With last year’s success winning the MIAC Playoff Championship and advancing to the NCAA Division III Frozen Four Championship in Lake Placid, NY, this year’s Gustavus Men’s Hockey team is eagerly anticipating the start of the season. The Gustavus Men’s Hockey program had lost in the MIAC Quarterfinals the previous two seasons and last won the MIAC Playoff Championship in the 1992-1993 season before last year’s exciting finish.
Needless to say the hockey team is more excited than ever to get back out on the ice and start the season. “I just want to get back at it. After last year I really want to get back to where we were,” Sophomore forward Ross Ring-Jarvi said. “You have to play the whole season but our goals are set as high as they can be.”
Junior goalie Josh Swartout agreed. “It’s just nice to be back and into the hockey mode,” Swartout said.
The first couple weeks back on the ice will be a telling sign as to how the team reacts after their Frozen Four appearance last year. “I’m looking forward to seeing how we respond to last season’s late success, especially early this fall,” Head Coach Brett Petersen said. “[I want to see] if we have any hangover effect because the one thing that will happen for sure is that we won’t be able to sneak up on anybody.”
This year’s squad will greatly benefit from experience, as the Hockey team only graduated three seniors last year and have the largest senior class (by pure numbers) in Petersen’s ten years as the head coach at Gustavus. The whole team is well aware of the parity througout the MIAC and know how to combat it. “We want to be more consistent this year. My previous two years here we have been pretty inconsistent, and we just want to maintain that high level of play throughout the season,” Senior forward David Martinson said.
Nevertheless, the Gustavus Men’s Hockey team doesn’t lack any inspiration to perform well this season. “This season is more motivation since we’ve been to the National Tournament, but we can’t get overconfident. We just have to take it one step at a time and one game at a time,” Swartout said.
As with any start to a season, the Hockey team must welcome the first-year players and help them become acclimated to how the team operates. The winning mentality shared by the whole team in the locker room definitely facilitates the progression of the first-year players.
“It’s a very healthy environment due to the fact that we have good hockey players in our program, but we have better people,” Petersen said. “They help the young guys feel a part of things very early. I lean on my older guys to help with that process and get the younger guys up to speed.”
Despite the Gusties’ finish last season, they haven’t prepared any differently for the beginning of the season. “I think it has been pretty much the same as we prepared last year,” Ring-Jarvi said. “A lot of guys [on the team] trained harder in the off-season because they knew we would be good again this year. We had a really good opportunity [last year], and we want to have that again.”
Petersen noted that the only difference to their preparations this year was the decreased amount of time to get ready for the season. “We’re doing what we normally do early in the year. However, the guys are going through some growing pains. We started on the ice on [Oct.] 15 and play our first game on [Oct.] 31, so it’s not a lot of time to get the team into shape. The only thing we’ve done differently early is to crank up the intensity daily, because we have such a small window of time between our first practice and first game,” Petersen said.
That first game for the Gusties comes against Bethel in the MIAC Showcase at the Bloomington Ice Gardens in Bloomington, MN. The Gusties feel confident about the strength of their team heading into the season. One of its biggest strengths, besides the experience on the team, is the number of quality hockey players and skaters Gustavus has on every one of its lines that takes the ice.
“The strength of our team is pretty much the same as last year in that we have a lot of depth,” Martinson said. “We played four lines almost every game, and most teams are unable to compete with that. We were just able to wear teams out by the end of the game.”
An addition to the season this year, the MIAC Showcase is great exposure for the Conference and Division III hockey. The MIAC Showcase was added to the season because the MIAC had an opportunity to schedule more games within the Conference as a result of fewer games to schedule with non-Conference opponents, especially in Wisconsin.
“The [MIAC] Showcase in Bloomington will be a great event for our league, as all nine teams will play two games over three days. We are back at the Bloomington Ice Gardens where the MIAC used to have an annual Thanksgiving Tournament,” Petersen said. “We wanted to have it at a neutral site in the metro area where most of the teams were close. From a recruiting standpoint, we are hoping to attract a lot of high school players who haven’t begun their season, so they have the chance to watch a lot of college hockey.”
The Gusties will play Bethel on Saturday, Oct. 31 and Augsburg on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009 for the MIAC Showcase. The Gusties’ first home game will be Nov. 14, 2009 against St. Olaf.