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Bellini handling grind of hockey, school well in Minnesota

Adjusting to the rigors of college hockey, Sault Ste. Marie's Steven Bellini has been a regular on the blueline of the CCHA's Minnesota State Mavericks as a sophomore
Sault Ste. Marie's Steven Bellini, right, in action with the Minnesota State Mavericks.

Between playing at a higher level and the usual grind of attending college, it’s been something new for Sault Ste. Marie’s Steven Bellini this season.

A defenceman with the Minnesota State Mavericks, Bellini is in the midst of his sophomore season at the school, which plays in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

Bellini has adjusted well to the experience thus far.

“It’s a new experience for me,” Bellini said of the heavy school workload with the grind of college hockey.

A finance major, Bellini said the choice to attend Minnesota State is one he doesn’t regret.

“Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve loved it,” Bellini said. “It’s a great community here, a great fan base. You meet great people on the way, especially teammates and coaches. So far, I’ve loved it here.”

Bellini also said there have been a number of benefits to being a part of the Mavericks program.

“It starts with the coaching staff all the way down to the school in general,” Bellini said. “The coaching staff does a great job in developing us into not even just better players, but better men in society. The bond you have with teammates is unbelievable. I can’t even describe how important it is to be bonding with them.”

For Bellini, making the jump from junior hockey has meant some adjustments in his game as well.

“When you come and play college hockey, you’re obviously playing against mostly older guys. The biggest thing for me is speed and strength,” Bellini said. “On top of that, every team, they’re depth and how willing they are to buy into the game, whether that is to block shots or to get a check in, it’s mixture of that.”

The skill level of college hockey has meant a focus on the defensive side of the game for Bellini since making the jump to NCAA hockey.

“In junior hockey, you can get away with it here and there, but at college, you’re really dialed down to what it is to defend and how much harder it is versus all these offensive threat players,” Bellini said, adding that college hockey is “about managing the ups and downs.”

“Not every game or every practice, you’re going to be at the top of it, so it’s about turning it around if you’re down and if you’re riding an up, you just keep going,” Bellini also said.

Bellini joined Minnesota State prior to the 2021-22 season after a junior career that saw him spend two seasons with the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Soo Thunderbirds before joining the Coquitlam Express of the B.C. League in 2019-20 where he played for another Sault native in Jason Fortier, who was the coach and general manager of the team.

Bellini played his final season of junior hockey with the United States Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm in 2020-21.

With teams scattered across Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio, Bellini said the road trips can be tough, but the players try to make the best of them.

“It’s how you make it,” Bellini said of the road trips in the CCHA. “I feel like a lot of guys get along on our team and have really good connections, so just fooling around with them, whether it’s playing cards or just talking, it makes the time fly and the trips not as bad.”

With a heavy rivalry among the other schools in the state, Bellini said the rivalry with the University of Minnesota stands out.

“You want to win every game in college, but when you’re playing versus a school like Minnesota, you have an extra chip on your shoulder,” Bellini said. “You want to not just win but send a statement or two while you’re playing.”


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Brad Coccimiglio

About the Author: Brad Coccimiglio

A graduate of Loyalist College’s Sports Journalism program, Brad Coccimiglio’s work has appeared in The Hockey News as well as online at in addition to regular freelance work with SooToday before joining the team full time.
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