St. Cloud, MN – A mere two weeks ago, the SCSU Huskies were preparing to face the Western Michigan Broncos in the first round of the NCHC playoffs in Kalamazoo, MI. Since then, our world has changed in unprecedented ways – in a way we’ve never experienced in our lifetime.
Any entertainment relying on a gathering of spectators has been totally shut down including all NCAA winter and spring sports including post season tournaments. The NBA and NHL shut down their schedules, the Olympic games have been shuttered for a year and the start of Major League Baseball has been postponed indefinitely. The State of Minnesota has taken it a step further. On March 16, by executive order, the Governor of the State of Minnesota ordered all bars, restaurants and places of public accommodation be closed. Finally, by executive order Governor Tim Walz ordered a “Stay-at-Home” order effective on March 27 and ending on April 10th.
For those of us that are hockey fans, we’ve missed out on our conference tournaments, we’d be in the midst of NCAA regional play and looking forward to another exciting NCAA Frozen Four in Detroit from April 9-11. But, that’s all become secondary. The health and livelihood of all the hard-working people and the economy of this great country are what matters right now. We’ll certainly get through this and in the long run we’ll be better and stronger as a result. Adversity tends to do that.
However, it doesn’t mean things have ground to a stop. They haven’t and there is surprisingly many things that have occurred in the past two weeks in our relatively small world of college hockey and even closer to home with the St. Cloud State University Huskies. I thought I’d bring you up to date with some news and notes.
SCSU Assistant Mike Gibbons Retires
On March 19th, long-time SCSU Assistant Coach Mike Gibbons announced his retirement after 13 seasons with the Huskies and literally a lifetime of coaching hockey. His 40 year career found him coaching at every level of play including high school, collegiate and the professional level.
At the time he announced “After having spent the last 40 years living the dream of coaching hockey, I have made the decision to retire. I am blessed to have spent a lifetime coaching hockey and want to thank all of the players, parents, coaches, friends and fans. In the 14 years I have been associated with the program, my wife and I have fallen in love with St. Cloud State, the community, the fans, the players and the staff. I am certainly proud of our All-America and NHL players, but I am most proud of our players’ quality of character during my time at St. Cloud State. We have had outstanding student-athletes here at SCSU and they have helped make this program great. ”
He joined Bob Motzko’s staff in 2007 and was a key recruiter for the program and instrumental in developing a pipeline to Finland recruiting players including Kalle Kossila, Rasmus Reijola, Niklas Nevalainen, Mika Ilvonen and current Husky Jami Krannila. He was instrumental in a highly successful run at St. Cloud State including NCAA tournament teams in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019. Additionally, his teams won the McNaughton Cup in 2012-13 and the Penrose Cup three times since joining the NCHC in 2013-14.
In 2016 the American College Hockey Coaches Association named Gibbons the recipient of the Terry Flanagen Award recognizing him for his career achievements as an assistant hockey coach.
Formal Search for SCSU Assistant Coach Begins
The retirement of Mike Gibbons has put the wheels in motion for a formal search for a replacement for Gibbons. In that regard, St. Cloud State will not do an “emergency hire” but will go through the formal process with a goal to have this position filled with a desired start date of May 11, 2020. The position for this fixed term coaching position was posted on March 26 with a closing date for online applicants by April 27th.
Coach Larson has advised he’s received a number of inquiries for this position but no names are being released and they need to let the formal process run it’s course until April 27th when the names of finalists for this position can be released as they are scheduled for interviews.
You can be sure there will a lot of interest in this position.
Graduate Transfer Seamus Donohue Chooses SCSU
With the departure of seniors Jack Ahcan and Clark Kuster who logged 33 and 27 games respectively, the Huskies needed the addition of two defenseman to round out their roster for the 2020-21 season. Carver, MN native and former Holy Family Catholic standout Brady Ziemer previously signed his National Letter of Intent and the Huskies have successfully filled the other position with graduate transfer Seamus Donohue of North Oaks, MN. Donohue, who played the last three seasons for Michigan Tech University of the WCHA completed his undergraduate studies and as a “graduate” transfer will be eligible immediately for the 2020-21 season.
The 6’0″ 185 pound left-shooting defenseman, was one of the top defenseman for the MTU Huskies and was an assistant captain in 2019-20. A stalwart in the lineup, he appeared in 117 games for the Huskies showing his durability. He was 10th on the squad in points with 3 goals and 14 assists for 17 points this past season. This included one game-winning goal and he was +1 for the season. In Donohue, the Huskies get a good skating and mobile defenseman, that defends well and can be inserted in the power play. He should immediately be a top-four defenseman for the Huskies.
