MANKATO, Minn. — The first time a Minnesota State hockey player won the WCHA Player of the Year award, Marc Michaelis was that player’s left wing.

C.J. Suess won the award in 2018 as a senior, and it certainly didn’t hurt that Michaelis, then a sophomore, was one of his linemates.

“When I came in as a freshman, he was a junior, and he took care of me,” Michaelis said. “He became one of my best friends.”

After Suess graduated and turned pro, Michaelis slid over to his vacant spot as the Mavericks’ No. 1 center the following season, and he thrived at the position for two seasons while the program just got better.

On Wednesday, Michaelis joined his old friend in a two-man club, becoming the second Minnesota State player to be named WCHA’s Player of the Year.

“The first thing that comes to my mind are the guys who won it before me, especially C.J.,” Michaelis said when reached by phone at his home in Germany. “He’s the first guy I thought about.”

Also Wednesday, Michaelis and goaltender Dryden McKay became the first MSU players since Suess two years ago to be named top-10 Hobey Baker Award finalists (see below).

Michaelis’ career mimicked Suess’ time at Minnesota State.

Suess also started at left wing and moved to center. Michaelis was a two-year captain for the Mavericks, just like Suess before him.

“Talk about a mirrored path,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said.

Right down to the accolades.

“He’s the guy I compared myself to,” Michaelis said. “I saw what worked with him and would try a little of my own version. But the script was kind of the same.”

Michaelis this season led the WCHA in overall scoring and was tied for third in the nation with a career-high 44 points on 20 goals and 24 assists in 31 games. Despite missing seven games with an injury, he was second in scoring in conference play with 31 points in 21 games.

“The numbers speak for themselves … both in productivity and versatility,” Hastings said, citing not only the overall scoring totals but Michaelis’ work in the faceoff circle, on the penalty kill and in the defensive zone.

“Multi-dimensional,” Hastings continued. “It was always, ‘What else can I do?’ He started as an offensive, skilled player and got more rounded throughout his career. … He continued to have an appetite for getting better.”

In nine games against teams that would have made the NCAA tournament based on the Pairwise Rankings when the season ended due to the coronavirus pandemic (Arizona State, North Dakota, Minnesota Duluth and Bemidji State), Michaelis had nine points, including six goals.

The abrupt end of the season, which came prior to the WCHA semifinals, as well as a seven-game stretch when he sat out with a lower leg injury, likely prevented Michaelis from setting Minnesota State’s Division I-era career scoring record.

He finished his career tied for second on that list with 162 points, the most of anyone in the country over the last four seasons. That includes 71 goals, tops in the D-I era, which dates back to 1996. His 10 career short-handed goals, which included a national best three this season, are an all-time Minnesota State record.

Asked to name a highlight to a career full of them, Michaelis said, “The program, in general, was the highlight for me,” but added that the time spent with a group of seven players who logged a lot of time together on and off the ice over the last four years will be missed. The group also included Parker Tuomie, Nick Rivera, Josh French, Charlie Gerard, Ian Scheid and Edwin Hookenson.

“Being with them on a daily basis, the stuff we got to experience together was amazing,” he said.

Michaelis, who is now in negotiations for a professional contract, led Minnesota State to three WCHA regular-season championships and a playoff title.

Minnesota State, which was 31-5-2, was the favorite to win this year’s league tournament championship when the season was called off. But Michaelis and the Mavericks had bigger goals, too, such as getting to the Frozen Four and perhaps winning a national championship.

A week after the NCAA canceled its winter and spring tournaments, Michaelis still laments the lost postseason.

“It’s still not very good,” he said. “Not only with me but especially the seniors. But it’s on down to the freshmen, too. That will probably stick with us for the rest of our lives. Every time I see something on social media, I think about what could have been.”

He said that will motivate him in his next stage of hockey.

“I’m going to be driven by that for awhile,” he said.

The way Hastings describes him, though, Michaelis is driven by much more than that.

“He did a lot of work, making himself a more complete player,” Hastings said. “He grew. I think that was important to him. … I didn’t sense a satisfied athlete with him.”

Michaelis, McKay named Hobey finalists

Minnesota State men’s hockey players Marc Michaelis and Dryden McKay were named top-10 Hobey Baker Award finalists on Wednesday, putting them up for men’s college hockey’s national player of the year ward.

Michaelis, a senior center, tied for third in the nation in scoring with 44 points on 20 goals and 24 assists in 31 games. He was tied for third in power-play points (21) and tied for first in short-handed goals (3).

McKay was statistically the top goaltender in men's college hockey, leading the country in wins (30), shutouts (10), goals-against average (1.31) and save percentage (.942) in his second season at Minnesota State. His shutout total ranks second all-time in NCAA history.

They join C.J. Suess, who was a top-10 finalist in 2018, and Steve Carroll, a finalist in 1981 when the award included all divisions, as the only Minnesota State players to get this far in the voting. Goaltender Ken Hilgert won the DII-III West award in 1988 when there was a small-college recipient.

The Hobey Hat Trick (top three finalists) will be unveiled on April 2 following a committee vote, and the winner will be announced on April 10.

This year's other Hobey Baker finalists are: Cornell forward Morgan Barron, Sacred Heart forward Jason Cotton, Providence forward Jack Dugan, Boston University defenseman David Farrance, North Dakota forward Jordan Kawaguchi, Massachusetts forward John Leonard, Minnesota Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich and Maine goaltender Jeremy Swayman.

Follow Shane Frederick on Twitter @puckato