Q&A With ... Minnesota Forward Casey Mittelstadt
by Tim Rappleye/CHN Reporter
In the midst of a scintillating series between Minnesota and Michigan at Yost Arena, Gophers freshman Casey Mittelstadt spoke with us about his freshman year, which has been solid so far with 3-9—12 in 11 games, and a plus-7 rating. Mittelstadt was the highest selected NCAA player in last June's NHL Draft, by Buffalo. Buffalo is also site of this year's World Junior tournament, which Mittelstadt figures to play a prominent role in for Team USA.
Rappleye: You just played in one of the greatest games in memory here in this old barn (Friday's OT loss to Michigan). What was it like from your perspective?
Mittelstadt: It was my first time here, it was pretty special to come out and play, obviously it was a great atmosphere with the student section and things like that. We’ve got to play a little better in the second half of the game, but it was definitely a cool atmosphere and a fun game.
Rappleye: How about for you, a freshman getting big minutes at the end, with the game on the line. This is your first go-round in the NCAA, you appeared to have a big battle level.
Mittelstadt: Coming in I try and bring the same compete level back home in school and at the USHL. It’s not too much different, just try and come out and make plays, play my game and see where it takes me.
Rappleye: (Minnesota coach Don) Lucia was surprised at your intensity, compared it to Kyle Rau.
Mittelstadt:. He’s very good with me. Growing up watching him (Rau) helps a lot, I got to watch him since he was in pee-wees and bantams. That’s definitely special being compared to a guy like that and try and carry on in his shoes.
Rappleye: Minnesota and Michigan are two of the great hockey states in America. I know you’ve played summers in Plymouth at the World Junior Showcase, what other experiences have you had in Michigan?
Mittelstadt: I came out here for a couple of weeks, played a couple USHL games with the (NTDP) program before I went to Worlds, so I was there for a little bit. I’ve been here the last two summers with the World Junior camp, so I got to know Plymouth pretty well I guess, it’s been pretty fun seeing what it’s like. The World Junior camp is the middle of summer, and the stands are full, it’s a pretty special place and it’s definitely a good atmosphere.
Rappleye: On the topic of World Juniors, once the first half of the college season is complete, the odds are you are going to be an important point producer for Team USA. Does that cross your mind at all?
Mittelstadt: Not really. At this point we’ve got to come out and get some wins back here with Minnesota. It’s important to get a good start and I think for us we’re starting to get rolling, making plays and play how we want. I’m definitely focused on being with Minnesota right now, and when time comes, I’ll be ready for that.
Rappleye: There’s one cherry on top of the Sundae, the outdoor game versus Canada. Have you played in some big outdoor games in the past?
Mittelstadt: I played in Hockey Day in Minnesota last year, that was outdoors in Stillwater, Minnesota. That was a pretty big deal in Minnesota. Hopefully if I make it there (Buffalo) it probably won’t compare, it will be pretty special.
Rappleye: Do you remember watching Sid Crosby’s winning goal in that first Winter Classic back in snowy Bufffalo? Because you’ll be playing in that same venue.
Mittelstadt: I’m probably the biggest Crosby fan you’ll ever find, so yeah, I have definitely seen that, it will be special to go out, especially to play against Canada in that big game on New Year’s Eve. I’ve watched that since I was a young boy, being able to go out and play in that will be something cool and will cherish it.
Rappleye: You have a lot of new fans in Buffalo since the NHL draft. You spent time at the NHL Combine. Have you sampled the culture, the Buffalo wings? What’s your memory of Buffalo and your thoughts about the city?
Mittelstadt: Actually, my earliest memory of Buffalo was really just to fly in there when we’re going to Toronto and spend the night. I’ve had some of the wings, I’ve been around to a few places, I think the Anchor Bar was the first one I went to. I’ve been there, been to development camp, not too much, but I’ve seen a little bit. Everything I’ve seen I’ve liked.
Rappleye: People outside of Minnesota wants to know what’s the secret sauce that keeps you guys playing together, keeps you guys in High School rather than jumping to the USHL full time. The camaraderie in the room, it seems like it carries over here at the U. Can you help our readers understand what’s so special about the Great State of Hockey?
Mittelstadt: I think the main thing is you play with the same kids since you’re a really young guy. For me, I got to know some of these guys on the team playing fall and summer teams and you kind of bond, you’re all from Minnesota, you’re all playing for your high school and understand each other. My teammates last year were the same teammates I’ve had since I was five, six. So for me, they’ve been my best friends my whole life, getting to grow up and play with them is something pretty cool.
Rappleye: I thought you being a freshman at Minnesota. Would bring a lot of pressure, but there have been contributions from other freshman. Does it help to have other freshman share the burden?
Mittelstadt: If I come in with pressure, I’m not scared of it, I’ve grown used to it. You get really close to the freshmen, we all live in the dorms together, we all know each other really well, so any time you see them doing well it’s a huge boost and it makes you want to play harder.
Rappleye: In the winter, Minnesota become the land of 10,000 frozen lakes. How much pond hockey did you play, and do you still play?
Mittelstadt: I’ve played more pond hockey, I have a rink in my back yard, my dad always put up, I’ve played endless amounts of pond hockey, some really late nights. That’s one of the main reasons it got me to love hockey, playing back there with my buddies and my brothers. I’ve been out there as much as anyone, if not the most probably. I loved it growing up.
Rappleye: There are stories about 2 a.m. games in your back yard.
Mittelstadt: I think I got really lucky my parents would let it happen, and my neighbors would be OK with it, they all had kids and some of them played hockey so they kinda understood when the boards are banging at 2 a.m. I got lucky I got some good buddies who loved it as much as me. When you’re out there you lose track of time, just having fun. It’s some of the best
memories growing up.
Rappleye: I understand your parents are not typical hockey parents. Is that true they never played the game?
Mittelstadt: It’s pretty nice, I don’t get too much pressure from them. My dad skated growing up with his buddies, but never played. I come home, I played terrible, my parents say ‘Good Game.’ It was perfect for me, a perfect situation growing up.