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A conversation with Wyatt Waselenchuk

Alex Eisen/MDN Coach Wyatt Waselenchuk stands on the bench behind the Minot State men's hockey team during the 2019 ACHA National Tournament championship game at the Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas.

Wyatt Waselenchuk is the newly named assistant coach for the Minot Minotauros. The native of Port Moody, British Columbia, previously was the goaltending coach for the Minotauros and an assistant coach for the Minot State men’s hockey team.

Waselenchuk was the Beavers starting netminder when MSU won its first ACHA national title in 2013. He is also the current owner and head instructor of Accel Goaltending.

The Minot Daily News chatted with Waselenchuk recently about his new job, the 2013 national title run and the evolution of goaltending. Some responses are edited for brevity and clarity.

MDN: Let’s start with you moving up and taking the assistant coach role with the Minot Minotauros. How big of a change is that going to be for you?

WW: For me, it was a little bit of a shock when Marty (Murray) departed. That took us all by surprise. He traveled around for many, many years playing professional hockey, and it sounded like they were set in Minot. But, that being said, for him and his family to move to a place where he is going to be a part of one of the best junior hockey franchises in North America, that was obviously a hard decision to pass up.

Next up in line was myself and Shane (Wagner) with (Minotauros owner) Brad (Porter) asking us to expand our roles. After talking it over with my family and (MSU head coach) Wade (Regier) as well as Shane, I thought it was a good time.

I’ve had four great years as an assistant coach with Minot State, and I think it was time to move on to a level where you are dealing with kids who have NCAA Division I aspirations and professional hockey aspirations.

That is not to take anything away from Minot State. The program speaks for itself. But I think it was time for a new challenge.

That said, a huge part of my negotiation was to stay onboard with Minot State. That program is always going to be dear to my heart. So, our plan moving forward is to keep on working with them in any capacity that I can. I’ll try to be there almost every practice, the odd game and hopefully get to the national tournament.

It all came about quick, but I’m thankful for the opportunity.

MDN: What was it like working with Marty Murray?

WW: It was awesome. From Day 1, he made me feel so comfortable. Four years ago was my first year as any sort of hockey coach. I had been running my hockey schools for a couple of years, but I jumped right on the bench in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). For him to have that confidence in me meant a lot.

It’s tough looking into the future and thinking about showing up to the rink every day and not seeing him there. I’ve learned so much from him. Never did I show up and feel like I was answering to a boss. It became a great friendship for me, so I’m a little disappointed to see him move on. But, hopefully, we can continue on with the legacy he built here in Minot.

MDN: How difficult is it going to be to spend less time with the Minot State men’s hockey program?

WW: That’s going to be tough, for sure. Those kids are super close to me. I was there for four years as a player, so I know what it’s all about. Those 12- to 18-hour bus rides are something that I’ll even miss. But, as I said earlier, I still plan to be around those guys all year long. I will certainly be a familiar face in that locker room. There is a big core of players that I’m excited about, and the recruiting class that Wade (Regier) has been piecing together looks absolutely unbelievable.

Tough, for sure, but I’m just moving down the hallway. I won’t be too far away.

MDN: Going back to the 2013 ACHA National Tournament, what do you remember about that experience?

WW: It was the highlight of my hockey career. We had a fantastic team that year. I remember the build-up. That was a time back then that we were on the rise as a program, but still not getting the credit we probably deserved. I think we beat the No. 1 team in the country three times that season. We never got higher than third (in the rankings).

So, I think we had a chip on our shoulders. Once we got to the tournament, it felt like it was ours from the get-go. It was something really special to be a part of.

MDN: Any other favorite memories from your playing days?

WW: It was a fantastic honor to be named to the World University Games team during my senior year. We went to Italy with USA hockey, and they treated us so well. It’s something I will always remember.

MDN: What’s your vision for Accel Goaltending?

WW: It’s something that I have built from the ground up. This will be our seventh summer now. It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. I graduated from school and had no real plan on doing anything that was on-ice hockey related. I got a bachelor’s degree in corporate fitness and was training hockey players and goalies in a gym back in Vancouver.

I worked with a goalie coach back home for a few months, and I fell in love with it. I figured I was personable enough and had enough connections to make a run at this on my own. Maybe I was a little naive and had nothing to lose.

Now we work with 250 goalies a year over 6-8 camps, and it’s something I look forward to continuing on growing with.

MDN: Who do you think is the best goalie of all-time?

WW: That’s a hard question.

I find there are two different eras, maybe even three. Goaltending now is so different compared to the 60s or the 70s, where guys weren’t even wearing masks. A good goals against average then was probably hovering around four. Now, guys are under a two goals against average.

So, anybody that has been at the top of the list — guys like Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy or Dominik Hasek — you can’t discredit anything that those guys have done. But today’s goaltenders are just unbelievable.

They move like they are 5-foot-10, and all of them are 6-foot-4 and above. It’s such a strong position in the game of hockey right now. It’s tough to beat any of those guys night in and night out.

I honestly don’t think I could tell you that I had a favorite goalie growing up, or who is the best. I love different goalies for the styles that they play. There are 1,000 different ways to stop a puck. That’s the fun part of it for me as a coach now.

MDN: What do think will be the next evolution for goaltenders? What do you think the future holds for the position?

WW: I don’t know. There is a lot of talk about equipment and things like that. But, the guys just get bigger and bigger, and stronger and stronger.

From my era, the goalie pads have shrunk 10% at least. I think the chest protectors and pants have shrunk like 30% in the last five years. But, the goalies still get better and better. So, I don’t know.

I also don’t think you go any bigger with the net or anything like that.

I will say this, and I believe this was a (former New York Rangers head coach) Alain Vigneault quote talking about Henrik Lundqvist. You can try to shrink the equipment all you want or make the net bigger, but every day a goalie is out there with a goalie coach. He is working on his craft every day, working with somebody like myself. He said, there is not a lot of players on his roster who are putting in that same time.

Part of it is the equipment. I get that. Part of it is getting bigger and stronger athletes. But, at the end of the day in the game of hockey, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody that puts more time into their craft than a goalie.

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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