ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Easton Brodzinski loves to be in the outdoors and is an avid hunter and fisherman.
But he got the opportunity to do something for the first time with a group of St. Cloud State men’s hockey teammates during the weekend of Oct. 18-20 when the Huskies had a bye week.
“We went duck hunting up at Henry Enebak’s cabin,” said Brodzinski, who also made the trip with Sam Hentges and Luke Jaycox. “We went up north and had a good time, shooting some ducks and having a few good laughs.”
In the fall, Brodzinski typically goes bow hunting for deer. But duck hunting was a new experience.
“It’s a lot different,” he said. “We were standing in waist-high water when we went out there the first time.
“It was a little switch from sitting up in a tree and trying to be as still as you possibly can. It was an interesting thing, but I’m definitely hooked on it. It was one of the best hunting experiences I’ve had in a while.”
Brodzinski is typically known for hunting goals for the Huskies and has six points in his last three games. He and St. Cloud State (1-2-3) head on the road to play Northern Michigan (6-1-1) in a nonconference series this weekend in Marquette, Mich. The teams play at 6:07 p.m. Friday and 5:07 p.m. Saturday at Berry Events Center.
1st deer hunting experience
He comes from an outdoors/hockey family. He is the third of four boys for Mike and Kathy Brodzinski. Mike played college hockey for the University of Minnesota (1983-84), but more notably St. Cloud State (1984-87) and is the Huskies’ career leader in goals (76) and points (146) in the program’s NCAA Division II/III era.
While Mike coached his sons’ youth hockey teams, he also helped instill in Jonny (26), Michael (24), Easton (23) and Bryce (19) the enjoyment of being outdoorsmen.
“Me and Michael were sitting in a tree stand and I think I was 7 and he was 9 and we were in the tree stand for maybe five minutes and he shot down a big doe and it fell down right in front of us,” said Easton, who is a Blaine (Minn.) High School graduate. “We had walkie-talkies back at that time and my dad was across the field and we were radioing him that we got one.
“He said, ‘You can’t just get one (that fast). That just doesn’t happen.’ It was a fun moment and he came over and was just in awe of it. Since I’ve been 7, I’ve been going (hunting) every year.”
Brodzinski's private account on Instagram has many posts of his family, hunting, fishing and, of course, hockey.
On the ice, he is off to the best start in his three seasons with the Huskies. Brodzinski, who scored 30 goals in his first two college seasons, is on St. Cloud State’s top power-play unit and is continuing to work on being more than just a goal scorer.
“I’m working on a lot of detail stuff like cutbacks and doing a lot better with puck protection and decision making when I’m coming into the (offensive) zone, too,” he said. “You always want to have a 200-foot game and me and (coach Brett Larson) have been working on it the last two years of little details in the ‘D’ zone — where I need to be when the puck is here and where I need to be when the puck is there.
“He teaches me a lot of things that I wouldn’t even consider thinking about.”
Areas of improvement
Larson said that Brodzinski seemed to turn a corner with playing a more complete game about halfway through last season. In the last 12 games of last season, he had a plus/minus rating of plus-8.
“The second half of last year, he really committed to playing a 200-foot game,” Larson said. “He was learning when to be risky and when not to be risky. He was always good on the power play.”
Another sign of filling his game out is that he has more assists (5) than goals (2) in the early part of the season.
“He’s a good passer, but where I’ve been impressed by him is down around the net with his tips and his body positioning to get open for a play,” Larson said of Brodzinski, who is the Huskies’ second-biggest forward at 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds. “Around the net, he’s really good at getting his stick in a good position for tip plays. He scored a few (of his 16) goals on it last year and I’ve already notice it this year.
“He had a power-play goal off a faceoff. He adjusted his stick to get in behind a guy and got body position and allowed Sam (Hentges) to make a really good shot/pass for that tip goal.”
And when he gets off the rink, he sounds pretty committed to being a top-notch outdoorsman.
“I just like being alone and being in the outdoors,” he said. “That’s what I plan on doing after my hockey career is over is, hopefully, running an outdoor channel or something like that.
“I just like the quiet of it, watching things develop and nature do its thing. I’m kind of a freak when it comes to that stuff. I know a lot of things about a lot of different animals that people usually don’t know. It’s kind of my forte.”
— Huskies center Kevin Fitzgerald was injured in the Friday game against Princeton and did not play Saturday. He was able to practice Tuesday, but was kept out of some drills as he recovers.
“It’s an upper body injury and he’s day-to-day,” Larson said of the junior from Oak Brook, Ill. “We’re hoping he’s going to be ready for the weekend, but we’ll see.”
— After giving up five goals in the loss Friday, Larson made some significant changes to his defensive lineup for Saturday’s game against Princeton. Sophomore Nick Perbix was moved off the top defensive pairing with senior Jack Ahcan and was listed on the third pairing with Tyler Anderson. Sophomore Spencer Meier moved up from the second pairing to take Perbix’s spot with Ahcan.
Freshman Ondrej Trejbal played in his first college game and saw time on the power play Sophomore Brendan Bushy, who played in 38 out of 39 games last season, was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
“We need to be a team that’s built from our net out,” said Larson, who had eight underclassmen play forward on Saturday. “We’ve got to be good in our (defensive) zone, first. That’s part of our game that we really need to work on getting better at.”