In a normal year, the Don Brose Training Center would be buzzing with Minnesota State men’s hockey players right now.
The entire team would be together, pushing each other to take the next step or get in that extra set of reps.
Whether it be a dream ended by a pandemic or coaching through videos, nothing about the last four months has been normal for coach Mike Hastings and his team.
But make no mistake ... the Mavericks aren’t the only ones who’ve gotten a raw deal, and Hastings won’t let his team forget that.
“One thing that I’ve found with most athletes, and even more so with this group, they’re pretty resilient,” Hastings said. “As hard of a process as it’s been to go through ... I do believe there’s been a perspective that has helped. We’re not the only ones going through it.”
The usual June script calls for the whole team to arrive for the start of second summer session, which began Monday. The group then spends the next six weeks taking classes, while also lifting with strength and conditioning coach Tom Inkrott.
After that, they go home for three weeks and then return for the start of school.
There are currently only six players lifting at the facility, and they are all there voluntarily. Access to ice is limited, but it is available to those who want it.
“Everybody’s that’s here looks like they put in the work at home,” senior defenseman Jack McNeely said. “Just being able to come back here and see the guys, I just think the workouts are a little better when there’s other people there.”
As Hastings prepares for his ninth season at MSU, he knows some roster and role changes are coming.
Gone are long-time stalwarts Marc Michaelis, Parker Tuomie, Charlie Gerard, Connor Mackey, Ian Scheid, Edwin Hookenson, Josh French and Nick Rivera. Those eight accounted for 75 of the Mavericks’ 153 goals last season, so lesser known names are going to have to step up.
While they’ve lost plenty at forward, there’s also a lot returning. It starts with rising seniors Jared Spooner, Reggie Lutz, Jake Jaremko and Dallas Gerads, all of whom played significant minutes last season.
Lucas Sowder, a sophomore, was the WCHA Rookie of the Year last season, and he will look to build on that success. Sophomore Nathan Smith, junior Julian Napravnik and Rensselaer graduate transfer Todd Burgess also figure to be key players up front.
Defensively, Mackey, Scheid and Hookenson played a lot of minutes and will be difficult to replace. Expect McNeely, Riese Zmolek and Andy Carroll to step into bigger roles, while freshman Akito Hirose and Jake Livingstone will also be in the mix.
Goaltender Dryden McKay returns as one of the top players in the country. His backup will be Boston College graduate transfer Ryan Edquist.
“As much as we’ve lost, we’ve got a lot returning,” Hastings said. “Experience, talent, team-oriented leadership, a little more ‘we’ than ‘me’ type of guys that have been around for a bit.”
Things will continue to remain quiet for the Mavericks over the next eight weeks, as players won’t be asked to come to town until school starts Aug. 24.
But when the team is back together, it’s safe to say they’ll feel as though they have unfinished business.
“They’re hungry. It’s not like they were satisfied with the way last year ended,” Hastings said. “What I’ve found with hockey players ... if the game gets taken away from them for any extended period of time ... they’re pretty excited about getting back after it.”
Follow Kevin Dudley on Twitter @Dudley7Kevin.