Wade Regier thought his hockey career had ended following a 6-4 loss at Iowa State in the final game of his senior season.
Little did he know, he was about to enter the next face of his hockey career: coaching.
For the past three years, Regier has been at the helm of the Minot State University men's club hockey team, which has become a dominating force in ACHA Division I hockey. MSU is 70-14-5 under Regier and has qualified for the national tournament each of the last two seasons.
But Regier's hockey career dates back well before his time at Minot State.
"Just like a lot of Canadians, hockey kind of comes with the territory," Regier said. "My parents had me going at a young age, since I was able to walk."
At 18 years old and fresh out of high school, Regier delayed his college career and played Junior B hockey with his hometown Saskatoon Chiefs of the North Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Regier played three years with the Chiefs, leading his team in scoring each season. He also guided Saskatoon to the NSJHL championship in 2002 when he was 19.
Following his years at the junior level, Regier was recruited by then-MSU head coach Brian Wilkie.
"I knew I was going to go to school at some point," Regier said. "I was one of those kids in Canada that played a few years of junior hockey, but I made the decision to take a look at the school. It wasn't far from home and I absolutely loved it."
Regier flourished in his four years in a Beavers uniform, leading MSU in scoring during his junior and senior seasons. As a junior, Regier tallied 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) before recording 46 points (27 g, 19 a) in his senior year and being named to the inaugural ACHA All Star game.
Regier also met his future wife, Ashley, during his senior year. Knowing that she wanted to stay in Minot, Regier applied for an opening at the college as a Canadian admissions counselor. Not only did Regier get the position, but his former coach, Sheldon Schneider, offered him a job as an assistant coach for the Beavers.
"Hockey wasn't still going to be part of my life, but then all the sudden it was," Regier said. "I absolutely loved my time as an assistant coach."
For the next two years, Regier served as an assistant coach under Schneider, learning the technical and business side of operating a hockey program.
"You learn about systems and things like that, but as an assistant coach you really learn the reality of handling personnel," Regier said. "It's handling your players. Trying to figure out what motivates guys."
Regier considers himself to be a player's coach. Being only in his late 20s, he feels like he is able to understand the pressures that his players go through on a regular basis. The connection Regier has with his players generates mutual respect from both parties.
Regier took over the head coaching duties prior to the 2010-11 season when Schnieder became the fourth president of the Minot State hockey board of directors. Regier wasted little time turning the Beavers into a title contender, coaching his team to a 27-3-3 record and the sixth seed in the 16-team national tournament during his first season.
MSU suffered a first-round upset to Oakland that season, but came back the following year as the seventh seed in the newly-expanded 20-team tournament. The Beavers won their first two games before falling to Lindenwood in the quarterfinals.
Regier attributed the team's success with the ability to recruit.
"Recruiting is everything," Regier said. "For me the biggest thing has been to build relationships with coaches I recruit from, whether it be junior colleges or junior hockey. If you want to be a top-end program, you have to bring in kids that have played some serious Junior A hockey."
Regier and his staff go head-to-head with several Division III programs trying to recruit the same players. While the thought of playing for an NCAA program is enticing, Regier said the rising cost to attend private institutions makes Minot State a more affordable option for recruits.
"The word 'club' certainly hurts from (a recruiting) aspect, but the kids that actually come here realize we are not even close to a club," Regier said. "We are a full-fledged organization that runs just like any Division III program."
Despite all the on-ice success as MSU's coach, Regier said he gets the most enjoyment from seeing his players graduate and transition into the next phases of their lives, getting married and starting a family.
"It's been a bit of a whirlwind life, but I've enjoyed my time here," Regier said.