Cain already gearing for next season

Lucas Punkari

After a couple of weeks visiting family and friends here in Fort Frances, local hockey player Mitch Cain is back in Bemidji, Mn. to prepare for his second season with the Bemidji State Beavers.
His summer work might be a bit different from what most students are doing, however.
The 20-year-old winger is working with Beavers’ assistant coach Bert Gilling during the off-season with running a fitness program for high school hockey players, who will be looking to move up to the next level like Cain has done.
“For those players, it’s basically a building block for them to advance further in their careers,” he explained.
“In Minnesota especially, there are a lot of guys who go either straight into the USHL or into college right after their high school career ends, so I think for them this is the perfect time for those guys to start training,” he reasoned.
In between his work days, the 6’2,” 210-pound Cain will also be preparing himself in the gym as he gets ready to put on the Beavers’ jersey once again this fall.
“Right now, I’m pretty happy with my weight and strength after my work here during this past season, so I’ll spending a lot of this summer working on more hockey specific things like my stick handling and my agility,” he noted.
“One of the things that I’m working on a lot will be with my speed,” he said. “You can be a 200-pound guy that has that size and strength, but if you can’t move out there, you are not going to be much of a threat.
“But if you are a 200-pound guy that can move out there just as well as someone who is 170 pounds, then you can be a player that can be a major worry for the opposing team.”
In his freshman year with the Beavers, Cain played in 12 games during the first year half of the season, notching a goal and four assists. He then spent the rest of the schedule after Christmas up in the stands as a scratch after a number of veteran players returned to the squad once they recovered from injuries.
“For a first-year player such as myself, it is usually tough to get into the lineup,” Cain explained.
“With the injuries that a few guys had early on, I was able to get in there and I was able to take advantage of the opportunities of the ice time that I had.
“As those guys came back in and I suffered a couple of minor injuries, it was harder to get back in there,” he added. “But overall, I was able to learn so much that I can’t wait to get going again.”
Though his ice time was limited, Cain did feel he was able to make an impact with his role on the squad, which he feels will be a key to his sophomore campaign.
“I know that I’m more of a third or fourth line guy that provides energy for my team,” he remarked. “And with my size and strength, I try to play that power forward type of game.
“To get those games in this year was a good step for me, I think, and coming into next year, I hope I’m able to translate that into a full spot on the roster and to be a key contribute to the team,” Cain added.
After finishing the regular season with an 17-18-3 record, which put them in ninth place in the WCHA, the Beavers went up against the always-stout North Dakota Fighting Sioux in the opening round of the playoffs, where their season came to an end following a clean sweep in the best-of-three series at the hands of the eventual conference champs.
“At the start of the year, we were supposed to be ranked near the bottom of the conference and we were able to beat a couple of teams that may have overlooked us,” Cain noted.
“We had some good weekends during the year, as we swept Colorado College and beat Denver for the first time, and I think those games were some big steps for our program.
“Then when we got to the playoffs, we put up two really close games with North Dakota, but they beat us and moved on to the next round.”
Off the ice, the Fort Frances native also had to make adjustment this past year to getting back into the swing of things with schooling, but he quickly found himself to enjoy his time on campus.
“I absolutely love it down there,” enthused Cain, who is leaning towards majoring in business.
“And it’s not much different from here in Fort Frances as you get to know everyone that’s in the town.
“When you compare to it other schools, you find that there is a lot more flash with those bigger schools, but there is something about Bemidji that is just different,” he reflected.
“Being from Fort Frances and being only two hours away from home was something that I was really attracted to originally, and that is a big part of why I decided to come and play there.”
Although the Beavers’ regular-season schedule won’t begin until Oct. 19 against the Lake Superior State Lakers, Cain already is getting excited about it, especially with this being the final season before the WCHA landscape is changed as a result of the massive conference realignment taking place in Division I hockey.
“Last year and this year are important for us to play those big schools [such as Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin] and to try and take advantage of those opportunities,” he stressed.
“Even though we are losing to those school, we are going to be playing new schools in the coming years [such as Northern Michigan and Alaska-Fairbanks] that will provide perfect competition for us and make the league as strong as it was before,” he added.
“And you can also see some new rivalries start up right away.”