Defending national champs ready to kick off season

From Minot Daily News

By MSU Athletics


While the memory still lingers of the Beavers hosting the ACHA National Championship trophy, Minot State men’s hockey coach Wyatt Waselenchuk is already looking ahead to another challenging season.

That season begins this weekend for the now three-time ACHA National Champions who play an exhibition game at Regina on Friday and Briercrest on Saturday to usher in their title defense.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Waselenchuk said of heading into the season as the defending champs, adding, “there’s two parts to it, there’s the excitement around here about winning last season, raising the banner and all the fun stuff that comes with that, and there’s also the coach in me that says last year is last year.”

And while many players return from last year’s National Championship team – five defensemen, nine forwards, and three goalies – the Beavers also add seven new players, as well.

A team mixed with new and old also knows nothing comes easy and you can’t rest on what the team has already done.

“Nobody ever likes Minot State, nobody ever likes this program,” Coach Waselenchuk said. “…When you’re prolifically at the top of the heap, everybody’s always gunning for you … we wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I think we use that as motivation.

“Whenever you’re wearing that Beaver you’re getting the best from whoever is coming into this building or wherever you’re going, and like I said, I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”

That starts with two tough teams in the Cougars on Friday night, and the Clippers on Saturday.

Regina (1-1 overall) comes in already having tested its team, splitting last weekend at the University of Saskatchewan, while the Clippers will be making their season debut. Last season, Briercrest split a pair of exhibition games with the Beavers at the Maysa Arena.

“Being a competitive guy, there’s no such thing as an exhibition game for me,” Waselenchuk said. “It’s going to be a tall, tall task, especially our first one. It’ll be a tough feeler-out-game for sure.”

“It’ll be some stiff competition there … but there’s no other way I’d want it, you want to play some tough teams off the bat and gauge where your team is at.”

And you don’t need to wonder if the players will be ready.

“Three weeks of hitting each other, I think it definitely gets a little tiresome so we’re definitely ready to play a team with a different jersey, for sure.”

This year’s team returns plenty of talent, including new captain Carter Barley, assistant captains Reid Arnold, Jay Buchholz, and Christian Kadolph, and starting goalie Jake Anthony.

Barley is a senior forward who was the ACHA Rookie of the Year back in 2020-21 and is the team’s all-time leader in assists with 83 – and counting – in his career. He also has 52 goals in 105 career games.

Buchholz is a Minot Minotauros product and forward now in his third season with the team. Named to the 2021-22 ACHA All-Tournament Team, Buckholz has 24 goals and 31 assists in 53 career games.

Arnold is a junior forward who has 17 goals and 26 assists in 71 career games, and helping anchor the defense is Kadolph, a sophomore who had nine goals and 17 assists in his debut season last winter.

As for Anthony, now a junior, he went 25-3 last season which included a pair of shutout wins at nationals, including 19 saves in the 1-0, championship-game victory.

“We have such a great core of returning players,” Waselenchuk said, “We are probably as deep as we’ve probably ever been.”

With that depth, it made recruiting a bit easier for Waselenchuk, who has been part of all three Beaver national titles, winning his first as a player, his second as an assistant coach, and last season in his second season as head coach.

Bringing in seven new recruits – including a pair with local ties who played junior hockey for the Minotauros – the Beavers coach is excited about the prospects of the team he can put on the ice.

“Guys spots are there for the taking in terms of being in there every night, even as a freshman. That’s what you want, recruits that are eager and itching to contribute from day one,” Waselenchuk said, adding the team will only sit one defenseman, one forward, and one goalie each night in reserve.

Six-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman Ben Johnson and 6-0, 185-pound forward Colby Johnson each stay in town after playing the last two seasons with the Minot Minotauros, while 6-1, 175-pound forward Walker Jerome and 6-0, 170-pound forward Trenton Curtis also bring in some prolific offensive talents. Jerome had 32 goals and 68 assists in 125 games over three seasons with the La Ronge Ice Wolves, and Curtis scored 30 goals and added 59 assists in 104 games in three seasons with the Ice Wolves.

While the Beavers open with exhibition games in Canada this weekend, the season starts in earnest Friday and Saturday, Sept. 22-23, in Lynchburg, Virgina playing rival Liberty University. The Beavers eliminated the Flames 3-2 in overtime in the national semifinals back in March.

Minot State is back in North Dakota on Wednesday, Sept. 27, playing at Jamestown, then the Beavers finally make their home debut at Maysa Arena on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29-30, hosting Liberty at 7:30 p.m. both nights.

(Originally published at