Midway through a recent battle between Minnesota State and Northern Michigan, Mavericks coach Mike Hastings had a hunch, and he shuffled his deck.
Hastings flipped a couple of wingmen, which united German sophomore Julian Naparavnik with his star countrymen Parker Tuomie and captain Marc Michaelis. Minutes after the mashup, the Deutsch masters turned a tight game into a blowout. Tuomie found Napravnik flashing into the attacking zone, who knifed a 20-foot backhand into the high twine.
The joy of breaking a scoring slump while lining up with his German upper-classmates put stars in the youngster’s eyes.
“To play with my fellow countrymen, it’s the best news for me personally,” said the smiling Napravnik. “They are both kind of like idols, I would say.”
Veteran Tuomie knows that Napravnik is the German heir apparent for the Mavericks.
“Put him on a line with us . . . it’s great chemistry,” Tuomie said.
When Tuomie says “us,” he’s referring to the tandem of him and Michaelis, a pair that has flooded NCAA score sheets with an astounding 251 points over three and half years. Michaelis is a fixture on Germany’s national team each spring, and he resorted back to his native tongue up in Marquette after the Fatherland was reunited.
“I think Marc was the one who gave us a little German comment when he found out we were getting a shift together,” Tuomie said. “It’s always a good jump when you play with your countrymen.”
After playing a full period with his German mates, young Napravnik got to watch his heroes from the bench when the Mavs went on the power play. Exactly one minute into the man-up situation, Tuomie teed up Michaelis, who rifled in his 10th goal of the year.
“They make it look easy,” said Napravnik, clearly in awe of the PP unit that leads the nation with a 31.5-percent efficiency. “Everybody knows what they are doing and they’re clicking this year — they score a lot.”
Tuomie knows that it’s in everyone’s best interest to feed Michaelis when he is at full throttle.
“Right off the get-go he was working really hard,” Tuomie said. “On the power play we were able to make some plays. With his shot, he scored.”
Thanks in no small part to his four-year partnership with Tuomie, Michaelis is the NCAA’s current all-time leading active scorer with 140 points in 135 games played.
“That’s Marc doing his thing,” Tuomie said knowingly.
For the past three and a half seasons, the Mavericks offense has had a distinctly German accent, as the Deutsch duo has driven their club to the most victories in the NCAA ever since they first stepped onto Mankato ice together back in 2016. Tuomie keeps a close eye on the Mavericks’ next German offensive force.
“Der Mann,” said Parker, using his native language to describe Napravnik. “I think he’s made a great step over the summer. He was able to gain a couple of pounds and muscle mass, and I think it translated on to the ice. Obviously a very skillful player, can move his feet well and make plays.”
Tuomie is convinced that the vaunted Minnesota State power play will have a German accent for the foreseeable future.
“For sure!” said Tuomie with a confident laugh. “Julian can really play anywhere, any position. We’re going to leave this program in great hands with him.”
Tim Rappleye is the author of Jack Parker's Wiseguys: The National Champion BU Terriers, the Blizzard of '78, and the Road to the Miracle on Ice. He can be reached on Twitter @TeeRaps.