By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
Mike Hastings has had two hours of ice time per week with the Minnesota State men’s hockey team since Sept. 15, but Saturday finally felt like a new season.
“When I got up this morning for a cup of coffee, my wife said, ‘Good luck for the start of the season,’” the Mavericks’ first-year coach said. “To me it’s different.”
Saturday marked the official start of the men’s college hockey season, and the Mavericks went through two practices at All Seasons Arena. They will play an exhibition game against the University of Lethbridge today.
“It was a good day,” Hastings said after the two-hour morning practice (there was also an evening session) at All Seasons Arena. “Obviously, there are a lot of things we’ve got to work on, but the leaders did a good job making sure the guys were ready to go.”
All but two players were on the ice. Senior forward Eriah Hayes was excused for a family obligation, and sophomore defenseman Mat Knoll is out with an eye injury.
For the players who were there, Saturday felt different than the previous three weeks, too.
“There’s been a learning curve (in the preseason),” sophomore forward Chase Grant said. “But today there are no excuses. ... I’m not saying (Hastings) is more strict, but expectations are higher.”
Junior forward Johnny McInnis agreed.
“It was definitely amped up a bit,” he said.
Now that players have had a taste for what practice is like under the new coach, McInnis said they’re looking forward to today’s exhibition and learning about what gameday is like under Hastings’ watch.
“This will be our first time as a group,” McInnis said. “Everybody’s excited to get out there. I can’t wait.”
For more coverage on Minnesota State men’s hockey, read the PucKato blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com, or follow on Twitter @puckato.