Beavers set to raise championship banner Saturday

There are 16 championship banners that hang in Maysa Arena’s Eck Rink.

On Saturday, the Minot State University men’s club hockey team will make it 17 when it raises its 2012-13 national championship banner prior to the start of its contest against the University of Central Oklahoma at 7:30 p.m. The teams open the two-game series in Minot at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

“We’re pretty pumped,” MSU coach Wade Regier said. “We’re excited for a number of reasons. One, we’re playing against a quality team that’s had some big wins already this year. When the banner’s raised, it’s permanent. It’s something you can always remember and see in the arena every time you come here, not only for the guys that were on the team, but alumni who laid the foundation years ago.”

Regier said the banner was made by the same company who worked on the Los Angeles Kings’ 2011-12 NHL Stanley Cup banner. It will be double-sided and hang over center ice.

“We’re really excited for that,” MSU senior forward Jared McIntosh said. “New guys coming in get to see what we did last year and the older guys coming back get to see what we’ve done and what they started.”

UCO looks to spoil the Beavers’ championship party and continue its run of impressive victories. The 14th-ranked Bronchos (4-1) knocked off No. 4 Adrian College (Mich.) on Sept. 25 and shut out No. 3 Lindenwood University (Mo.) on Saturday.

“They’re a well-coached team and they had a really good recruiting class the past year,” Regier said. “More importantly, they’re hungry to avenge last year’s early exit (in the national tournament). One of the things they did do was recruit some size. They got pushed around in the past and now they’ve really bulked up, especially on the back end. They are a very hard-working bunch.”

Of the eight freshmen UCO coach Craig McAlister recruited for this season, five stand at least 6-foot-1. Regier said the Bronchos’ physical nature is similar to Briercrest College (Sask.), a team the Beavers swept in four exhibition games in September.

The Beavers eliminated UCO in the first round of the national tournament last year with a 5-0 victory. In the last three meetings, MSU outscored the Bronchos 14-1.

UCO sophomores Rylan Duley and Riley Spraggs have combined for 12 goals and three hat tricks in five games this season. Duley has a point in all five games.

“We’ll probably look at their top line and try and shut them down,” MSU sophomore forward Brett Nespor said. “If we play our team game, we should be OK.”

The Bronchos head into Friday’s contest with momentum, while the Beavers had the weekend off to work on their conditioning. MSU hopes the extra practice leads to early offensive production. The Beavers started slow in their last three games, failing to record a goal in the first period during that stretch.

“With the weekend we have coming up, we’ll have a lot of excitement going and hopefully we’ll put a few in the net,” McIntosh said. “Get a little less grip on the stick and go from there.”

Despite the Beavers’ recent success against UCO, Regier said they can’t take the Bronchos lightly.

“We’re going to have to be ready because they are a good team and, for our guys, they can’t remember what happened last year because they’re a new team,” Regier said.

Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot Minotauros and the Minot State University men’s club hockey team. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.