Mayo's Norman ready to make life tough on opposing players
Ethan Norman is in his fourth season as a varsity hockey player at Rochester Mayo. The big, physical defenseman is a captain and a key cog on a Spartans team that has big expectations of itself this season.
Ethan Norman remembers the first time he took the ice for a varsity hockey game.
The memories of his surroundings that night three years ago are a bit wobbly, just as his legs were when he stepped on the ice for his varsity debut in November of 2018.
“We were playing Hutchinson, on the road,” Norman said. “I remember stepping on the ice and my legs were shaking, I couldn’t stop them, I was so nervous.
“We had a really good team, so I just passed the puck up to the forwards and let them do their thing. We ended up winning (9-3), but I remember during introductions and the national anthem, my legs were shaking and I was thinking ‘this is finally it.’”
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That night three years ago in some ways feels like it was just yesterday, and in others it feels like a lifetime ago for Norman. After all, that was three years, 70 games and a life-altering global pandemic ago.
The Rochester Mayo senior defenseman -- and team captain -- looks back on his first three seasons fondly, but he doesn’t dwell on them for long. Mayo has business to attend to beginning Tuesday, when the highly regarded Spartans open their season at Holy Family Catholic in Victoria.
“I just try to lead by example, the best I can,” said Norman, who has four goals and 33 assists in 70 varsity games. “It’s my fourth year of playing varsity hockey, so I have that experience that most other guys don’t. I’ll try to give them pointers or tips on what to do in certain situations, whether it’s in a game or in practice. ...
“It definitely does feel weird to be a senior, my last year. The years have gone by very fast.”
The big, physical and skilled senior has gone from a player with shaky legs to a player who has the ability to take control of a game and change the flow with a hit or a body check. Mayo’s coaching staff -- and opposing players -- saw that on several occasions during the Spartans’ scrimmages against Burnsville and Lakeville North last Saturday at Graham Arena.
“There were a couple of times where guys had to think about catching pucks in the middle of the ice if (Norman) was around,” second-year Mayo head coach Matt Notermann said. “Sometimes we might even have to walk him back a bit, but I think it says a lot about him and our team that he’s willing to be that guy who’s difficult to play against.
“With the competition in our section, we aren’t going to go quietly.”
Norman said he learned a lot from previous leaders he played alongside, such as defenseman Alex Norby and uber-talented forward and Maddox Fleming, a classmate who played two seasons for Mayo before transferring to Shattuck St. Mary’s and then to the U.S. National Team Development Program. Fleming is currently with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede.
“Maddox has taught me his ways about how to play the game and conduct yourself,” Norman said. “Alex, he was a senior when I was a freshman. He really helped me with the defensive aspect of the game. I learned a lot from him. He conducted himself very well on and off the ice.
“I’ve really looked up to those two guys.”
Norman is one of just two seniors, along with Jaxon Lester, on a young but talented Mayo defensive corps this season. That group includes fellow returners Alec McBane and Will Sexton, both juniors. The Spartans’ blue-liners provide a stiff test in practice daily for a deep and talented group of forwards.
“It’s a great test because we have 12 very skilled forwards,” Norman said, “so the six or seven of us on defense have a good challenge each and every day to play against them.
“It’s fun every practice having that competition level be so high, with both sides trying to win. It really transfers over to games. Playing against these guys every day … you’re ready to go when it’s game time.”
Norman, who qualified for the Class AAA state golf meet last spring, said he hasn’t yet decided if he’s going to play a sport after this school year is done, or if he’ll become solely a college student.
“I’ve been told by many people to take in every practice and game every day because it’s going to fly by fast,” Norman said. “The ultimate goal is to win a state championship. I feel with this team we can make a deep playoff run, compete to win the section.
“We feel like we have the talent and depth to do it this year.”