photo courtesy of Maddie MacFarlane
Certain college hockey players leave lasting impressions on opposing teams. With prominent ice presence across all three zones, sharp puck control, and elements of playing style immediately threatening through skill, size, or IQ or a combination of the trio; these skaters repeatedly standout.
Top-ranked St. Cloud State’s Mikey Eyssimont is that player for the University of Denver Pioneers.
“He’s a great hockey player. Listen, I wish he was on our team. He’s a local product. Sometimes through recruitment — it was before my time — but I wish he was here for Denver because he is a hell of a hockey player,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said. “I know a lot of our guys that have played with him like [Troy] Terry and [Dylan] Gambrell have loved playing with him. He’s a go-to player. He’s someone that we have to know when he’s on the ice every time because last year when he was here he put on a clinic in that first game [Feb. 24] that we won 4-3, I think he had a goal and an assist. He’s a great college hockey player and he’ll have a bright future in pro hockey.”
As a Colorado native, Eyssimont rejected offers from in-state schools before making his decision to attend St. Cloud State University and become a Husky. A current junior, Eyssimont has wreaked havoc against the Pioneers and the Colorado College Tigers in nearly every appearance throughout his collegiate career.
“I grew up a Pioneer fan, like 20 or 15 minutes from campus. Obviously, the CC-DU rivalry was always the big game of the year for me growing up and all my friends and I would go. I did want to play there [DU] growing up, but the recruiting process did start a little early for me,” Eyssimont said. “St. Cloud was there and the fit was just perfect for me. The coaching staff and the campus, just normal reasons you pick a school that’s why I picked St. Cloud. But just going home and playing in front of friends and family and old coaches it adds a little extra excitement to the games, maybe that’s why my production has been as lucky as it has been.”
Eyssimont is the type of skater that instantly grabs the crowd’s attention; he is slick on the puck, launches a quick shot, and is deceptively quick in transition. Out of his 15 games played against DU and CC, in just five of those games Eyssimont was absent from the scoreboard. Among those, the Littleton native has amassed 16 points on seven goals and nine assists.
“Looking back, there definitely is good fortune for me playing those two teams [DU and CC], but it’s not something I really think about on my own,” Eyssimont said.
Despite his success against the two Colorado-based NCHC teams, Eyssimont doesn’t pay attention to his statistics against the Pioneers and the Tigers as much as the faces in the crowd, “I love it because normally I’m around a bunch of Minnesota locals and when I get to go to Denver, I get to be the one with all the family in town so it’s fun. It’s always good to see them and definitely play well with them in the stands.”
With a 6-foot, 192-pound frame, Eyssimont has excelled in the Huskies’ lineup since joining the program in 2015. In his freshman campaign, he totaled 33 points on 14 goals and 19 assists and was selected in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the LA Kings as the 142 pick.
As a sophomore, Eyssimont continued to ascend as he finished the season with 30 points on 14 goals and 16 assists. The lefty also tied for a team-high of three game-winning goals, including one over CC on Nov. 12, 2016.
Returning to Magness Arena does add an incentive for the 21-year old. Besides the family and friend support and Eyssimont’s hot hands, there is a banter-friendly rivalry between former USHL teammates Eyssimont and Logan O’Connor.
“Mikey and I were playing against each other at first in the USHL, he was on Fargo [Force] and I was on the Sioux Falls Stampede,” DU forward Logan O’Connor said. “One game we got into it and got into a little bit of a fight there. We ended up being on the same team because he got traded to my team [in 2014] so that was sort of funny to look back on that and joke about that fight. We sort of hated each other on the ice and then ended up liking each other on and off the ice when we were teammates, now it’s back to a little bit of hatred on the ice but buddies off the ice.”
As the No. 3 Pioneers clash with the No. 1 Huskies at Magness Arena this weekend on Friday, Nov. 10 and Saturday, Nov. 11 Eyssimont isn’t as concerned with the new ranking as he is with maintaining and continuing to cultivate the growth necessary to propel his program later in the season.
“It’s definitely going to be a weekend that all of college hockey is watching,” Eyssimont said. “It’s still early in the year. We know that No. 1 ranking doesn’t mean much right now, but it definitely adds a little excitement coming into the weekend and we’re going to try to keep it obviously. The main thing right now is continuing on this path that we’re on and getting better every game. I think the whole team would agree we haven’t played our best hockey yet, it’s obviously a good thing it’s only November.”
Puck-drop is scheduled at 7:05 p.m. for both games.