After taking gold at the World Junior Championship in January, Bob Motzko has shifted his focus back to the Huskies and their playoff push as they approach the final weeks of the regular season.
Bob Motzko is no stranger to success. Aside from his recent gold medal as head coach of team USA at the World Junior Championship in Montreal, the St. Cloud State head coach has won multiple national championships while being on coaching staff for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers back in the early 2000’s. He also brought St. Cloud State to its first Frozen Four appearance in program history back in 2013, as well as four straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
This was not Motzko’s first go around with USA Hockey, as he served as an assistant coach at the World Junior Championship in Sweden back in 2014. USA did not have the level of success in 2014 as they did this year, finishing in a disappointing fifth place.
Motzko expressed how this experience was not necessarily any easier than 2014’s, but that he felt a much higher level of comfort throughout the process and working with many of the same staff members this time around who he has developed relationships with.
“To have had the experience of going through the process, which is such a big part, I was probably more comfortable because I had [already] had that opportunity.”
As for the process, Motzko went on to explain how player selection included input from the whole staff, and that some players may not be invited to the early camps but step up their level of play and be invited later in the year. He also added that a five-day camp in Buffalo, NY was added this time around, which was a big help.
One of the players on team USA was Jack Achan, a freshman defenseman for the Huskies who won the USHL defenseman of the year last season and has been awarded multiple NCHC player of the week honors this season.
Motzko was very fortunate to have been able to coach one of his own players. He went on the express how proud he was of Achan’s performance throughout the tournament.
“Jack played very well, he had his best game in the championship game and that experience is something he’ll cherish forever in his life.”
Motzko went on to mention how the opportunity for Achan to play for USA hockey and to win a gold medal is only going to give Achan more confidence throughout this season as well as his career, which appears to be very promising.
As Motzko’s focus has shifted back to the Huskies, he remains confident that his team will continue to perform at a high level as the season winds down. The Huskies have had an up and down season thus far. With a current record of 15-14-1, and 9-10-1 in the NCHC. The Huskies were able to sweep the Miami University Redhawks this past weekend, something they haven’t done to a team since November of 2016. Motzko mentioned how the biggest challenge the Huskies have been facing as of late has been scoring goals.
As for his players, Motzko could not be more pleased with how they have carried themselves throughout the season.
“It’s really refreshing to be around this group that, everyday, they want to be challenged, they want to work, and they are a very close knit group of guys.”
Motzko went on to express how his team’s performance, specifically on the defensive side of things, has gotten better and better as the season has gone on, giving much credit to his goaltenders and defenders for stepping up their level of play.
The Huskies have a very young team, with many key players being underclassmen. As tournament time is approaching, Motzko doesn’t seem to be too worried about his team’s lack of postseason experience. He gives credit to this level of comfort to the fact that the young players have been forced to mature early on this season because of the strong level of competition night after night in their conference.
With the first round of the playoffs being just under a month from now, Motzko expressed how the Huskies have been playing at their highest level all season at the right time.
“We are growing at a very fine rate and I can’t think of a reason why, come tournament time, we’re not going to be playing our best hockey.”
After a big weekend series win against the Miami Redhawks this past weekend, Motzko seemed very pleased with how his players are carrying themselves at this point of the season.
The Huskies will play two more weekend series against Denver and Colorado College before the first round of the NCHC playoffs, which will take play the weekend of March 10-12. Who the Huskies will play in the first round is still to be determined.