Story by Rob LaPlante
Blaine, MN – Round one featured Michael and Jonny. Round two could shape up to be Easton and Bryce. At least that’s what Mike and Kathy Brodzinski, parents of the four aforementioned siblings are hoping for, as the Gopher and Husky men’s hockey teams prepare for next weekend’s Mariucci Classic Dec. 28-29 in Minneapolis.
For round two’s matchup to happen, the Gophers would have to defeat Bemidji State, while the Huskies would have to knock off Minnesota State-Mankato in Friday’s opening round of this year’s Classic. They could also face each other in the third-place game, if both teams lose their opening-round game.
“I’d like to see them both win that tournament,” said Mike Brodzinski, who spent two years playing at the University of Minnesota, prior to transferring to St. Cloud State in 1984. “Obviously, both of them can’t win it. They can take first and second,” interrupted Kathy, who was sporting a Brodzinski Gopher jersey, while Mike had his Brodzinski Husky jersey on.“Second is better than third,” Mike joked. “Both teams are young, so it will be a good one.” ”I would just like to see Easton and Bryce play against each other,” Kathy said.
If they do face off against one another, it wouldn’t be the first time Mike and Kathy have had a conflict of interest. Jonny, who is the eldest of the siblings, faced Michael, the second oldest, four different times while they were in college. Jonny was a three-year (2012-2015) standout at SCSU. Michael was a three-year (2013-2016) standout at the U of M. Michael’s Gophers had the upper hand in three of those four matchups, including a 4-0 victory over the Huskies in the 2014 NCAA West Regional at the Xcel Energy Center.
Kathy remembers that particular matchup well. She had specialized t-shirts made that her and family members sported for the regional game that had half Husky, half Gopher logos stitched together.“So now we’ll just wear a Gopher shirt and a St. Cloud hat, or whatever,” Kathy said.
Jonny does own family bragging rights though, as he was the only one to score in the four head-to-head matchups. For Mike, that was one of his favorite memories thus far. “Jonny’s junior year, we’re playing the Gophers at home, and the arena was packed,” Mike said. “He got a rink-wide pass from Nick Jensen, and he took a slapshot about six inches inside the blueline, and it beat Adam Wilcox’s glove. It was so loud in the rink you couldn’t hear, but then it went dead silent, because nobody knew where the puck went, then the water bottle came back down and hit behind the net. The puck was stuck behind the center bar of the net and the place just erupted. It was a laser.”
Another favorite moment for the parents came when Michael, a defenseman, recorded his first collegiate hat trick in a 9-2 rout on Jan. 23, 2016 at Wisconsin.
Michael was the only one of the four siblings to play defense, but like all four brothers, all possess lethal shots from the right side.“They all have really good shots,” Mike said. “That’s one thing they always worked at. But, Jonny’s sort of the one who’s always been known for his shot. Easton is sort of a different player. He’s more of a playmaker, as is Bryce, and Michael is a defenseman, who has learned to get shots on net and quick.”
Easton is currently a junior at SCSU, while Bryce is a freshman with the Gophers. Bryce verbally committed to St. Cloud his junior year in high school at Blaine, but once Bob Motzko left the Huskies for the U of M, he signed his letter of intent his senior season to join the Gophers. While the family is hopeful of round two of a sibling rivalry, the entire family can admit they are happy that none of the siblings decided to play elsewhere, which nearly happened in the case of Michael.
“Michael actually had a full-ride opportunity at North Dakota,” Mike said. “I thought that’s where he was going to go.”“We drove away from there, and we were probably three minutes into the car ride and Michael said ‘no way,’” Kathy said. “After that, we were like, yes!”
“He had free tickets for that night to watch the UND game, and I said ‘you want to go get something to eat and go back?’ and he said, ‘nope, let’s just go watch Jonny,’ because Jonny was playing Fargo that night, so we drove there and watched him. In hindsight, he would’ve won a national championship, because his sophomore year, North Dakota won the national title.”
Michael and Jonny have both had a crack at the national title, but neither team made it past the semifinals of the Frozen Four.“Now we have to get Easton and Bryce there,” Kathy said. “We’re really fortunate, because all four boys played in the high school state tournament.”
Three of the four have also experienced their childhood dream of getting drafted in the NHL. Bryce was drafted this past spring by the Philadelphia Flyers. Jonny was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings. Michael was drafted by San Jose. Easton is the only one who is an undrafted free agent.
“I just enjoy it. I don’t care where they are all playing,” said Kathy, who admitted, she didn’t have anything to do with hockey prior to meeting her husband. As the hockey mom of five male rink rats, Kathy will potentially get to cheer on a female family member. Jonny and his wife Lauren are due with the family’s first grandchild this coming February.
“It’s a girl, so we finally get our girl,” Kathy said. “I can’t wait.”
Note: Should the Huskies and Gophers meet, it will also feature a brother matchup between Elk River’s Nick Perbix, a sophomore defenseman for St. Cloud State University and Jack Perbix, a first-year forward for the University of Minnesota.