From Minot Daily News
By Ryan Ladika
The ACHA is officially on notice.
Now 5-0-0 to start the new season, the No. 1 Minot State men’s hockey club was rewarded for its early efforts this year with the top spot in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s latest rankings released Wednesday.
After earning two-game sweeps of Jamestown and Liberty to begin the slate, the Beavers added to their resume with a comfortable 8-1 road win over Williston State College Oct. 23.
Landyn Cochrane and Carter Barley each potted their respective second goal of the season in a two-goal first period for Minot State before the team broke the game open with six more in the third. Minot State outshot the Tetons 58-17 in total, including a dominant 27-0 mark in the final frame.
There is always room for improvement in the eyes of head coach Wyatt Waselenchuk, though, and he was more concerned with the slower start to the contest than the fast finish.
“We were just sloppy, kind of lazy in our defensive zone and the couple power play opportunities we had we just did nothing with it,” he noted. “We were just going to cruise in and play a Division II team that we should get the best of most nights, and that was the attitude we had for two periods. You can never be too cool to work.”
It has been a common theme for the Beavers not only this season, but throughout the last few years, that no matter who the group is matched up against, they will get up to play Minot State. After the Beavers outshot the Tetons 16-9 in the first frame, Minot State lost the second period 1-0 and held an ever-so-slim 12-11 advantage in the shot column.
It will likely ring true this weekend as well, when the Beavers welcome the University of Illinois to the Maysa Arena for a two-game set Nov. 5-6. Head coach Nick Fabbrini’s Illini are off to a slow start to their fall slate at just 4-9-1 and dropped out of the ACHA’s top-25 Wednesday, but none of that matters to Waselenchuk.
“They’re a top-10 team, I don’t care what anyone says,” he continued. “They went in and beat Iowa State last weekend, who was a top-five team and undefeated. They’re going to be battle-tested and ready to go.”
Waselenchuk warned of the offensive potential of Illinois’ points leader, Kacper Ryba. The 6’1″ forward burst onto the scene with seven points, including six goals, in only two games a year ago, and has broken out with nine more scores and 11 assists in his first 13 games this season.
The Beavers will counter with sophomore forward Carter Barley who, after leading the squad on the point sheet in 2020, holds the same mantle through his first five games with three goals and seven assists. Fellow forward Connor Navrot comes in just behind Barley with six points on the strength of five goals, good for the team-lead in the category.
In preparations for the Illini, Waselenchuk and his coaching staff have also been working with the team in implementing some new systems and re-working the team’s in-game strategy.
“We’ve kept things pretty simple, but teams are too good now,” Waselenchuk added. “They adapt and they watch video on you, and you have to be able to adjust on the fly. Guys have adapted really well and are asking all the right questions, and it’s nice as a coach to implement new things and to see guys succeed with it and now have a few different options.”
With the benefit of ample time off between contests to begin the season, the first-year head coach and his team are looking forward to ramping up the season in its second month, starting with the challenge presented by the Illini.
“I think if anything it was a good thing for us to kind of ease our way into it a little bit and see some good quality opponents,” Waselenchuk continued. “Our freshmen got to see just what kind of hockey college hockey is here, and I’m excited for a really busy and hard-working month of November.”
(Originally published at https://www.minotdailynews.com/sports/local-sports/2021/11/top-ranked-beavers-to-host-illini-for-two/)