B10 Goalie Of The Year Strauss Mann Navigating Uncertain Times

Jake Sage

Three days before traveling to Columbus to face the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament, the NCAA canceled the remainder of the college hockey season March 12 due to the coronavirus. The Wolverines had just started to find their groove on the ice, winning 13 of their last 17 games, before the season came to a stunning halt.

Michigan suddenly had its Big Ten Championship and NCAA tournament hopes crushed without even taking the ice, and the Big Ten Goaltender of the Year, Strauss Mann, was one of many Wolverines devastated they wouldn’t be able to finish the season.

“It was tough,” Mann said, looking back on his emotions after the season officially became canceled. “In the moment, we felt pretty bad for our seniors because that’s how their careers ended, and we all knew we had a chance to do something special. But as time goes on, you gain perspective and realize there is a world out there that is really struggling and a country that’s going through some tough times.

“There are a lot of people that have it worse than us. We played a pretty large portion of our season and made those memories, while a lot of other teams and sports didn’t even get that chance. So, when you look back at it, it’s definitely glass half full, but at the time it was pretty tough. It was definitely something none of us had gone through before, so it was a learning experience also.”

After coming to the realization his sophomore season was over, Mann began to figure out how he could work on his game while being stuck at home.

“It’s obviously a very interesting time for athletes,” Mann said. “It hasn’t been the same throughout the last four months. At the beginning, obviously, I wasn't allowed to leave the house at all and was doing workouts on my own, trying to get in really good shape in terms of strength and quickness.

“Also for me, a very big part of every season is going through all the video, breaking things down, and looking at areas I want to improve on. So, I nailed down about 10 to 15 little details I think I can improve on for next year. That was definitely huge, and doing that also gives my body a rest from the ice for a little bit.

“Now, I’m starting to get back on the ice wherever I can find it at a good social-distanced ice rink. I’ve just been trying to keep the process as normal as possible but trying to adapt along the way, as I can.”

With Mann becoming an upperclassman on this year’s team, he has begun to take on more of a leadership role during the pandemic.

“It’s been a big focus of ours to try and keep everyone on task and committed during this tough time,” Mann said. “But, I think we are all on the same page and working hard right now, knowing that if we can continue to stay focused during the pandemic that we can be pretty successful when we come back, and hopefully have a step up on other teams that maybe aren’t working as hard. I’m just trying to help my teammates and try to lead the best way I can, stepping up a little bit more.”

Despite the questions that surround the college hockey season this year, Mann and the Wolverines are preparing, as if they will have a normal 2020-2021 season.

“There obviously is a lot of unknown, and there has been a lot of unknown throughout this whole time,” Mann said. “But, we are planning on as if we are playing and all staying prepared like if we were playing. We have been apart for a while, but everyone’s been doing their part and training to make sure they are ready to go when we are back together.

“We will be back together soon once we take the proper precautions and get tested and everything. But, we are all really excited to get back once we are able and just start preparing together because we are all definitely ready to go and want to get on the ice again soon.”

Mann also noted that the team has been able to stay connected through the pandemic.

“We have had a weekly set team meeting, and have also broken up into some smaller groups to help us stay on track with things and keep each other motivated,” Mann said. “But also we are lucky in this day and age to have FaceTime and Zoom, so we can stay in touch that way. We are definitely a close group of guys, and I’ve definitely been in touch with a lot of them, trying to stay positive through it all.”

Mann also seems very excited about what the Wolverines could accomplish this upcoming season.

“We are really excited,” Mann said. “We think we have a great group. We definitely have a young group, but it seems from meeting these guys virtually they’re all great kids. We also have a lot of great returning players that are ready to take the next step. We have everything we need, and it's all about creating that culture now; we have been doing that over this time in quarantine. We know that when we arrive on campus together that we are going to be ready to go, and will slowly make a run at a national championship.”