Since given the keys to the Minot's boys hockey program nine years ago, never has Chad Burckhard dealt with this much depletion.
The graduation of six seniors coupled with the loss of junior Mason Morelli to the Minot Minotauros was enough to spark the notion of a rebuilding year. But those weren't the only losses.
Both of Burckhard's goalies from last season opted not to come out.
MDN File Photo
Quinn Fuchs (9) is one of the many underclassmen that litter the Minot High boys hockey team’s roster.
And even at the start of the season, the oh-so-green Magicians couldn't evade an injury bug that kept them from competing at full strength.
A glance at the West Region standings, however, would suggest young Minot has worked through those maladies with relative ease.
The Magicians (9-5-1, 7-3) have won three of their last four games in convincing fashion - a combined score of 22-8 - and are just three points out of first place.
"It just tells you about their work ethic and buying into the system," Burckhard said. "It's a very mature, young hockey team. They've grown throughout the maturation process."
A key cog in Minot's recent surge is junior Hayden Schwarz.
Schwarz, who'd played mostly defense up until January, was moved to the Magicians' frontline and has made a seamless transition. He recorded a hat trick in a win over first-place Bismarck Century last week and scored all seven of his goals the last four games.
"His scoring has been a huge addition," Burckhard said. "We've put him up on the front line and he's done really well."
Staying healthy hasn't hurt Minot, either.
Brent Williams and Jake Smith, two of the more experienced players on the roster, have shaken off concussion that kept them out for a month.
"It's too hard to balance your line when you have injuries," Schwarz said. "But now that most our players (are healthy) it's helped."
But while the upstart Schwarz, Matt Floms (18 goals) and Quinn Fuchs (30 points) have been a boost offensively, Breydan Effertz has been a pleasant surprise in the crease for Minot.
The sophomore's varsity debut includes being the ninth-ranked goalie in the state and posting an 8-4 record.
The Magicians sit in third place in the West Region standings as they head into the final five games of the regular season. Mathematically they have an outside chance of winning the region title, but the goal is a No. 2 seed and a bye at next month's regional tournament.
"Seven of the nine teams in our region have a chance to earn a berth to state," Burckhard said. "We need to be playing our best hockey at that time."
Minot travels to Mandan tonight for a 7:30 matchup.
Minot-Turtle Mountain match highly anticipated
A year ago, Minot ended its dual with region foe Turtle Mountain in a 34-34 deadlock at Belcourt.
The Braves won the tiebreaker, though, and the Magicians' seniors haven't forgotten about it.
So when the two teams lock up on Friday night at 7:30 at Magic City Campus on what will also be Senior Night and Cancer Awareness night, it could be a donnybrook.
"It's going to be electric," Minot coach Nolan Sooner said. "Our kids remember how things ended last year. Both teams have a good following. It will be a lot of fun."
The Magicians will be doing their annual Cancer Awareness night, with each wrestler donning a pink ribbon. Proceeds from the match and t-shirt sales will go to cancer patient in need.
A couple marquee matches will also highlight the dual.
Third-ranked Grant Laducer (132 pounds) of Turtle Mountain will take on No. 4 Jesse Hoffart, second-ranked Brandon Rodriquez (182) faces third-ranked Dayne Haman and third-ranked Nick Nesdahl (285) will take on No. 6 Tyson Keplin.
"There's going to be some good matches," Spooner said.