The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

September 25, 2012

Frederick column: Hastings ramps up intensity at MSU hockey practice

MANKATO — Tyler Elbrecht left the ice at All Seasons Arena following Tuesday afternoon’s practice and said his legs were “feeling it.”

“The way we’re practicing, how we’re training right now, games are going to be easy,” the Minnesota State men’s hockey team’s senior defenseman said.

Stop by the rink, and it doesn’t take long to see that Mike Hastings runs an up-tempo, high-intensity practice. And with the head coach being new on the job, the players sure seem to understand that there’s a new sheriff in town.

“I’d say everyday is high-tempo; every day is a work day,” said Elbrecht, who played junior hockey for Hastings five years ago with the United States Hockey League’s Omaha Lancers. “We’re trying to take care of what we can take care of, so when the season starts we’re ready to go.”

It’s still the preseason, and Hastings has had just five on-ice practices with his whole team so far. Under NCAA rules, coaches are allowed two hours of practice time per week between Sept. 15 and the Oct. 6, which is the official start date of the season.

Hastings appears to be making the most of that abbreviated time.

There hasn’t been a lot of standing-around-time during the practices, as the players move from drill to drill.

“Even if you’re not in the middle of a drill,  you need to be on your toes,” said goaltender Phil Cook, who, along with Elbrecht, is one of five seniors on the team. “You gotta be ready to go. That’s what (Hastings) stresses. ... He’s intense. You have to do things fast, and you have to use your brains as well.”

When their time limit is up, Hastings and his assistants quickly depart the rink and leave the end-of-practice conditioning skates to be policed by the players themselves.

“We don’t waste a minute,” Elbrecht said. “If we do waste a minute, we have to make up for that somehow. … There’s no half-speed anything; it’s all full speed.”

Hastings said that attitude and approach isn’t likely to change much once the regular season starts, so the players better be ready to buy in, if they’re not already.

“A lot of it is trying to practice at the pace we want to play at,” Hastings said. “I think sheer logic tells you that if you can practice at a pace that’s as close to or at game speed, the more prepared you’re going to be.”

That certainly can’t be a bad thing for a team that’s been one rung out of the Western Collegiate Hockey League cellar the last two years.

“Everybody wants to get going; we’re excited,” Cook said. “We’re heading in a new direction. There’s a lot of confidence in the coach. Everybody’s on the same page and pulling in the same direction.”

Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter @puckato.

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