Rachel Blount writes about a wide variety of sports subjects, including Minnesota's women's basketball team. She also covers Olympic sports, Minnesota sports and social issues that intersect with the games we watch and play. She has been at the Star Tribune for 20 years, reporting on everything from hockey to horse racing to seven Olympic Games. An Iowa native, she holds degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Missouri and is married to fellow sportswriter Pat Borzi.

Huskies at the Frozen Four: Herbie's vision fulfilled

Posted by: Rachel Blount Updated: April 10, 2013 - 5:34 PM

Bob Motzko seemed surprised that no one had made the connection. Last week, the St. Cloud State coach noted that these Huskies were not the first to make it to the final four in an NCAA hockey tournament. They had done so in Division III in 1987, finishing third in the nation to end the season in which Herb Brooks coached them.

Motzko began his coaching career as an assistant to Brooks that season. He is now in his eighth season as head coach and led St. Cloud State to its first Division I Frozen Four with emphatic victories over Notre Dame and Miami (Ohio) in the Midwest Regional. Thursday, the Huskies play Quinnipiac in the national semifinal at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Wednesday, they kicked off the experience with a press conference; last week, Motzko reminisced about that 1986-87 season.

Brooks took the job to help the Huskies make the transition to Division I, furthering the vision of legendary Gophers coach John Mariucci, whose mission was to expand Division I college opportunities for Minnesota-born players. The Huskies went 25-10-1 that season, and Brooks also aided them by lobbying for state funds to build the National Hockey Center. In the Division III tournament, they lost 5-2 to Oswego State in the semifinals and defeated Bemidji State 6-4 in the third-place game.

"I'll never forget when we played the semifinal game,'' said Motzko, who played for the Huskies for two seasons before joining Brooks's staff. "I was standing right next to Herb in the press box, and he was madder than a hornet. He turned to me and said, 'I've never lost a semifinal game before in my life.' He was so mad. I'm just a young guy, and I'm thinking, 'He won three titles (at the U), he won the gold medal (at the 1980 Olympics). He isn't used to that.'

"That was just as meaningful to those guys in 1987 as it is to these guys, though this one probably means more to the whole community. One of the players from that team told me, 'You can finish what we started.' I do know Herb would be very proud of this.''

That player, by the way, was Mike Brodzinski, who has additional reason to root. His son Jonny, a freshman, leads the Huskies with 22 goals. Mike Brodzinski was the leading scorer in D-III in 1985-86 and 1986-87, and with 76 goals and 70 assists, he is the leading career scorer for St. Cloud State in its pre-Division I era. "He's really pumped,'' Jonny said last week. "He's got all his tickets. He's ready to go.''

More from Motzko on the current edition of the Huskies:

--He predicted big things early on for this group. "From day one, I said, 'There's something here,''' he said. "They have a great compete level, and they're a lot of fun to be around. I didn't know how good we were going to be; I knew we had (Drew) LeBlanc, (Ben) Hanowski and (Nick) Jensen back, and we had faith in our goalie (Ryan Faragher). But we needed some young kids to step into key roles, and they did.''

--On the importance of LeBlanc, a Hobey Baker Award finalist, to the team's success: "People say he doesn't have a lot of goals (LeBlanc has 13 this season). He has a pile of goals. They're all on other players' sticks. He makes players around him better, and that's his greatest gift as a hockey player. So many of our guys have tap-in goals they would never have had (without his setups). He puts the puck right on their tape.

"Those freshmen who have been his linemates (Brodzinski and Kalle Kossila), one has 22 goals, and one has 15. People say, 'Oh, geez, what tremendous freshman years they're having. They're good players.' Drew LeBlanc is why.''

Wednesday in Pittsburgh, at the team's pre-tournament news conference, LeBlanc spoke about how it felt to be there. The Huskies took a charter flight from St. Cloud and have a full slate of activities on tap in Pittsburgh, including fan gatherings, a pep rally with their band, mascot and cheerleaders, and a "red-carpet arrival'' ceremony before Thursday's semifinal.

"Just driving up and seeing that big Frozen Four sign on the window with our name up there, it's like, 'Oh, this really happened,''' LeBlanc said. "It's been a whirlwind of practice and interviews and this and that. We haven't had a chance to sit down and enjoy the moment yet. We can't wait to get to (game time).''

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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73

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