The Minot State University men's club hockey players aren't shy about speaking their goals for this season.
"We're going in with the mentality that we need to win every game this year," said Nigel Dube, a senior captain.
Minot native and senior Brett Fiddler believes the Beavers are national-champion material.
Minot State University freshman Sam Benson takes a shot from the opposite side of the rink Wednesday at Maysa Arena.
"We for sure are going to nationals this year, no doubt about it," Fiddler said. "Anything less than higher than last year will be doubtful. We really think we can win it this year and that's our goal from day one."
The season begins at 5 tonight when No. 7 MSU hosts No. 10 Iowa State at Maysa Arena.
The Beavers finished No. 5 in the American Collegiate Hockey Association after losing in a national quarterfinal in March.
The team lost just two players to graduation and brings back a loaded roster, bolstered by a strong recruiting class and a familiar transfer.
Minot native Jordan Willert will play his final collegiate season with MSU after three with NCAA Division I Nebraska-Omaha. Willert returned home following the Souris River Flood and didn't play hockey last season.
MSU coach Wade Regier expects Willert to be among the team's top scorers.
"He decided that 'I'm so close to finishing up and Minot State has the (education) degree,' and we convinced him to say, 'Hey, one more year of eligibility.' " Regier said. "We'll take it kind of like a late draft (pick) or late trade."
The Beavers also return the team's top scorer in junior Josh Rutherford, who scored 27 goals and added 28 assists last season. Dube had 15 points and impressed Regier with his leadership.
"Off the ice, (Dube) wants to take more control of the strength and conditioning and he really wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach," Regier said. "The other thing too is he really wants to hit the community outreach."
The Beavers will miss Danny Urban (31 points) and top defender Kenny Lybeck, but expect freshman defensemen Bob Pond (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and Dallas Drysdale (6-5, 220) to immediately make an impact. Both have Junior A experience.
"I think both have been on championship teams and both have had big playoff runs," Regier said. "So we're gonna be leaning on them to really anchor our back end as young freshmen and expect to take a lot of minutes right away."
Junior goaltender Wyatt Waselenchuk will start for MSU tonight. He was the go-to goalie a year ago, though sophomore Riley Hengen has positioned himself for playing time as well, Regier said.
The Cyclones beat the Beavers twice in Ames last season and are also expected to make a strong run at the national title this year. Alan Murdoch is in his 43rd season as ISU coach and remembers his team's stable play leading to victories over the Beavers.
"It'll be a great measure for us and obviously it's the first road trip of the year," Murdoch said. "It's a good way to find out what we're made of."
Said Dube: "Well, they're a well-coached team. Murdoch's been around for years and year and years, so their systems are gonna be really tight and we just gotta capitalize on their turnovers. It's gonna be one of those things that's down to who makes the least amount of turnovers is gonna win the hockey game."
The Beavers' schedule also includes home games against No. 4 Arizona State and No. 19 Arizona to close the regular season in mid-February. MSU will be challenged on the road in January at both Arizona schools and will face other ranked opponents early next month at the ACHA Showcase in Springfield, Ill.
Defending national champion Delaware starts the season ranked No. 1 followed by Lindenwood (Mo.) and the University of Ohio.