Sometimes, St. Cloud forward Mark Hartigan just likes to be alone.
The Hobey Baker Award finalist often passes up meals with his teammates at St. Cloud’s own Timber Lodge Steakhouse because they just can’t pull him away from the ice.
“I like being out there all by myself when there’s nobody in the whole rink,” Hartigan said. “I think it’s a lot of fun just doing that. I can do it for three to four hours.”
The 24-year-old junior plays the game with the excitement of a kid out on the pond and is admittedly still learning as he goes.
“I’ve learned so much in the last little while from coaches because I didn’t get coached that well when I was younger,” Hartigan said. “I love being on the ice. I think it’s just a thrill shooting the puck.”
Hartigan, the WCHA Player of the Year, has perfected the art of doing just that. Michigan associate head coach Mel Pearson believes that Hartigan owns the most potent shot in all of college hockey.
“I kind of relate it to golfing a little bit,” said Hartigan of his slapshot. “You get young guys who just want to crush the ball as far as they can, and I just want to shoot the puck as hard as I can whenever I have the chance.”
The chances often come from his best friend and linemate Nate DiCasmirro, who has benefited greatly from playing with Hartigan.
“He’s an amazing hockey player,” DiCasmirro said. “You give him any chance to shoot the puck, and he’s got a 90-percent chance of burying it. All I have to do is feed the puck to him in the high slot, and he’s going to put it in.”
Hartigan is as prolific a goal scorer as Michigan has faced this season. The British Columbia native has scored 75 points (37-38-75), including 31 (12-19-31) on the powerplay alone – more than all but three Wolverines have scored all season. But last weekend in the WCHA tournament, he was shut out in the Huskies’ games against Minnesota and Colorado College, rendering his team lifeless as it scored just one goal in each contest.
“If I play well, our team is going to play well,” Hartigan said. “I’ve just got to lead my team, and if that means doing the little things right and not getting any points, then that’s just as good.”
St. Cloud’s 0-3 record in the NCAA Tournament shows that Hartigan is not the only player who has disappeared come tournament time in past years. Earning that elusive first victory against Michigan in Yost Ice Arena would be a special way to get the monkey off the Huskies’ back – and Hartigan would love to be the guy to do the damage.
“It would really kill the crowd,” Hartigan said with a grin. “I wouldn’t mind being that guy to bring them down and put them back in their seats.”
Does he have a celebration planned out in advance?
“I just kind of let loose and do whatever I’m feeling at the moment,” Hartigan said.
The soft-spoken, laid back superstar has been more to his team than just a 75-point scorer. He’s a best friend, a team player and a “pleasure to coach.” With all of the Hobey Baker hype surrounding him during the past few weeks, Hartigan has made sure to focus on his No. 1 goal of winning the national championship. Before talking about his own skills and the Hobey Baker, he gives credit to his teammates.
“The greatest thing about hockey is having a team around you,” Hartigan said. “I’ll do anything for them and they’ll do anything for me.”
Said coach Craig Dahl: “He’s most considerate of others, not the typical superstar that some people like to associate with that term. If you have daughters, if they bring a guy like that home, you’ll be alright.”