Prior to the MTU Huskies, Donohue played 40 games under former SCSU Assistant Coach Fred Harbinson for Penticton of the BCHL coincidentally, on the same team with SCSU’s Easton Brodzinski. Donohue also played 45 games for Wichita Falls of the North American Hockey League where he captained the team and had 4 goals and 28 assists for 32 points. Donohue was also captain of his high school squad, St. Thomas Academy where he was a teammate of former SCSU goaltender, David Zevnik.
With the transfer portal becoming a huge recruiting tool for college hockey, Donohue was a much coveted “free agent” after he posted his intention to transfer. Donohue chose the SCSU Huskies over Boston College and UMD among others with a big selling point the Sports Management curriculum at SCSU. An excellent student, Donohue earned an undergraduate degree in finance at Michigan Tech University.
Ahcan Signs Pro Contract with Boston of the NHL
The Huskies all-time assists leader at the defensive position announced on March 26th that he had signed an entry level contract with the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League. Ahcan said ” I am very humbled and honored to join the Boston Bruins organization; it is truly a dream come true for me and my family. When the time is right, I look forward to getting started with my new teammates. More importantly, stay safe, stay healthy and stay positive.”
Ahcan, who will go down in St. Cloud State University hockey history as one of the most durable and productive defenseman ever, accumulated 21 goals and 81 assists for 103 points in his four-year career. Rarely missing a game, the undersized (for a defenseman) Ahcan appeared in 144 games for the Huskies.
He racked up numerous awards in his hockey career thus far including USHL Defenseman of the Year, NCHC All-Rookie Team, two-time NCHC Second Team All-Star, NCAA All-American and was a member of the Bronze Medal USA World Junior A Challenge Team and Gold Medal USA World Junior Team.
Coach Brett Larson commented “Congrats on signing with the Bruins. Huge leadership guiding a young team through a ton of growth and at the same time having a great senior season yourself. Your character, grit, compete and skill will take you a long way. He further told me “It’s a good fit for Jack. They’ve (Boston Bruins) had success with undersized college players including Tory Krug. I’m happy for him”
The Bruins also recently signed UMD Defenseman Nick Wolfe to a one-year entry level deal. Wolfe, at 6’5″ 225 is the polar opposite to the 5’8″ 185 pound Ahcan.
Ahcan received a very lucrative entry level two-year, two-way contract which could theoretically earn him $1.8 million over two years if he were to remain in the NHL. Ahcan received the maximum entry level salary with the addition of substantial performance bonuses the second year of the contract. If Ahcan is sent to the American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins, he would receive the base AHL salary of $70,000. Ahcan’s contract is for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.
News Around the National Collegiate Hockey Conference
Two NCHC teams that appear to be hit particularly hard by departures this post-season are the Western Michigan University Broncos and the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
Much like the Huskies who saw the departure of ten players from their 2018-19 squad, the WMU Broncos will see the departure of their top five scorers including seniors, Hugh McGing, Dawson Depietro, Wade Allison and Cam Lee and junior Austin Rueschhoff, who signed early with the New York Rangers. Additionally, on defense, they took a big hit with sophomore Mattius Samuelsson signing with the Buffalo Sabres. They also see the departure of seniors Luke Bafia and Kale Bennett on defense and Lawton Courtnall at forward. Goaltender, Ben Blacker also finished his eligibility.
The Bulldogs, who appeared ready to make another run at the National Championship before the season was halted won’t have a large number of departures but nevertheless some substantial ones. This week, junior Scott Perunovich opted to forgo his senior season and signed an entry level deal with the St. Louis Blues. One of the top offensive defenseman at his position in college hockey, he’ll leave a huge hole for the Bulldogs to fill. He led the team with 40 points in 2019-20. Defensive teammate, Nick Wolfe, a four-year starter and physical presence at defense finished his eligibility and signed with the Boston Bruins. Another glaring loss with be goaltender Hunter Shepard who led the Bulldogs to two straight national championships. Shepard appeared in 117 games for UMD over the past three seasons. The All-American and two-time NCHC Goaltender of the Year was the backbone of this team for the last three seasons. They also lose regular forwards and seniors Jade Miller and Jarod Hilderman. The rumor mill also suggests that junior Dylan Samberg, another outstanding defenseman could follow Perunovich in signing a pro contract . Certainly that would decimate an outstanding defensive unit.
Miami, who is in a rebuild, loses their two top scorers, Gordie Green and Karch Bachman to graduation. Omaha loses two key defensemen in Dean Stewart and Ryan Jones, both seniors. Colorado College also sees the departure of their two top offensive players in seniors Chris Wilkie and Nick Halloran who combined for 35 of the teams 86 goals.