The hunters become the hunted

Hamline’s men’s ice hockey team journeys to the MIAC Showcase, beginning their quest for another championship.


Cole Mayer

Head Coach Cory Laylin returns for his second season coaching the Pipers. He was an assistant with the team from 2008-2010.

Paul Patane, Sports Editor

Expectations weren’t very high around campus when Head Coach Cory Laylin was hired to revamp Hamline’s men’s ice hockey program heading into the 2014-2015 season. The previous staff was gone and the program was sinking, having only won two games the previous season.

The Pipers went on to defy all expectations outside of their own locker room, showing intense work ethic, determination and speed that rivaled or surpassed any conference opponent. The result was a turnaround that included a MIAC championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Fast forward to the 2015-2016 season. Laylin and his staff have returned and so has most of his top talent from last season, including senior forwards Brandon Zurn, Kevin Novakovich and All-American Charlie Adams.

Despite having their continuity intact, members of the program realize they have a tough journey in front of them if they want an opportunity to repeat as conference champions. A journey that requires taking things one day, and one period at a time.

“We’ve got to focus on what we’re going to do in our first game and our first period that we’re going to play here. We don’t look past the edge of our nose,” Laylin said.

Beyond winning, Laylin encourages his players to use their collegiate careers as a platform for future opportunities.

“It’s a new season. No one can be satisfied with a good showing last year; we need to up that. We need to continue to get better. We’ve got guys who want to play beyond college hockey, and for those guys who want to do that this is their platform to spring ahead and really showcase what they can do,” Laylin said.

In addition to top goal scorers, a key player returning this season is junior John Sellie-Hanson, the team’s starting goalie. To add depth at the goaltender position, Laylin brought in first-year USHL player Justin Quale to compete.

Sellie-Hanson welcomes the added depth and competition.

“It’s definitely a good thing for the three goalies that are here to have a good competition between all of them and to have a good relationship,” Sellie-Hanson said.

Last season, the Pipers had the advantage of being able to sneak into the playoffs with zero expectations as many teams seemed to take them lightly. Now that they’re the defending champions, there’s a target on their backs.

“At the beginning of last season, Coach Laylin was always telling us to believe in ourselves and that we can accomplish great things. At the end of the year we ended up winning the MIAC and making it to the tournament. This year, they’re [the coaches] kind of more focused on having us understand that teams aren’t going to take us for granted and that it’s not going to be a cakewalk for us, by any means. We’re still going to have to work hard and be the blue collar team that we are,” Sellie-Hanson said.

To face better-prepared opponents, the team has enhanced the intensity of practices, increasing physicality and competition.

“Every shot in practice [we] try to score. It’s going to make us better. It’s going to make our goalies better. We’re not just going out to practice, we’re going to get better every day,” Zurn said. “Everything is up-tempo. We’re not standing around.”

In addition to having quality practices, the players are close, trying to have the best possible chemistry on the ice.

“We have to have guys believe in ourselves to gel together. We have a pretty good relationship within the team, we’re a pretty close-knit bunch,” Sellie-Hanson said.

Despite how talented the group is, they understand there will be adversity and difficult games. To weather any issues, they have to stay upbeat and focused.

“We need to stay positive and if something happens or an injury occurs, we need to keep our heads up,” Zurn said.

The Pipers begin their season this weekend at the MIAC Hockey Showcase in Blaine, playing Gustavus Adolphus on Saturday, Oct. 31 and last season’s conference championship opponent, St. Mary’s, on Sunday, Nov. 1.