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Magi hockey relying on youth, upperclassmen

Jimmy Lafakis/MDN Minot High junior forward Ashton Hillman skates down the ice during a practice. The Magi will host Mandan at 7:30 p.m. this evening.

Nicholas Murphy has his sights set on the future.

After enduring a mercurial 2018-19 season, Murphy and his Minot High School boys hockey teammates are aiming for greater heights. The Magicians bring a blend of young talent and veteran experience to the ice this year.

“As long as you work hard, you have a chance to win every game,” said Murphy, a right wing. “The Magi have a tradition. We look forward to carrying that tradition on to a WDA championship this year.”

Last time around, the Magi finished 12-13 (8-6 WDA). Minot finished third in the WDA Tournament before losing in the first round of the state tournament to Fargo Davies.

“We learned how to compete every game,” MHS co-head coach Jason Bennett said. “We weren’t the most talented team. We didn’t have a ton of seniors, so the young kids had to step up. We threw them into the fire last year. We got to watch them grow and mature as hockey players, and I think you’re going to see that early this year.”

Murphy and fellow senior forwards Payton Philion and Jack Plemel give the Magi weapons up front, while senior defenseman Joshua Drady will hold down the back line.

In addition to that quartet, the Magi have a wealth of juniors at their disposal. According to Bennett, Minot brings back 10 forwards from last season.

The vast majority of those forwards are part of Minot’s deep junior class. In addition, junior goalkeeper Tre’ Sortland will start between the posts.

“These guys are hard workers,” Bennett said. “We’ve got no Wayne Gretzky superstars in the group. We’ve got a bunch of kids who all battle hard and work every day. That’s what I think makes it special. I think it’s a pride thing.”

In the midst of the long hockey season, the Magi have found ways to unwind. Murphy said the teammates will play ping-pong and host movie nights in the locker room.

The teammates are working their way through the Star Wars Saga during those movie nights.

“They’re a pretty tight-knit group,” MHS co-head coach John Grubb said. “Hopefully, they find a way to play for each other and play for their school. Over the course of the season, they have a chance to do some really good things and make it interesting for themselves late in the year.”

Minot won its second-ever state championship in 2015 and captured a WDA championship in 2016. There’s no substitute for lessons learned in the postseason, and Murphy wants to build off of last year.

“We got the experience from the state tournament,” Murphy said. “We realized that we can hang in there with any team. I’m looking forward to being a leader in the locker room and on the ice. I’m trying to put up some points.”

The Magi will host Mandan at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Maysa Arena for their season-opener.

“If the seniors can improve on their numbers from last year, that’s really going to help our group as the rest of the team comes along,” Grubb said.” “We’re super-excited to get going. I think we’ve been practicing forever. We’re excited to get the first game under our belts and get going.”

Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.

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