|Pat Christman/The Free Press|
Sure, Minnesota State has been going through limited preseason practices since mid-September and Hastings has been on the job since mid-April. But Saturday was the national start day for men's college hockey, and Hastings was going to get two full practices with his team.
"To me it's different," Hastings said.
The Mavericks held a two-hour morning practice at All Seasons Arena and are scheduled to have an evening session on Saturday night.
"It was a good day," Hastings said. "Obviously, there are a lot of things we've got to work on, but the leaders did a good job making sure the guys were ready to go."
All but two players were on the ice Saturday. Missing were senior forward Eriah Hayes, who was excused for a family obligation, and sophomore defenseman Mat Knoll, who is out with an eye injury.
For the rest of the players, some said Saturday gave them a different feeling, too.
"There's been a learning curve (in the preseason)," said sophomore forward Chase Grant, who is returning from a season in which he missed all but five games. "But today there are no excuses. ... I'm not saying (Hastings) is more strict, but expectations are higher."
Junior forward Johnny McInnis said things have been "definitely amped up a bit."
That's true on the practice sheet as well as the season, as the Mavericks will play an exhibition game at 5:07 p.m. Sunday at the Verizon Wireless Center.
Despite it being the first day of the season, several teams are in action already Saturday night with exhibitions, including WCHA teams Michigan Tech, Minnesota, North Dakota, Denver, Wisconsin and Alaska Anchorage. The Gophers are playing Lethbridge, MSU's opponent on Sunday.
Be sure to check out Sunday's edition of The Free Press for more stories, including a long piece on Hastings' 25-year journey from a student-assistant to head coach of the Mavericks.