One look at the Minot High school boys hockey team's roster and it's easy to see why expectations are high.
The Magicians return their top three scorers and No. 1 goaltender from a 17-9-1 campaign that ended with a fifth-place finish at the state tournament.
"We're expecting pretty much everything possible," senior forward Quinn Fuchs said. "Win our first game at state, which has kind of been our monkey. This year we finally have the team and we're able to compete with everyone in the state."
Minot High School senior forward Quinn Fuchs, right, handles the puck as senior defenseman Cayde Enns defends during practice Monday at All Seasons Arena.
Fuchs led the team in scoring with 45 points (8 goals, 37 assists) and was named both all-state and all-West Region. Forwards Matt Flom (24 g, 17 a) and Hayden Schwarz (20 g, 12 a) were Minot's top goal scorers last year.
"We return a lot of players and a lot of veteran experience," MHS coach Chad Burckhard said. "Looking at it on paper going into the season it's pretty promising. We have a really good bantam club that moved up. We feel pretty comfortable where we're at."
The Magicians graduated five seniors and no one was more important to their success last year than Morgen Martelle. Minot's team captain recorded 31 points (10 g, 21 a), but was leaned on more for leadership than scoring.
The Magicians have seven seniors this year, three of which played in all 27 games.
"Our whole senior class is full of leaders," Burckhard said. "We have leaders in the junior class and the sophomores are figuring it out quickly. You can already seem them taking leadership in their own games."
Minot's high-powered offense (4.1 goals per game) is matched defensively with junior goaltender Breydan Effertz between the pipes. The all-region selection won 16 games last year, recording a 2.53 goals against average and an .899 save percentage. Effertz recorded four shutouts and limited five other opponents to a single goal.
"I think we have the best goalie in the state," Fuchs said. "He's capable of anything and he proved that at state. He's one of the best goalies and he'll take us a long way."
The Magicians have had stellar seasons in the past, but the first round of the state tournament has given them fits. In its quest for its first state title since 1992, Minot has lost its last four first-round games dating back to the 2007-08 season. The closest the Magicians came to advancing into the championship bracket was in 2010-11 season, losing 1-0 to West Fargo when Darren Medler - 2011's state senior athlete of the year - was the starting goaltender.
"I'd say after WDA, that's our No. 1 focus is to get past the first round," junior forward Matt Flom said. "We finished strong and we look to improve on that. Instead of losing the first one, maybe win that one and see where it goes from there."
A West Region title would be nice, too. Century thwarted the Magicians' dreams of their first region championship since 2006 each of the last three years. The Patriots topped Minot 4-2 in last year's title game.
"There's five or six capable teams of getting a state tournament berth," Burckhard said. "It's going to be one of those years where injuries and health are going to be a big deal for a lot of us."
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot State University men's club hockey team and the Minot Minotauros. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.