Four days ahead of turning 30, Wade Regier took time to marvel at his early birthday present on Tuesday.
In the kitchen of his townhouse on the south side of Minot sat the Murdoch Cup. The waning sun reflected blindingly off the trophy, which is awarded to the national champions of the American College Hockey Association. The cup will be returned to the ACHA within a couple weeks. The championship emotions, still emanating like the chrome-gleam of the cup, are likely to stick around much longer.
Minot State University won its first club hockey title March 6 and did so under Regier, a former Beaver in just his third year as head coach.
The Murdoch Cup will soon be engraved with Minot State University’s championship score and the team’s roster will be posted along one of the side panels for two years.
"It's unbelievable," said Regier, a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native. "It's kind of surreal because you put all that hard work and it just kind of didn't hit us until we got here that we finally did it. You recruit well and you put all the things together hoping that we thought we had the talent on paper and to come together at the end, it's just amazing."
The Beavers beat Lindenwood University (Mo.) 9-5 in the ACHA championship in Chicago. The title game capped a 19-game win streak for MSU (30-4), which graduates eight players.
"I think more than anything else I've learned with seniors is they may not be, in certain cases, the most talented guys, but I tell you, they're the most battle tested after four years of going through ups and downs," Regier said.
Dan Lamb, one of three four-year players with the program, is not one of the Beavers most sought after players. The senior went on a tear in the national tournament with five goals and four assists in four games and was named the tournament's most valuable player. Lamb's line scored 11 goals in the tournament.
"He just completely took over that tournament and his line of (juniors) Cam McGeough and Jared McIntosh were outstanding," Regier said, "and when your chips are all on the table and you're at the national tournament, you need players to step up and he did."
Regier said Lamb struggled early in the season and was shuffled through lines before the trio's potential was realized in late December.
"Me and Jared are more of a power forward kind of players," Lamb said. "Get it down low, cycle it through and use our bodies. Cam's more of a finesse player. The mix and match wound up giving us a lot more room out there."
Lamb expects to be student teaching next fall, but will entertain the possibility of playing if professional teams call following his MVP performance.
"It would be nice to continue," Lamb said, "but most of the time you have to look at it and say 'Am I gonna go far enough to make enough money to make it a living or hang it up and start going into the real world.' "
Beavers goalie drawing more interest
Winning a national title will help the Beavers attract talented transfers from NCAA Division I and Division III teams, but the success may also bring scouts from those same higher divisions and professional organizations.
"I welcome the day," Regier said. "If someone gave me a call from Division I, absolutely, because there'd be nothing more gratifying than for us to send players up."
McIntosh and junior goaltender Wyatt Waselenchuk, a Canadian player applying for dual citizenship (his mother is American), is expected to be considered for the U.S. national team at the World University Games.
"If a guy were to make that team, that's huge for them personally because they go to a place like Italy and, all of the sudden, there's pro scouts from all over Europe that are there and it gives them a good opportunity," Regier said. "That comes with us winning because now, all of the sudden, they get exposure from that, they make that team and it all kind of trickles down from there."
Waselenchuk was especially impressive with 26 saves in a second-round shutout of the University of Central Oklahoma. In a 5-4 overtime win over Oklahoma University in the quarterfinal game, Waselenchuk played a steady third period after giving up three second-period goals.
"We knew in the tournament he'd be there for us," Lamb said. "In the Oklahoma game, he thanked all the guys for bailing him out, but he didn't realize he's bailed us out all year, so we owed him."
Waselenchuk spent four years in Canadian junior hockey with half the time as a back up and the other half sharing ice time. He has been the go-to netminder for the Beavers in his first three seasons with the team.
"First thing I said to Wade in celebration was, 'Thank you for giving me a chance,' " Waselenchuk said. "Maybe we'll have some guys find their way onto our roster that maybe we wouldn't have gotten. We're getting better every year. Every year, our team has gotten that much stronger and that much deeper."
Willert makes most of hometown run
Senior forward and Minot native Jordan Willert finished his hockey career where it started. The Minot High School graduate played at NCAA Division I Nebraska-Omaha before transferring home and returning to the ice after a year away.
"Coming in, I knew quite a few guys and and they went on a run last year and had a good shot," Willert said. "I just kind of had a feeling in what they had done previously that it could be something special."
Willert, like most of the players, was still processing the title run nearly a week after the championship.
"People keep asking that: 'How does it feel? How does it feel?' " Willert said. "Even now talking about it I'm getting goosebumps. I think it all comes back to Wade. Clearly he's done recruiting above and beyond. He's a class act and takes care of a lot of stuff behind scenes."
Willert plans to finish earning his teaching degree this year and hopes to teach physical education and coach hockey in Minot.