SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Some people can’t wait to leave home. But then there are others who do leave and then realize what it is they left behind.
“This is like my second home and I just think the whole community is great and the support is great. I’m just really excited," said Sioux Falls Stampede goaltender Jaxson Stauber.
“He’s just a special kid on and off the ice and I can’t say enough about having him back and what it all means to the team," said Stampede Assistant Coach Brett Skinner.
After leaving the Sioux Falls Stampede to play collegiality at the end of last season, Jaxson Stauber has returned to where it truly began.
“Right way, like once I made the decision I wanted to come right away and start playing, I was just really excited to get here," said Stauber.
The Clark Cup Finals MVP made a name for himself during last year’s 11-1 playoff run, guiding the Stampede to their third league championship.
“That was an amazing experience, something that I will never forget, definitely my best hockey in the USHL and probably some of the best hockey I have played in my life to be honest," said Stauber.
But when this 20-year-old stepped onto the campus of Minnesota State-Mankato this fall, he encountered an opponent he wasn’t expecting. His time on the ice would be sparse.
“It was more of the fact that I just wasn’t playing. It was tough, I tried to be patient and just work on getting better at practice each day and focus on the things that I can control, but it is frustrating," said Stauber.
Jaxson went from being a USHL hero, to a back up goalie for the nation’s top college hockey team. The Mavericks current goalie is sophomore Dryden McKay, who was one of the top rookies in all of college hockey last year. Stauber started only once in the first 10 games this season. That’s when he knew if he wanted real playing time he would need to return to Sioux Falls.
"This is like my second home and I’m comfortable with being here and the coaching staff and a couple of the guys that I know of the team, so this is definitely where I wanted to be," said Stauber.
“Not even the one ice ability but just his presence in the dressing room I think helps immediately. He’s a real calming influence on the team," said Skinner.
One thing that has continued to grow is Jaxson’s confidence.
“I’d give him a lot of credit for kind of some of the adversity that he faced last year and his ability to stick with it. It’s one thing to be patient and then to get your opportunity. It’s another to be patient, get your opportunity, and make something of it, and he obviously really did that," said Skinner.
Despite it taking until the mid-point of last season to earn a starting spot, Jaxson is already back to playing play-off style hockey. He has already earned two wins in his first two games back in a Herd sweater.
“That was awesome, to hear the crowd get up and be excited felt really good. It meant that I made an impact on them and that team last year made an impact," said Stauber.
Now Stauber hopes to make another impact in his third season playing for the Stampede, hoping to find redemption for himself and the struggling herd.
“Everything happens for a reason and I think a little bit of his decision of going to school and then now to come back might make him grow more, because he’s not sitting there wondering ‘what if’," said Skinner.
“Number one thing is to help the team make the playoffs and turn this thing around a little bit and to just get some more experience as a starter." said Stauber.
Stauber says that he and Minnesota State-Mankato have parted ways and that he has re-opened his recruitment in college hockey.