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For Rochester native and WMU coach Pat Ferschweiler, getting cut was first step on road to success

Returning to his alma mater for a second coaching stint, Ferschweiler took over the program in the summer of 2021 when Andy Murray stepped away.

Coach Ferschweiler 3.jpg
In his first season as the head coach at his alma mater Western Michigan in 2021-22, Rochester native Pat Ferschweiler led the Broncos to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff title game and to the Worcester Regional title game.
Contributed / Western Michigan Athletics

WORCESTER, Mass. — When you go to EliteProspects.com and check the career stats line for Western Michigan head coach Pat Ferschweiler , there’s a very good senior season at Rochester John Marshall High School in 1987-88, and an even better season with the USHL’s Rochester Mustangs in 1989-90. And there’s a mysterious void in between.

While some kids today take a “gap year” between high school and college, Ferschweiler headed north from Rochester to the place he thought he would spend the next four years. But as John Lennon once crooned, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Ferschweiler was invited to walk on at Minnesota Duluth and enrolled in school there. He went to training camp with the Bulldogs, was on the roster and was fully expecting to play for a program that — after a pair of WCHA titles and two Frozen Four trips in the middle 1980s — had sunk to the lower half of their conference.

It was the first time in my life that I’ve been told I’m not good enough.
Pat Ferschweiler

Around Thanksgiving of 1988, Ferschweiler got a big awakening to the realities of being a college athlete on the fringe of Division I. At the end of the first academic quarter, the Bulldogs coaches let Ferschweiler know they did not have a spot for him on the roster.

“It was the first time in my life that I’ve been told I’m not good enough,” Ferschweiler said this week while preparing the Broncos for their NCAA tournament opener versus Northeastern, which they won 2-1 in overtime on Friday.

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He recalled that even then, at 19, he realized: “They’re right, and I’ve got to either dig in and get better or I’m not going to play Division I.”

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Pat Ferschweiler tried his hand at coaching pro hockey, including four seasons in the NHL. Now the Rochester native is returning to a place he's considered home, ever since he left his original ...

So he went home to Rochester, got a spot on the local USHL roster and excelled, playing in the league’s all-star game the next year. He was a sought-after commodity and said his visit to the Western Michigan campus in Kalamazoo, Mich., just “felt right.”

In those days, NCAA eligibility rules were more stringent, and the nine weeks at UMD, followed by a transfer, had effectively cost Ferschweilier his freshman year of college hockey. As a sophomore for the Broncos, he put up 20 points in 40 games. As a junior he was second on the team in scoring (behind future NHLer and TV talking head Keith Jones) and as a senior, Ferschweiler was named the Broncos captain.

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In three seasons on the ice for Western Michigan, Pat Ferschweiler was among the team's leading scorers and was the Broncos' captain as a senior in 1992-93.
Contributed / Western Michigan Athletics

After more than 400 games in various levels of pro hockey, Ferschweiler moved behind the bench, working as an assistant for the Broncos and with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. Returning to his alma mater for a second coaching stint, Ferschweiler took over the program in the summer of 2021 when Andy Murray stepped away.

In his first season, he has already made history, leading Western to its first NCAA tournament win, and can make more history on Sunday, as a victory over Minnesota would give the Broncos their first berth in the Frozen Four. And it all started with a coach telling Ferschweiler he wasn’t good enough.

“Being cut at UMD was the best thing that ever happened to me, because it made me decide, do I like hockey or do I love hockey,” he said. “That was a motivating factor for me.”

It started his road to Kalamazoo, and Ferschweiler joked that once he showed up on campus, he never really left.

“Like the gum on their shoe, they can’t get rid of me,” he said, with a grin.

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Follow the 2022 NCAA men's hockey tournament coverage on The Rink Live for previews, recaps, photos, information and more as the teams play for a national championship in Boston.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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