World-Class on Ice

For the greater Minnesota State University community,  the Winter Olympics in China make it clear again that the University’s performance and reputation in athletics is literally world-class.

Nathan Smith and Coach Mike Hastings representing in Beijing. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)

This year’s Olympics involves three hockey participants with University ties – an alum, a coach and a current student.

The latter two are on Team USA in the men’s hockey games. Nathan Smith, currently a junior on the Mavericks, plays for Team USA on which Maverick Coach Mike Hastings is serving as assistant coach. Former Maverick women’s hockey player Rebeckah Kolstad is one of several Americans playing on Team China.

“In the sport of hockey, the Olympics is one of those pinnacle moments  that offers an incredibly unique platform for these individuals to showcase their talents and abilities,” said University athletic director Kevin Buisman.

“Clearly, each of them have invested greatly to accomplish this level of achievement,” Buisman said, “and it’s fulfilling to know that their time, dedication, and commitment are being rewarded so richly on this world-wide stage.”

Smith, from Hudson, Fla., entered the Olympics leading the NCAA in points, joining eight others on the Olympic team who’s averaging a point or more per game. Team USA’s first Olympic game is Thursday, Feb. 10 against China.

Hastings has coached at the international level several times, most recently as part of the U.S. team at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. It was Hasting’s fifth tournament with the organization and his first as a head coach of an IIHF team. That team took the silver medal.

Hastings has led the Maverick hockey team for 10 years, transforming the team into a national phenomenon, entering the 2021 season with a 236-89-24 record. The Mavericks won the last four WCHA regular season titles and also have three league post-season championships.

Rebeckah Kolstad, former Maverick hockey player who turned pro, is playing for Team China at the Winter Olympics

Also at the Olympics, a former Maverick hockey player, Rebekah Kolstad, is playing for Team China. Kolstad played for the Mavericks from 2017 to 2019, after which she played pro hockey with the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays in Russia as part of the Zhenskaya Hockey League. Following her stint with China, Kolstad will return to play for the Vanke Rays.

Buisman said the Olympics provide a proud moment for the University and a good message of the kind of values it encourages in its students.

“Their participation in the Olympics casts a positive light on our community, the University, and Maverick hockey,” he said, “and we are grateful they are able to have the opportunity to make their dreams come true, while also serving as unbelievable ambassadors and representatives of Maverick Athletics.”