Is Minnesota For Real? 2016 Team Preview

Minnesota's Ben Jagt with last year's jersey but this year's hat. Photo: William Brotman --
Minnesota’s Ben Jagt. Photo: William Brotman —

Minnesota finally got the Hodag off its back in 2015. The annual bridesmaid took it to both Carleton and Wisconsin at Regionals, winning the region and performing admirably at Nationals. Seeded 11th, Minnesota went 3-1 in pool play before running into Dylan Freechild and Oregon Ego and being eliminated from the bracket.

While a number of important contributors are gone, this team is more than capable of replicating that success in a region that looks like it will be a dogfight between its big three: Wisconsin, Carleton, and Grey Duck.

The Basics

Coach: Tallis Boyd
Captains: Ryan Osgar, Soham Shah, Wyatt Meckler
2015 Results: 1st NC Regionals, T-9th Nationals

A New Year

To understand 2016 Grey Duck, it’s important to understand 2015 Minnesota SubZero. With a large number of SubZero veterans not returning to the team, an opportunity presented itself to the members of Grey Duck, an opportunity to make the best Men’s club team in Minnesota and to gain experience against elite opponents while picking the brains of better players. Ryan Osgar, Tristan Van de Moortele, Ben Jagt, Tony Poletto, and Connor Anderson all took that opportunity, and received substantial playing time throughout the season, including at Nationals.

“It obviously helps to have team chemistry and to play with each other in the offseason, but to play on a club team like Sub and get legitimate minutes against the best players in the world really makes a huge impact to a college team. Having more people who have played at the highest levels is invaluable and hopefully will help us come May,” Van de Moortele said.

The most noticeable player on Grey Duck, in more ways than one, is Jagt. A towering deep cutter, the 6’5” Jagt has made a name for himself by brutally skying all in his path. Even more will be expected of him this year as he takes a bigger role in the offense. One of the biggest factors in Grey Duck’s success this season will be Jagt’s evolution: can he become a true superstar, a player that does it all for Minnesota? If Florida Warm-Up is any indication, yes. Jagt was a bonafide superstar at the University of South Florida campus, his name littering the stat sheet. If he can keep up his stellar play, Minnesota can be a challenging out for every other team in the country.

Jagt plays primarily on offense, crossing over to defense when needed. Joining him on the O-line are captains Ryan Osgar and Soham Shah. Some of the smartest players in the region, the two now have five years of experience playing together. Shah is a big thrower from the handler spot, while Osgar is fantastic in the air and has a knack for always being open. Van de Moortele waxed poetically about Osgar in particular, saying, “Ryan is a top three choice for player of the year for the NC. If we have a big year it’s because Ryan has a big year.” More often than not, the Minnesota offense follows this pattern: center to Shah, Osgar gets the under, Jagt rips down the huck. 3-throw offense, like Minnesota often showed off at Warm-Up, is as emotionally draining for the opposition as it is beneficial for Grey Duck.

On defense, Grey Duck looks to use their sizable depth to exhaust opposing offenses. On a turn, more often than not, Van de Moortele will be the one picking up the disc. Grey Duck’s resident lockdown handler-defender, he is a grinder and seeks to wear down even the most conditioned of handlers. He used this skill to great success on the 2014 WJUC U19 team, and unsurprisingly it works just as well in the college game. On the turn, he uses quick disc movement to open up easy breaks to Minnesota’s speedy cutters.

Perhaps one of Grey Duck’s greatest strengths at Warm Up was their stellar freshman class. Two Hopkins graduates on particular are having an immediate impact on the team. Freshman Sam Kaminsky features prominently in the Duck O, using his gangly frame to throw easy breaks while being a more conservative compliment to Shah’s gunslinger role. Meanwhile, Kansas transfer Sam Bumsted has carved out a role as an athletic first cut with big throws. Bumsted explosiveness and great mark are already proving their worth. Other players like Cole Wallin and Tom Duret were essential defensive role players down the stretch, with Wallin in particular often taking difficult matchups (like Bobby Ley in the final).

Of course there are losses as well. You have to take note, first, of the absence of Josh Klane. The irrepressible handler exhausted his eligibility last season, and his huge throws, dynamic breaks, and charming personality will be nigh impossible to replace. Gone also are Brandon Haus, Reese Hornnes, Tyler Mahony, and Alex Platt, all important contributors in their own right. Big man Haus will especially be missed, according to Van de Moortele.

“He leaves a defensive big man hole,” he said. “He was our best deep defender and best cutter on D line last year. When he injured his wrist at Nationals, our offense suffered monstrously.”

Still, it looks like the team had plenty of strong talent to fill roles in Tampa. Minnesota was consistently the most impressive looking team at Warm Up. While a tournament victory that early in the season has to be taken with a grain of salt, the fact remains that Minnesota’s offense at times looked dominant, and their defense did what it had to do. A note: Grey Duck was playing without Van de Moortele, Tony Poletto, and Connor Anderson, three of their Sub Zero veterans and top players. When they return… Yikes.

Likely Ceiling: National semifinalist

As we saw at Warm Up, Grey Duck certainly has the personnel to make it deep into Nationals. They seem to have all the ingredients: skilled veterans, a talented rookie class, a proven coach, and a potential superstar. While my likely ceiling says semis, make no mistake: this team thinks they can win it all.

Likely Floor: Eliminated in pool play at Nationals

With three quality teams, the North Central looks like it will procure at least three bids. Minnesota is going to claim one of those bids. If there is a bugaboo about Minnesota, it’s that historically they’re mentally weak. Their recent history is littered with meltdowns, underperformances, and streakiness. Whether that identity continues to haunt this year’s iteration remains to be seen. Their no-show in their first game vs. Florida at Warm Up could be indicative of a potential issue, but we likely won’t know until the Series.

  1. Charlie Enders

    Charlie discovered ultimate his freshman year of high school after he was cut from all the other sports. He lives in St Paul, MN, and you can follow his bad tweets @Endersisgame.

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