Force goalie's interesting diet, discipline part of his total dedication to hockey
FargoWhen Fargo Force goalie Strauss Mann was a junior in high school at Brunswick School in Greenwich, Conn., he looked in the mirror and asked himself what he wanted to do. He would end up playing in just eight games that season as the backup g...
When Fargo Force goalie Strauss Mann was a junior in high school at Brunswick School in Greenwich, Conn., he looked in the mirror and asked himself what he wanted to do. He would end up playing in just eight games that season as the backup goalie. He told himself he wanted to play Division I hockey.
It was at that moment Mann dedicated every minute of his life to hockey. And now, less than three years later, he's committed to play for the University of Michigan and putting together one of the best season's in net in Force history.
"I decided I was going to go all in," Mann said.
Mann's room looks like the office of a physical therapist. He has vibrating rollers to massage, bands to stretch, compression pants--which use compressed air to massage the limbs, an acupressure spike mat to stimulate the legs, pillows to put under his legs and neck to help his posture while he sleeps. He tries to get 10 hours of sleep every night. The Paleolithic diet he started a little bit before that look in the mirror has kept him from eating ice cream for nearly two years and pizza for more than two years.
"I look at all aspects of my life and try to improve it," Mann said. "I wanted to apply all aspects of my life to hockey."
Mann is used to the looks from new teammates when he shows up to the first road trip with a cooler full of meals he prepared for himself. His diet is gluten-free, dairy-free, and he will not eat something that is at all processed or "changed by humans." It's a lot of meat, vegetables and rice that he eats every two hours.
"He's saved us money on our budget by bringing his own food," Force coach Cary Eades joked.
Mann did cheat once in August when his mom made him a gluten-free, dairy-free cake for his birthday that had a bit of processed sugar in it. But that was for his mom, so that doesn't count.
"I had to have a slice," Mann said.
Mann, whose first name is his grandmother's maiden name because she had only sisters and the family wanted to keep the name going, began playing hockey at the age of 7. He was a forward before hopping in net two years later because his team needed a goalie. From there, he was hooked.
"I don't think there's a position in sports quite like it," Mann said. "It can't get much more difficult mentally or physically than being a goalie. I enjoy the challenge.
"It's a little counterintuitive to talk about standing in a net and have pucks flying at your head. As humans were taught to react to get away from things that come at us. You can't be too normal in the head to choose to be a goalie."
Mann is putting together one of the best seasons in net in the 10-year history of the Force. He has a 1.91 goals-against average and has stopped 807 of the 868 shots he's seen for a .930 save percentage in 33 games. His GAA is second in the USHL to Tri-City's Filip Larsson, who has played 235 less minutes and seen 84 less shots than Mann.
It would take a lot for Mann not to finish with the best GAA and save percentage in a season in Force history. Zane McIntyre finished with a 2.22 GAA and .921 save percentage in the 2011-12 season, but did so in 46 games.
Playing fewer games than McIntyre is no fault of Mann's. The Force have a good 1-2 punch between the pipes with he and Ryan Bischel. Bischel's 2.25 GAA in 28 games would put him fourth in Force history for a single season and his .918 save percentage would be tied for third. Bischel's GAA is fourth in the USHL.
"He does everything possible to make himself a better goalie, a better athlete," Eades said. "He's a very focused individual. He attacks his daily routine to get better on and off the ice."
Mann may have a strict diet, but he and Bischel have fed off each other, even rooming together on road trips.
"In other situations, they're probably 45-50-game goaltenders," Eades said. "They've had to sacrifice a little bit to save the net. They room together, they're close friends and they're pulling for each other, and each day is a contest to one-up the other guy. It's been a joy to be around."
In May, Mann was cut from a USHL camp. For a week, he was trying to decide what to do, thinking maybe he'd go to the North American Hockey League. The Force called to give him a shot. They even had opportunities to bring in other goalies throughout the summer, but they stuck with Mann. Less than a year after getting cut from a USHL camp, Mann is helping lead the Force into the playoffs and committed to Michigan.
"It's crazy to look back at it all, but I've really enjoyed every step along the way," Mann said. "Stuff like this only happens when you have a lot of great people around you. From my family to coaches to the Force organization, you have to get a little bit lucky to have great people around you because you can't do it on your own."
There's still a lot to play for with just two games remaining in the regular season. The worst the
Force can finish is third in the Western Conference. The Force are three points behind Waterloo for the top spot in the conference and two points behind Omaha for second place in the conference with four points still possible. The top two spots in each conference get a bye for the first round of the playoffs. The Force will travel to Sioux Falls on Friday and host Sioux Falls on Saturday to wrap up the regular season.
If the Force finish third they'll have to host Tri-City for a best-of-three series Tuesday, Wednesday and, if needed, Thursday. They'd be looking at the possibility of playing five hockey games in a six-day period with a bus trip to Waterloo or Omaha in between. If they move up to No. 1 or No. 2 in the conference they'll host the second round of the playoffs, which opens up Saturday, April 21.
A few points can create a big difference.
"We're still hoping to get that bye," Eades said. "If we don't, we want to be playing well and continue our successful play into the playoffs. It's business as usual. Nothing is set. Still a lot to play for. We're in playoff mode for this weekend."
Mann is a big reason why the Force find themselves where they're at this season.
After a win on the road, Eades will look toward the back of the bus and ask Mann if he's going to cheat on his meal plan, as his teammates head to a gas station to get snacks. Mann, with his trusty cooler near, always smiles and tells Eades he will when they win the Clark Cup.
"When we win the Clark Cup maybe I'll have a slice of pizza," Mann said.