MANKATO — For the first time since spring of 2008, Mike Hastings ran a practice as a head coach.
“It’s really nice to be handling it again,” Minnesota State’s men’s hockey coach said on Monday afternoon.
The official start of the season isn’t until Oct. 6, but the preseason started this week with coaches allowed two hours per week on the ice with their full teams.
Hastings ran the high-energy, 40-minute practice at All Seasons Arena, the first of three practices scheduled for this week.
“For me, I’m still learning about the team, and they’re still learning about how things are going to be done,” said Hastings, who was hired by MSU in April.
Hastings spent the last three seasons as the associate head coach at Nebraska Omaha and one year prior to that as an assistant at Minnesota. Before that, he was the head coach for Omaha Lancers of the junior-level United States Hockey League.
“Now we’re getting into it,” Hastings said. “For me, it’s like being in a new neighborhood. We’ve had some time together. I’ve had some experience with (the players) in the weight room and watched them in the weight room. Since school started, I’ve been around them more, and I’m enjoying that.”
Hastings said he wants the Mavericks to play an aggressive style, both offensively and defensively, and much of Monday’s practice focused on that.
“We’ve got a long way to go to play that type of style,” he said. “You have to be in elite shape, and we’re not there yet. ...
“But I like the group; I like what I see.”
Hastings said team captains haven’t been voted upon yet, but he expects to lean on his seniors for leadership. That group includes last year’s captain, defenseman Tyler Elbrecht, as well as forwards Eriah Hayes and Eli Zuck, defenseman Evan Mosey and goaltender Phil Cook.
The Mavericks will play an exhibition game against the University of Lethbridge on Oct. 7 and will start the regular season Oct. 12-13 at Alabama-Huntsville. Minnesota State’s home opener is Oct. 19-20 against Rensselaer.