February 13, 2019 06:28 PM
(ABC 6 News) – The Mayo Spartans boys’ hockey team is going into the Section 1AA playoffs riding high—and the Spartans will go as their senior captain, Zach Stewart, goes.
“Zach’s been a three-year player for us on the varsity,” Spartans head coach Todd Huyber said. “He’s grown and matured quite a bit, and he’s become a real force for us at the forward position.”
As Stewart’s game has grown on the ice, so has his physique.
“He’s about 6’3, probably 195 pounds. He can be a bull down low in the corners and muscle his way to the net,” Huyber said. “That’s something that not a lot of guys can do. He’s gotten more aggressive, and he’s willing to use his size to get to the net.”
“I’m pretty big, so that helps a lot. You just have a stronger shot when you’re bigger, taller, longer reach,” Stewart added. “I also have some great linemates to play with who can set me up and get me some goals.”
Stewart’s strength is his offensive game—through Tuesday, according to Minnesota Hockey Hub, Stewart is among the team leaders in goals (26), assists (21), points (47), and power play goals.
“He does see his teammates, and uses his teammates well,” Huyber said. “He has good on-ice awareness and good hockey sense, so that’s a key for him.”
Stewart’s improved level of play hasn’t entirely stemmed from his time on the ice—overall, as a team, the Spartans have improved from four wins during Stewart’s sophomore season, to 11 wins last season, and 15 wins this season (through Tuesday).
“We started working out as a team in August, and that off-ice stuff can kind of translate to on the ice, and that leads to wins,” Stewart said.
When the Spartans made a turn as a program during the 2017-2018 boys’ hockey season, so did Stewart’s play on the ice.
“Last year’s Kiwanis championship game, that was one of the best games I’ve ever played, and as a team, we’ve ever played,” Stewart said. “I think since then, we’ve been a pretty dominant program, and that was a big confidence boost for us that game.”
Next year, Stewart will be competing in Men’s Golf at Augsburg University in Minneapolis—but Stewart hasn’t closed the door on playing hockey at a higher level beyond his senior season of high school hockey.
“I haven't decided about hockey. I'm playing golf for sure in college, but I've thought recently I'd go and play juniors, but I haven't decided yet,” Stewart said.
"I think with his size, and more development for him, juniors and college, he could be a good player,” Huyber added.
Stewart and the Spartans return to the ice on Wednesday at Winona, and they’ll open the Section 1AA boys’ hockey playoffs next week.
Updated: February 13, 2019 06:28 PM
Created: February 12, 2019 05:23 PM
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