By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE — When the hometown kid scored a goal on the first shot he took as a Minnesota State men’s hockey player, it looked like the perfect beginning of a storybook career.
But sometimes those careers don’t finish happily ever after.
So for Corey Leivermann, the kid who wanted to play for the Mavericks since fifth grade when his family moved to Mankato, the story ended a year and a half early with his decision to leave MSU and finish his playing career elsewhere.
“Obviously, it was a tough decision,” Leivermann said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “Being the first Mankato kid to play at MSU, it was tough to give up on your hopes and dreams. ... But sometimes you have to go with your heart, and my heart said to go and have fun for a year and a half.”
Leivermann plans to transfer down the road to Gustavus Adolphus, a Division III school that will allow him to play immediately.
“I’m going to place where I can play and love hockey again,” he said.
Leivermann, the former Mankato West High School standout, played in 42 games over 21⁄2 seasons with the Mavericks. He appeared in 19 games as a freshman, scoring three goals — including that one on his first shot in his first game — and assisting on four others. Last season he played in 21 games, scoring one goal. This year, he played MSU’s first two games of the season but couldn’t crack a deep and talented forward lineup after that. Even a switch to defense in practice over the last couple of weeks couldn’t get him into a game.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks were rolling, off to their most successful first half in more than a dozen years — on Monday, they moved up to No. 14 in the national rankings — and Leivermann said it was difficult to only watch that run from the stands.
“It’s tough when the guys ahead of you are producing and winning games, and you’re not in the lineup,” Leivermann said.
After discussing his future with his family over Christmas break, Leivermann decided to tell coach Mike Hastings last week that he would not be returning to the team. Both Leivermann and Hastings said the split was amiable.
“I couldn’t say a negative word about that young man and about the way he handled himself,” Hastings said. “He was first class all the way and worked his tail off.”
Leivermann admitted that it was probably his skating that let him down as a Division I player, especially with the Mavericks playing the majority of their games on an Olympic-sized rink. That’s long been a knock on his game, but one he hopes he can overcome at Gustavus.
“I feel like I understand the game as well as anyone on the team,” he said. “But it’s tough when you don’t have those first three strides. I think I have the brains, the skill and the hands to play.”
The toughest part about transferring, Leivermann said, is leaving behind the close friends he’s made in the Minnesota State locker room.
“I’m such a big team guy,” he said.
Now, Leivermann is getting set to join a new team for the final chapter of his career. His plan is to enroll at Gustavus for the school’s January term, which begins Monday, and he hopes to be skating in his new uniform after that.