St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko reminesced about the Huskies' season on his final weekly radio show of the season on Monday.
He said everybody was real down after SCSU's 4-1 loss to Quinnipiac last Thursday in the Frozen Four semifinals.
But the mood of the team changed a bit the next day when senior co-captain Drew LeBlanc was named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award the next day.
He said the chair of the Hobey Baker committee called him on Monday and said that picking a Hobey winner is always difficult when it gets down to three players, but there is always a moment afterward which validates the vote.
The validation for LeBlanc, the committee chair said, came at the ceremony. All his teammates came down from the stands and joined LeBlanc up front and that never happens.
"It was a great accomplishment. ... And that validated that the right decision was made," Motzko said, recalling what the committee chair told him. "It was a great group of guys to be around."
Who wanted the share the moment with one of their leaders.
Motzko said the team started coming together after the holidays last season and carried over into last summer's training. "A lot of times when your season has ended, you are glad it is ended," Motzko said. "This year you wish you could get started again ... If we could keep playing, we would."
Then SCSU got swept by New Hampshire the first weekend of the regular season. "We were tied at the end of second period in both games," Motzko said.
But even though he had a new boss, Heather Weems, he was not afraid to predict the Huskies would do will. "I said we are going to make noise before the season is over," Motzko said.
He said the Huskies needed three things to happen and they all did:
* LeBlanc had to come back strong from his injury, a broken leg
* the Huskies' freshmen had to score goal -- they did, especially Jonny Brodzinski with 22
* and goalie Ryan Faragher had to take the next step in getting better
The Huskies, who tied the Gophers for the MacNaughton Cup, were only swept in a series once more the rest of the season.
And SCSU cleaned up on postseason awards:
* LeBlanc, besided the Hobey, was named the Player of the Year in the WCHA and the Scholar-Athlete in the conference, and a first team All-American
* Nick Jensen also was named a first team All-American and the Defensive Player of the Year in the WCHA
* Motzko was one of two runners-up for national coach of the year
* Sophomore forward Brooks Bertsch received the NCAA 89 Award for having the best GPA among players in the Frozen Four
LATE START FLUMMOXED HUSKIES
But the season came to an abrupt end in Pittsburgh. Quinnipiac scored two goals in the first five minutes and in the 12th minute took a 3-0 lead.
"If we could just redo the first five-minute span to start that game," Motzko said. "After the overtime, we were thrown for a loop."
In the first game, Yale needed overtime to beat UMass-Lowell. So the second semifinal started late.A 60-minute wait was required between games.
"I just did not have them prepared or ready," Motzko said, referring to his players.
And now everything is changing.
LeBlanc and Ben Hanowski, his senior co-captains, both have signed contracts and are gone.
Motzko knew that was coming. His concern now is if any players with eligibility will leave early. The chief threats to do that are Jenson, forward Nic Dowd and defenseman Kevin Gravel, all juniors, and Faragher, a sophomore free agent.
"I met with a couple of them right away when the season ended," Motzko said. "I think we will get most of them back, and there is a chance we get all of them back. ... Now they are so emotional. And you don't want to make an emotional decision."
Motzko said entry-level NHL contracts are not that big unless you play in the NHL right away. And if that is the case, Motzko said, "if you are going to the NHL -- and I stole this from [Michigan coach' Red Berenson, we will drive you right to the airport."
But if a player is going to the ECHL or the AHL, "I don't get it," Motzko said.
"Even if Drew had not won the Hobey, he will never second guess his decision to come back," Motzko said. "And that is what I am pleased with ... It worked out pretty well for that young man and the university."
Next season the Huskies and five other WCHA teams will be in the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. But Motzko said we got together with coaches from those teams he never talked about the NCHC. "It is like cheating on your wife," he said. "Now that [the WCHA season] is over. It is still hard to talk about it."
He expects the NCHC to be tough and balanced. "I anticipate at Christmas, there will be eight teams that are 8-8, we are going to beat tar out of each. ... We all better get used to .500 records. ... We have to find ways to survive it to get into the NCAA tournament."
The Huskies are playing Bemidji State in a nonconference series next season and, Motzko said, he hopes to get Minnesota State Mankato back on the Huskies' schedule in future seasons.
