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Beavers taking goal-oriented approach, embracing tough upcoming schedule

The Minot State men’s hockey team enters the week ranked No. 1 as they get set to take on in-state rival UMary for a two-game series beginning on Friday.

In a season where the Minot State men’s hockey team is sitting with a perfect 12-0 record and a No. 1 ranking in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) poll, things are looking good yet familiar for the Beavers. Although the team had a similar start to last season, they learned from it and are ready to show growth in 2022.

Part of that growth process this year involves leveling their expectations to avoid overlooking their opponents and knocking themselves off track. A key cog of that process involves small-scale goal setting each week, with specific goals for each opponent during the upcoming series.

“Something that we’ve implemented this year, we sit down as a team and a staff on Monday, and we set goals for the two games coming up on the weekend. That does two things for us, it allows us to not overlook an opponent and allows us to focus on our goals as a team, and it’s something for us to strive for as a team,” head coach Wyatt Waselenchuk tells The Minot Daily News.

Being a more goal-oriented team this year has helped the Beavers remain focused on themselves, their goals, and their process. One part of the process that Waselenchuk noted is he believes the team continues to show a strength in their overall depth and consistency. They never get too down or too high, they always stay consistent.

With an upcoming stretch in the schedule that features in-state rival UMary, then the No. 4 ranked team in Central Oklahoma, the Beavers are going to have to rely on their depth if they want to keep up the pace they are currently playing at. Their goal setting strategy, however, allows them to set realistic expectations for themselves when they face good teams like they have coming up.

For the UMary Marauders, they are an ACHA Division II team that is coming off back-to-back National Championship seasons and they demand a lot of respect out of their opponents. Even though they are in a lower division, Waselenchuk feels like they don’t play like it and it’s only a matter of time before they will be a Division I team. Still, the Marauders being in Division II doesn’t take away from the great rivalry the schools have built.

“Aside from the first time we ever played them when the score got a little out of hand, everything else has been close. They sure get up to play us as we need to to play them. It’s a great rivalry not just among the hockey programs, but it certainly goes a lot deeper for the schools,” he said.

When looking at what both teams bring to the ice, Waselenchuk believes the Beavers’ depth will be of the utmost importance to their success, along with their experience as a team. The combination of those two is something he thinks can help guide the Beavers to victory.

“I think that our depth is pretty good, but they are good, and they have a very good goaltender. They play a very structured team defensive game. For us, it’s the experience we have that helps. The consistency and overall depth we have as a team is something we can hopefully wear them down with this weekend.”

In a split series, the Beavers will get the festivities started when they host the Marauders on Friday with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop. From there, they will head to Mandan to wrap up the series on Saturday at 7 p.m.

The test doesn’t stop there for the Beavers. Once they finish the series with UMary, they will host No. 4 Central Oklahoma the next weekend in what is sure to be another thrilling series that will be not just important for the team, but important for the city of Minot, too.

“Having a team like Central Oklahoma that’s won a couple of National Championships, that’s perennially been at the top and were in the final last year. That’s just fantastic for our program, and for the city of Minot to bring as good of an ACHA team as there is in the country here,” he said.

This will mark the first ranked team the Beavers have played in over a month, which shifts the way they prepare a little bit. The important thing for the Beavers to remember, Waselenchuk shared, is that they can’t let the quality of the opponent intimidate them.

“It’s about knowing we are playing a very good team but not psyching ourselves out about it and not trying to force the envelope or do something or be someone we are not. We need to stick with our core values as a team and we will be just fine, but we are certainly excited to entertain a team like Central Oklahoma here.”

Bringing a different style of play to the ice than UMary, Central Oklahoma is a very gifted offensive team that can do damage and change the outlook of a game from any of their lines they send out. Knowing that, Waselenchuk and the Beavers will bring a different focus to the rink that weekend.

“We are definitely going to be really focused on our defensive zone and the structure we put into place against them, make sure we are matching lines, and always having the best pairing out there that we can,” he said.

In addition to shifting the focus to a more defensive-heavy approach, the Beavers would still like to stick to their overall philosophy of taking care of their net which is something that has worked out well for them this year.

The premier college hockey matchup with Central Oklahoma will begin on Friday, Dec. 9 and conclude on Saturday, Dec. 10. Both games have a 7:30 p.m. puck drop and will take place at the Maysa.

Although this will be the last taste of action for the Beavers until Jan. 6, it’s going to be an exciting time around the program as they gear up for a tough and important stretch of the season. While the team is looking forward to the upcoming matchups, they don’t want to look too far ahead and want to remain focused on what’s in front of them.

“It doesn’t matter what we did yesterday, last weekend, or last month all that matters is the next game ahead of us, the next period ahead of us, the next shift ahead of us.”

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