NA Now: Minnesota Magicians
The NA Now series features a look at all teams in the NAHL for the 2021-22 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Nick Bydal (1st Season)
2020-21 record: 48 GP, 24-21-3, 51 pts. (3rd in the Midwest Division)
2020-21 leading scorer: Luc Laylin (38 points)
2021 Playoffs: Lost in the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals to the Aberdeen Wings, 2 games to 0
2021-22 Division: Midwest
First regular season game: Friday, September 10th vs. Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Home opener: Friday, September 10th vs. Fairbanks Ice Dogs
It was a year to remember for the Magicians in 2020-21 under first year head coach and former NAHL and NHL defenseman Stu Bickel. Despite finishing 3rd during the regular season in the Midwest Division, the Magicians found some magic during the Robertson Cup Playoffs. The club went up to Fairbanks and swept the Ice Dogs in three games, which was followed by a 3-2 series win over the Kenai River Brown Bears in the Midwest Division Finals to claim their first ever trip to the Robertson Cup Championship.
At the Robertson Cup, the hometown Magicians struggled to find the back of the net and were swept by the Aberdeen Wings in two games by scores of 5-1 and 2-1. However, the season was a success for the Magicians, who ended the season with 16 players committed to play NCAA hockey.
The off-season brought some change to the organization as Bickel would end up taking a job in the American Hockey League (AHL) as an assistant with the Springfield Thunderbirds. Long time General Manager and Assistant Coach Gavin Bickford also took another position. So, for the second time in as many years, the Magicians were on the lookout for a new head coach and turned to a familiar face to lead the way.
On June 28th, former Magicians Assistant Coach Nick Bydal was hired as the team’s next head coach. Most recently, Bydal, who also played in the NAHL, served as the Assistant Coach at the University of St. Thomas Men’s Hockey team from 2017-2021. He also served as the Assistant Coach for the Magicians from 2014-16 before taking his first Head Coaching position with College Station in the NA3HL.
“I’m excited to be back in junior hockey. Playing 60 games in the NAHL compared to 25 games in the NCAA is a big difference. I think in junior hockey, there is a lot more turnover on rosters and you are always trying to improve your line-up. In the NCAA, you have guys for 4-5 years and there is basically no in-season movement. I am excited to be back with the Magicians organization and continue the momentum established from last season’s run. We are in a great spot and I look forward to continuing with that success,” said Bydal.
Bydal immediately got to work, which included running the Magicians draft and tryout camps. Several key pieces from the 2020-21 squad were gone and there were many areas to address. “We had to address our back end in the off-season. We lost all of our goaltending and almost our entire defensive corps from last season. It was a big focus of ours in the draft. We had to build a core,” said Bydal. “We have a good group of forwards returning, so that should help, but our defense will be entirely new.”
The Magicians do have some key returners to the line-up, specifically on offense. That includes Gavin Best (16 points), Lucas Kanta (15 points), Robert Christy (12 points), Spencer Light (7 points), and Mason Hendrickson (7 points). Christy and Best will both be entering their third seasons with the Magicians in the NAHL. The lone defenseman returning is Will Svenddal, who had 7 points in 41 games played last season.
The Magicians will be in a new-look Midwest Division, which includes the addition of their in-state rival, the Minnesota Wilderness, in addition to the return of Springfield and the addition of Anchorage. “It will be great to play the Wilderness some more. We have had a great rivalry with them over the years and now that they are in our division, it should just add to it. All teams in the Midwest have been good in recent years and you don’t know what you are going to get with Anchorage, but we are excited to have them in the division,” said Bydal.
“This team had great run last year, so that would be nice to get back there again and try and win the Cup. I think getting back there is the main goal for us this year. I think the more immediate goals is the make sure we quickly gel as a team. We are still building the team and unsure right now of all the puzzle pieces, so that’s basically what the month of September is all about,” said Bydal.
Next up: Minnesota Wilderness