MANKATO — When Eli Zuck goes back to his hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, it’s not just a special time for him. He and his family make sure it’s special for the entire Minnesota State men’s hockey team.
Zuck is now a senior, so for the fourth and final time, the Mavericks were scheduled to have dinner at his parents’ home on Thursday evening.
“We’ll try to get the pasta and the chicken and salad, the typical Thursday-night deal,” Zuck said earlier this week, before he and the team left Mankato for this weekend’s WCHA series against Alaska Anchorage. “But my dad will be grilling up some halibut and some salmon, try to give a little of that Alaskan spice to the team. I always look forward to that. I miss the good Alaskan seafood.”
Zuck said the meal is special for his parents, Jon and Stephanie, too. They were unable to make it to Mankato two weeks ago when the parents of MSU’s seniors were introduced on the ice.
“But this is their real highlight, having us over, getting a good meal in,” Zuck said. “It’s always nice to have the guys over to my house where I grew up.”
For Zuck the hockey player, no meal will overmatch winning a pair of games against the Seawolves. Coming off a pair of overtime losses at home to Wisconsin, he said getting four points for the WCHA standings and remaining in the hunt for an upper-half league finish is crucial.
“It’s a huge weekend for us,” he said.
The Mavericks have lost just once in Anchorage in Zuck’s career. Zuck has scored just one goal and assisted on one other in Sullivan Arena, the rink where he first started watching college hockey. But, even this year, scoring is not necessarily a priority for the center.