By Jess Myers
BLAINE, Minn. — When Bryce Brodzinski talks about being goal-oriented, amazingly, he’s not referring to the 36 times he sent a puck across the opponent’s goal line in his senior season at Blaine High School.
The future Minnesota Gopher and, as of last Sunday, the state’s most recent Mr. Hockey winner, came into his final season of prep hockey with three distinct and lofty goals: 1. He wanted to get to the state hockey tournament. 2. He wanted to challenge Riley Tufte’s Blaine career record of 188 points. 3. He wanted to at least have a shot at becoming Blaine’s third Mr. Hockey (after Nick Bjugstad in 2010 and Tufte in 2016) of the past decade.
On Thursday, he accomplished goal No. 1, as the Bengals defeated White Bear Lake in the state tourney opener. On Friday, goal No. 2 was reached, as Brodzinski’s three assists in a 4-3 loss to Eden Prairie in the state semifinals moved him past Tufte — currently defending a NCAA title at Minnesota Duluth — into the top spot on the school’s career scoring chart. Sunday, Brodzinski was announced as the 2019 Mr. Hockey award winner.
If Bryce’s surname sounds familiar in that geographical triangle formed by the U of M campus to the south, the St. Cloud State campus to the west and the sprawling suburb of Blaine to the north, it’s because we’re deep into our second generation of Brodzinski boys scoring goals and winning games, first for the Bengals, then for the Huskies or Gophers (or both) and beyond.
Bryce’s father, Mike, played two seasons for the Gophers in the 1980s, then transferred to SCSU where he skated for Herb Brooks and alongside a teammate named Bob Motzko. Bryce’s older brother, Jonny, skated in the Huskies’ first Frozen Four appearance in 2013, and has played a handful of games for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings this season.
Another older brother, Michael, manned the blue line for the Gophers for three seasons, skating in the 2014 NCAA title game, and has played professionally in the AHL and ECHL this season. A third older brother, Easton, is a sophomore on SCSU’s top-ranked hockey team.
With a father who was both a Gopher and a Husky, two Husky brothers and a Gopher brother, Bryce will head to Dinkytown either in the fall of 2019 or 2020 to even the score.
“I think he’s all of them rolled into one,” Mike said, when asked how Bryce compares to the three older brothers on the ice. “Michael is my only defenseman, but Bryce is really defensive. When you watched him playing center in high school, most kids are really offensive and want to jump the zone. Bryce doesn’t do that. He’s always below the puck in the defensive zone. He’s never the one up at the red line banging his stick for the puck.”
When Bryce gets to the U of M, Motzko will have coached three of the four boys for at least a season, which is a benefit of the friendship he and Mike formed in the days of Reaganomics and Hulkamania.
“When you’re college teammates, you pretty much stay connected the rest of your life. Mike has always been around the game and I’ve always stayed very close with him,” said Motzko. Bryce had committed to play for SCSU when Motzko was the coach there, then switched to the U of M when Motzko changed jobs a year ago. “And then it just so happened that he went on to have four boys and they all learned to shoot the puck like their old man.”
Back to Omaha, eventually
On Tuesday, Bryce was in a car headed to Omaha, where he will play for the USHL’s Lancers, as he did before this high school season began. There were some encouraging to spend the winter in Nebraska and play USHL rather than high school hockey, but — like Tufte did three years ago — there was a more important mission to accept in Blaine.
“I had something to prove at the high school level and playing one more year with my best friends was a great offer that I didn’t want to pass up. It was something that I needed to do to feel like I completed myself as a high school player,” Bryce said.
He entered the season needing 86 points to tie Tufte’s career mark. He finished with 91 points as a senior and 193 for his career, including at least a point in all 29 of the Bengals games this season. It’s worth noting that Blaine had two games cancelled due to weather, and Bengals coach Chris Carroll thinks it’s not unrealistic to think that with sunnier skies, Bryce could’ve been the school’s first 200-point man.
All of that on-ice work, all of those workouts with his brothers, and all of those nights spent watching and learning from the older Brodzinski boys in St. Cloud and in Minneapolis came to fruition on the night of Feb. 28. That was when the Bengals beat Maple Grove 2-1 and secured a spot in the state tournament.
For Bryce, much more than the individual scoring record, the trophy he won when the season was over, or the college hockey opportunity he will have like his brothers, that moment on the ice at Aldrich Arena, with his life-long friends and teammates, made it all worthwhile.
“Reality really set in when I got home that night,” Bryce said. “I still had my medal on, and I wasn’t waking up.”