The ‘24 in 24’ series features an in-depth look into all 24 NAHL teams, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season on Saturday, September 8th.
‘24 in 24’ will go in-depth into each NAHL team and will include interview with all 24 NAHL head coaches as they prognosticate and break down their outlook for the upcoming season.
One of the newest additions to the NAHL last season, the Minot Minotauros began the season with a nice amount of optimism and excitement surrounding the new team. However, before they even touched the ice, the Minotauros players felt an immediate sense of urgency within their new community that was completely unrelated to hockey when they arrived in town for the first time. A devastating flood had enveloped most the “Magic City” in July of 2011 and left thousands of people without homes. Minot was never the same and the Minotauros players saw the devastation first hand. More than 4,000 homes were destroyed and the floods left over 12,000 people with no place to call home. In total, the Souris River flood of 2011 did more than $691 million in damages to buildings and contents in the basin.
Despite all the devastation, the “Magic City” immediately supported the Minotauros as their new hometown team. “The residents of North Dakota have a great work ethic, resolve and welcomed its own into the homes of friends and families, including our players,” said Minot head coach Marty Murray. “I think the town was able to rally around the team and show tremendous support despite the tough season we had on the ice. Our home games gave the community an outlet to have some fun and forget about the tough situation they were in, even if it was for only a few hours. Our fans were terrific the entire year and made a lot of sacrifices. It just goes to show the great character of the citizens of this community.”
It wasn’t an easy season for Murray and the Minotauros on the ice either. Murray started out as the assistant coach, but in late January a change was made behind the bench after the Minotauros won just four of their first 43 regular season games and Murray took over as the head coach. Murray guided the Minotauros to three more wins the remainder of the season, including late-season upsets in Alexandria against the Blizzard and in Austin against the Bruins.
“I give the kids a lot of credit for playing hard every night, because they could have mailed it in being out of the playoff race so early in the season, but we gave some teams some tough games and managed to win a few here and there especially late in the season. I was proud of the way we finished the season and fought through some of the adversity we had. Every coach wants his players to work hard, compete and get better and I think our guys did that the entire season and never gave up,” said Murray.
Murray, a former NHL player, said he learned a lot in his first year coaching in the NAHL. “I think I learned that it takes time to find the right motivation tool for players. Some need to be pushed harder than others and not everyone responds in the same fashion. I want to make sure our guys play the game the right way and get the opportunity to move onto the next levels of hockey,” said Murray.
As Murray was recruiting for the 2012-13 season, he said that the team was looking to upgrade at every position. He also said that the team had to improve its size and toughness. “Every game in our division is a battle because of the close and intense rivalries and I felt we got pushed around a little bit physically last year,” said Murray. “I also feel like we needed to become a team that was able to respond physically, could push the pace of play and force the forecheck on teams, rather than sitting back and waiting for the opponent to come to us. I think we looked for guys who could fill specific roles to some of those issues.”
Murray said that there will be 6-8 returning veterans to the team, including Jadin Martin, the team’s leading scorer from a season ago and forward Tim Donahue is also returning. Muuray said he was excited about the prospect of new additions Darren McCormick from Janesville and Ryan Doner from Fresno, and that both should be able to add some offensive punch. On defense, Bryan McFarlane returns having made big strides last season and between the pipes veteran goaltender Tyler Parks takes over after playing last season for the Springfield Jr. Blues, where he led the team in games played, goals against average and save percentage. 16-year-old Minot native Mason Morelli should also be one of the top prospects in the NAHL after appearing in 11 games with the Minotauros last season.
“All the key veteran players are guys that have a full year of NAHL experience under their belts, who have made big strides and understand what it takes to play at this level,” said Murray. “We like the look of it on paper, but there is a lot to be determined, but no question we are stronger in all areas.”
Next up in the NAHL 24 Teams in 24 Days series, the Michigan Warriors.