‘Youthful’ Huskies likely headed back to NCAA under Motzko

By Jason Feldman

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

ST. PAUL — Bob Motzko has eight freshmen on his roster this season, to replace the eight players that departed at the end of the 2006-07 season.

It was difficult to replace some of those veterans with fresh, young faces, but Motzko had no choice, and his St. Cloud State men’s hockey team has made the best of its youth this season.

Motzko and the Huskies (19-15-5) would have much preferred to hang around St. Paul for two more days, but in a way, their 3-2 loss to Minnesota in Thursday’s WCHA Final Five play-in game could be beneficial as St. Cloud prepares to play in the NCAA Division I tournament for a second consecutive season.


"This gives us a couple extra days to rest, I guess," Motzko said, "but the biggest thing for us is we have to come back and play good hockey."

That’s exactly what St. Cloud State is becoming known for under Motzko, an Austin native who is wrapping up his third season as the Huskies head coach. He was named the WCHA Coach of the Year in his first two seasons at SCSU, and did well to guide a young squad to a top-five finish in the conference this season.

SCSU lost some key players off last year’s team, specifically second-leading scorer Andrew Gordon and All-WCHA goalie Bobby Goepfert, a Hobey Baker Award finalist last season.

The Huskies’ youth may have caught up to them Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. They allowed a goal just 25 seconds into the game, then took two momentum-killing penalties, one with 4:10 to play in the game, just 16 seconds after Tony Mosey scored to tie the score 2-2.

Minnesota didn’t score on the ensuing power play, but the Huskies lost the momentum, then the game, when Mike Howe scored with 12.7 seconds to go. Gophers defenseman Derek Peltier fired a shot from the point that bounced off the back boards and right to Howe’s stick. He had an open side of the net to bury it.

"We’re not happy at all with how we played," Motzko said. "I call it ‘stage-itis,’ playing on a big stage. We took two terrible penalties and some things happened to us — we consider ourselves a very disciplined team — that don’t usually happen. And with a lot of the younger players, they didn’t know how to react."

Now the Huskies will sit and wait until Sunday morning, when the 16-team NCAA tournament field is announced. Motzko has coached for more than 20 years, including a four-year run as Minnesota’s top assistant, and he knows this is the time of year when he allows his key players to lead the team both verbally and by example.

"This is just a minor setback in the road to the (national) tournament," said sophomore forward Ryan Lasch, the WCHA scoring champion and the Huskies’ second Hobey Baker Award candidate in as many seasons. "We’ll regroup and go forward."


Motzko couldn’t have said it better himself.

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