stability throughout the organization, the team has been fortunate enough to have some outstanding student-athletes within the past decade. They’ve continued to raise the bar on how they’ve finished. That’s now the goal for this young group to go and raise the bar another level in ‘22-’23,” Hastings continued.
With last year being the most successful season in program history, the road for this year’s group becomes much longer as they begin their quest for a national championship. If the Mavericks plan on doing so, they will be without several key members of last year’s team including 2021-22 CCHA Player of the Year, Nathan Smith, and Hobey Baker winner, Dryden McKay.
To counter the heavy losses, the Mavericks have added firepower on the front end with the additions of freshman forwards Luc Wilson and Simon Tassy among many others. Both guys had breakout seasons in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) where Tassy tallied 78 pts in 53 games and Wilson put up 75 pts in 52 games played.
But one main question still looms over the coaching staff with the absence of McKay. Who is going to fill that role in the net? With a quick tune-up this weekend in Omaha before the season begins on Oct. 7, Hastings remains adamant that the door is open for any of the three young goalies to take the top spot in net.
“We’ve got a player coming in as a freshman in Alex Tracy that had a really good senior year and was USA Hockey goalie of the year,” Hastings said. Tracy won a championship in Sioux City and returning Mavericks Keenan Rancier and Andrew Miller haven’t gotten many opportunities for goaltenders last season.” “We plan on using more than one goalie in our exhibition game this weekend regardless of how it goes to give them an opportunity to show themselves,” Hastings continued.
After their exhibition game this weekend against Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota State will open with arguably the toughest schedule over the first three weekends in all of college hockey, playing three top-15 teams. The Mavericks will start out with a home-and-home series with the #2 University of Minnesota, before staying home for a quick date with #5 Minnesota Duluth, and then ending on the road against #13 St. Cloud State before they start the thick of their conference play.
“We’re excited to turn the page,” Hastings said. “This group has the opportunity to write history. Right now we’ve got a lot of work to do. Our leadership group has to continue to evolve and our freshmen are feeling more comfortable. We just need that process to continue here over the next 10-12 days here before we play our first game at Minnesota.”
Header Photo: Next week on Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 the Mavericks will play fellow Minnesota school University of Minnesota as their season’s first series. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)
Write to Karson Buelow at Karson.Buelow@mnsu.edu