Beavers enter second half of 2020-21 season riding hot start
Emotions were at a high for the Minot State Beavers’ men’s hockey team Jan. 14, when the final buzzer sounded on the home squad’s 8-1 victory over Williston State at Maysa Arena. The Beavers had just returned from a lengthy holiday break, taking the ice for the first time since their 5-1 win over Jamestown on Dec. 5.
If you ask head coach Wade Regier and the rest of the team, as with any other high school, college or professional team fortunate enough to be playing right now, they are just grateful for each and every game.
“They feel honored and privileged,” Regier said of his team. “They don’t take it for granted that they’re playing. Normally guys don’t think about those types of things, but they have and I think that has fueled our practice and our motivation and our workouts.”
The players, not unlike the coaches and the rest of the staff, have to be on alert and near their phones constantly. Circumstances amid the COVID-19 pandemic can change without warning. Regier recalled back to around Thanksgiving last year, when another opportunity to play materialized seemingly out of thin air.
“All of a sudden I got a text from Williston State’s coach Thursday morning,” he remembered. “He said, ‘they’ve got COVID-related issues in Bismarck, would you guys want to play a game?’ So I’m texting the players, saying ‘boys, we’re playing on Saturday.’ They were all for it. That part of it has been really exciting, to see that type of motivation.”
Regier made sure to heap credit onto the staff at Minot State, as well. The university’s testing program has been a major key in the team’s ability to continue the season.
It helps that Minot State has been the hub in Minot for the general public’s access to free COVID-19 tests. After a pre-registration, people can receive a free test on campus on pre-selected dates twice per week.
Now that the team is able to compete with peace of mind about the student-athletes’ safety, they have come out of the gate hot. The Beavers won their first four games of the season before falling to Jamestown in a slim 6-5 home defeat. The team shook off the loss and rattled off five more wins before suffering two close losses to the Jimmies last week.
According to Regier, continuity has been the biggest factor in the team’s success this season.
“We’ve won two national titles here in the last six or seven years and a lot of our guys are still on the roster who were on our 2019 National Championship team,” Regier continued. “Those guys know what it takes, what it takes to prepare ourselves in practice and then prepare ourselves for games, and that’s been a big start in the fall, and hopefully that’s going to be contributing what leads us in the Spring.”
Regier gushed about a few of his younger players who have impressed since joining the program as incoming freshmen, as well. He was very pleased with the job the school did in its latest recruiting class, and players like Dylan Cassie, Brayden Pawluk and Nick Doyle have locked down the blue line for Minot State. The trio came out of junior hockey in Canada as 21-year-old freshmen, and as far as Regier is concerned, have not shown any signs of “freshmen jitters.”
Then you add Carter Barley to that mix. The 6’2″ forward has taken the conference by storm, leading his team in total scoring with 17 points and potting six goals of his own through the team’s first 12 games.
“That’s just remarkable to see a freshman be able to play that well offensively,” Regier said of Barley. “We feel like with our recruiting class, we hit some home runs with that, and that really complements the guys we have returning.”
As the season barrels on, Regier and his team have one expectation: Win. No matter what, the team expects to win every time it steps on the ice.
“We feel like we’re the Duke of our level,” he said. “Our plan is to go out and be a top-five team going into the national tournament and be playing our best in the end. That’s going to be the challenge, and that’s certainly what we expect with our culture and our program.”