Head coach Mike Gabinet opened his media day press conference at Baxter Arena with a smile on his face while sharing his excitement for having fans back in the building. He’s hoping for a lot of them.
“We’re looking forward to returning to somewhat normal and getting a good crowd inside Baxter Arena and playing in front of people,” Gabinet said.
After the way last season started, having fans in the seats instead of cardboard cutouts will be a breath of fresh air. The Mavericks also start this season with 10 straight games on home ice, which could be a huge boost early in the season.
Their hope is the environment will be a tough one for visiting teams to come into and they can not only build some confidence, but also grab some wins in the early going. Getting off to a strong start will be key, especially with the schedule that looms once NCHC play gets going.
“I think it’s an advantage for us,” Gabinet said of the front-loaded home schedule. “We get to play at home, guys get to stay in school and use that home-ice advantage to our advantage. Make sure we’re prepared properly and bodies are rested, so I’m looking forward to playing at home, playing in front of our fans and establishing some momentum.”
For the players on the ice, they echoed what Gabinet had to say about the 10-game home stretch. Since last season didn’t get started until Dec. 1, senior captain Kevin Conley said it almost feels like this season snuck up on everyone, but they’re excited to have a more traditional start date.
More than anything, they’re excited to have more of a normal feeling to the season.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Conley said. “It’s always nice to be home at Baxter, especially not in a Pod format. With a bunch of fans back it will be awesome and we’re definitely looking forward to that. Building off these 10 games at home will be huge for us.”
With that normal feeling comes a nonconference slate, which was missing all of last season, and a regular travel schedule. The Mavericks only had four road trips during the regular season last year and players spent most of the time in their hotel rooms to comply with COVID-19 protocols. That’s on top of spending three weeks during December living in a hotel in Omaha.
“The Pod was fun since you played four times a week and you practiced here and there, but I’m excited to get back (to a normal schedule),” said senior Chayse Primeau. “It’s going to be fun traveling again with the boys too.”
Primeau joked it’ll feel weird getting on a plane for the first time this season, but he’s looking forward to those road trips and having a good time together.
Before their first trip to St. Cloud on Nov. 12 and 13 though, the focus is on taking care of business and building some momentum during the first 10 games at home. Everyone on the roster is excited to feed off that energy on the ice.
“We know we have a good fan base here and we’re excited to get them back in the building,” Primeau said.