SCSU will also play the Gophers on the first day of the all-Minnesota teams tournament at the Xcel next season. They will meet in the second game.
The tournament will be on the weekend before the Super Bowl
"Fans can pre-book trips to St. Paul," Motzko said, which they can't for the Final Five until the weekend right before. "This could turn out to be a big-time event . ... We can plan alumni events."
The Huskies have at least five recruits coming in for next season. They are:
* Goalie Charlie Lundgren. He was 35-14-2 (last column is OT losses) for Sioux Falls in the UHSL with a 2.80 GAA. He said he will compete with Faragher for the starting job, which is good.
"Competition is the greatest motivator there is in sports," Motzko said.
* Defensman Ben Storm, 6-6, 213, plays for Muskegon. One of his assistants told Motzko that Storm recently had a Gordie Howe hat trick: a goal, an assist and a fight. "He's a big kid who is developing," Motzko said. "He has got a mean streak, but he has some game."
* Forward Judd Peterson (11-15--26) played for Cedar Rapids of the USHL this season. "He had a terrific career at Duluth Marshall," Motzko said. "He can skate, and it's been a very good year for him."
* Forward Ryan Papa has played for Waterloo of the USHL, a team with the top three scorers in the league. "Waterloo is stacked with some high-end forwards," Motzko said, so Papa didn't get as much chance on power plays as he could have elsewhere. His numbers: 21-20--41.
* Center Daniel Tedesco led the Toronto Lakeshore players in scoring (29-32--61) in 49 regular-season games in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
SCSU fans have been invited to come to the National Hockey Center at 5 p.m. Wednesday to celebrate the Huskies' impressive season.
The Chicago Black Hawks agreed to terms with LeBlanc on a one-year contract, it was announced Saturday.
LeBlanc, 23, had 13 goals and 37 assists for 50 points in 42 games this season.
He led the nation in assists and tied for seventh in overall scoring. LeBlanc set career highs in points, goals and assists, and tied his career-best in game-winning goals with three.
He is a 6-pound, 195-pound center who played high school hockey for Hermantown.
LeBlanc will report to Chicago and wear number 14.
CCM HOCKEY ALL-AMERICAN HOCKEY TEAM
Chosen by the American Hockey Coaches Association
West - First
G - Brady Hjelle, SR, The Ohio State University (International Falls, MN)
D - Nick Jensen, JR, St. Cloud State University (Rogers)
D - Jacob Trouba, FR, University of Michigan (Rochester, MI)
F - Austin Czarnik, SO, Miami University (Washington, MI)
F - Danny Kristo, SR, University of North Dakota (Eden Prairie)
F - Drew LeBlanc, SR, St. Cloud State University (Hermantown, MN)
East - First
G - Eric Hartzell, SR, Quinnipiac University (White Bear Lake)
?D - Nick Bailen, SR, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Fredonia, NY)
D - Chad Ruhwedel, JR, UMass Lowell (San Diego, CA)
D - Trevor van Riemsdyk, SO, University of New Hampshire (Middletown, NJ)
F - Kyle Flanagan, SR, St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY)
F - Johnny Gaudreau, SO, Boston College (Carneys Point, NJ)
F - Steven Whitney, SR, Boston College (Reading, MA)
East - Second
G - Jon Gillies, FR, Providence College (South Portland, ME)
D - Shayne Gostisbehere, SO, Union College (Margate, FL)
D - George Hughes, SR, St. Lawrence University (Westwood, MA)
F - Greg Carey, JR, St. Lawrence University (Hamilton, ON)
F - Mike Collins, JR, Merrimack College (Boston, MA)
F - Andrew Miller, SR, Yale University (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
West - Second
G- Juho Olkinuora, SO, University of Denver (Helsinki, Finland)
D- Dan DeKeyser, JR, Western Michigan (Clay Township, MI)
D- Nate Schmidt, JR, University of Minnesota (St. Cloud, MN)
F- Corban Knight, SR, University of North Dakota (High River, AB)
F- Anders Lee, JR, University of Notre Dame (Edina)
F- Ryan Walters, JR, University of Nebraska Omaha (Rosemount)