As he sat beside two of his treasured seniors Friday, Bob Motzko felt incredibly fortunate. The St. Cloud State coach noted that in the changing landscape of college hockey, many players no longer stick around for four years — which made him all the more grateful for Ethan Prow and his classmates.
The Huskies take their lead from the seven seniors on their roster, whose devotion to the program has carried it to four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. None has roots as deep as Prow. The native of Sauk Rapids, Minn., grew up just a 10-minute drive from the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, began attending games at age 4 and committed to St. Cloud State a week after the coaching staff first contacted him.
While some players are in a rush to jump from college to the pros, Prow always wanted his time with the Huskies to last as long as possible. His mission Saturday is to keep it rolling, as second-ranked St. Cloud State opens the NCAA West Regional against Ferris State. A top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player, the nation’s highest-scoring defenseman has captained his team to 31 victories — the most of any team this season — and is aiming for two more this weekend at Xcel Energy Center, which would send the Huskies to their second Frozen Four.
“We’re all really happy with what we’ve accomplished so far,” said Prow, who has eight goals and 28 assists. “But we don’t want to be done, either. For all of us seniors, the team is what it’s all about.
“We’re excited we’ve had this success, but we’ll celebrate that later. Our whole focus now is getting as far as we can in the NCAAs.”
Good example set
As freshmen, Prow and his fellow seniors were part of the Huskies’ deepest run in the NCAA Division I tournament. St. Cloud State made the Frozen Four in 2013, falling 4-1 to Quinnipiac in the semifinals.
The seniors on that team, including Hobey Baker winner Drew LeBlanc and captain Ben Hanowski, set a template for those who would follow. Players such as Andrew Prochno, Kevin Gravel and Nic Dowd also stayed four years, intent on building the Huskies into a program that could reach the tournament year after year and win games once they got there.
An all-conference player for Sauk Rapids-Rice High School, Prow spent two seasons with Des Moines of the USHL before joining the Huskies. He learned from standout defensemen such as Nick Jensen and Prochno, developing his ability to move the puck and join the rush. Midway through last season, Motzko said, Prow began to emerge as an elite player.
“Ethan’s a local guy, a tremendous talent, a great kid,” Motzko said. “What he’s done has not been a surprise to us at all. He’s got that ability.”
Prow has quarterbacked the Huskies’ power play — or, as it’s become known this season, the “Prower Play’’ — to a 28.9 percent success rate, second-best in the nation. He is plus-32, has blocked 73 shots and has taken only one minor penalty all season. The National Collegiate Hockey Conference player of the year, defenseman of the year and offensive defenseman of the year, Prow also has made the league’s all-academic team three times and has a long list of community and charitable activities.
The Huskies’ senior class also includes Kalle Kossila, who leads the team with 52 points; Joey Benik of Andover, a 22-goal scorer known for outstanding postseason play; and David Morley, an alternate captain and efficient forward who has 14 goals and 23 assists.
The seven seniors have a combined 210 points this season, most of any senior class in the tournament field.
Their contributions this season, Motzko said, go beyond those numbers. Prow and his classmates can seize control of a game when necessary, and their dedication and leadership have strengthened the program’s culture.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of a group of guys and what they’ve accomplished,” the coach said. “How lucky I’ve been to be head coach of this crew.”
While Motzko said he felt fortunate to have so many outstanding players stay with the Huskies for all four years, Prow said he feels like the lucky one.
“It’s been such an honor to play for such a great program,” he said.
“To be part of something like this, it’s what you dream of.”