The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 10, 2012

For MSU senior forward, being a captain is all about the team

MANKATO — Eriah Hayes, the imposing 6-foot-4 winger for the Minnesota State men’s hockey team, called over to 18-year-old rookie Teddy Blueger after practice on Monday afternoon and said something about one-timers.

Blueger didn’t quite make out what Hayes was saying from across the echoey All Seasons Arena rink. But he figured the 24-year-old senior captain was pulling rank and started to corral a few pucks to pass across to Hayes for some shooting practice.

“No, no, no,” Hayes said. “Do you want some one-timers?”

Blueger looked surprised but shrugged and shoved the pucks back to Hayes, who proceeded to set up the youngster for a few minutes.

“That’s him, and that’s sort of our year,” Hayes’ co-captain and fellow senior Tyler Elbrecht said. “Some guys are seniors, but it doesn’t matter what class you’re in. We stick together. (Hayes) wants to make other players better.”

Hayes is a first-year captain for Minnesota State and learning the responsibilities that come with leading a team. He’s not interested in establishing a pecking order among the players, he said, so something like passing pucks to a talented rookie after practice is a no-brainer.

“Teddy is special,” Hayes said. “He’s a young guy, a little hesitant, but he’s coming out of his shell. He’s going to be a good player. He’s a smart, smart hockey player.”

Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said that the quiet, small-town Hayes is also coming out of his shell, too. The first-year coach said he demands a lot out of his captains, and Hayes insists that he’s ready for those responsibilities.

“I’ve been around the block, and the young guys look up to me, which is nice,” said Hayes, a La Crescent native. “I can just tell them what coach expects and what they need to do to get better. ... It’s been a learning experience for sure because I’ve never been in this position before. But it’s been fun, and I’m looking forward to being the leader of this team.”

As the Mavericks’ active career scoring leader, Hayes has on-ice and in-game duties to tackle, too. In 112 games over his first three seasons, he has compiled 32 goals and 28 assists, along with 194 penalty minutes.

Hastings came to Minnesota State with an opposing coach’s scouting report of Hayes.

“The positives were that he’s big and strong and can move,” Hastings said. “He has the ability to finish. He’s a true power forward. The only negative has been his consistency, and we’ve discussed those things.”

In Sunday’s exhibition blowout victory, Hayes scored what ended up being the game-winning goal in a 7-1 victory. But the goal was a big one, Hastings said, as it came just 39 seconds into the second period following a 1-1 opening frame.

For Hayes, a strong individual season not only could mean success for the Mavericks but a future in professional hockey as well — perhaps in the National Hockey League.

“I think if the team does well, that stuff will come,” he said. “Having that (captain’s) emblem on my chest, it’s kind of a reminder that, ‘Hey, you need to be there for the boys every night.’”

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