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Miami recruit Blake Mesenburg keeps Norsemen from tee times with clutch performance for St. Cloud in Game 5

The 19-year-old forward and captain from Orono had two goals in 3-2 series-clinching win over Bismarck. The Norsemen begin the NAHL Central Division championship series against Aberdeen on Friday at Municipal Athletic Complex.

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Blake Mesenburg of the St. Cloud Norsemen has verbally committed to play college hockey for Miami University. Mesenburg, a 19-year-old from Orono, scored two goals in a Game 5 win for the Norsemen over Bismarck to help St. Cloud advance to the NAHL Central Division championship series.
Pete Knutson Photography

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The weather on Wednesday was good enough that Blake Mesenburg and some of his St. Cloud Norsemen teammates were going to go golfing after practice.

Thanks, in part, to Mesenburg, the Norsemen will not have an endless amount of time to golf this week. Mesenburg, a 19-year-old center from Orono, had two goals in Game 5 on Monday to help St. Cloud beat Bismarck 3-2 in Game 5 of their NAHL Central Division series.

The Norsemen, who won the division's regular season title, begin play for the division playoff title at 7 p.m. Friday when they begin a best-of-five series against the Aberdeen Wings at the Municipal Athletic Complex.

Mesenburg, one of the team's captains, scored the first two goals of the game against the Bobcats in a win-or-go-golfing game. He scored the first goal on the power play on a one-timer and then another from in front of the net.

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Blake Mesenburg
COURTESY OF NAHL

"Our power play kind of struggled in that series," said Mesenburg, whose team was 1-for-9 on the power play in the first three games. "To get that one — it was my first one in the series, so that felt good for me personally. But it was a bit of a relief that we were able to score on him in that game since that goalie stood on his head in that series."

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Oskar Spinnars Nordin, a 20-year-old from Sweden, had a .948 save percentage in the series to help the Bobcats push the series to five games. Bismarck was 29-27-1-3 and finished fourth in the division during the regular season.

Mesenburg, who tied for 14th in the NAHL in goals with 27 during the regular season, had not scored a goal in the first four games of the series.

"You're not going to win very much if your top guys are not playing well," Norsemen head coach Corey Millen said. "These guys have got to perform. We're depending on them because they get the minutes and the opportunities."

The 18-year-old senior at Hill-Murray High School is the No. 100-ranked North American skater in the midterm rankings by NHL Central Scouting and is weighing NCAA Division I offers. But his next task is helping St. Cloud reach the second round of the NAHL playoffs, which begin Friday

Big turnaround

If you would have told Mesenburg a year ago that he would be one of the Norsemen's top scorers this season, he may have been a bit surprised. In his first full season of junior hockey, the 5-foot-11, 174-pound center had 10 goals, 20 points and was a minus-21 in 53 games for St. Cloud.

This season, he tied for 12th in the league in points (62) and was a plus-20 in 59 games.

"Junior hockey is a difficult thing and it's rare for a guy to come into a first year of junior and light it up," said Millen, who is in his sixth season as a head coach in the NAHL. "There's a little bit of a feeling out period. Last year, we had a bunch of guys who were in their first year of junior.

"We had a tough start (2-13) and a lot of (player) turnover," Millen said. "(Mesenburg) is the type of guy who grew a lot. His game and the way he is — his character — he cares. He competes. Those are the kind of guys where you see some growth because they're plugged in and are wanting to be a better player."

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The 18-year-old forward, who was named Mr. Hockey in March, has 13 points in 13 games for the North American Hockey League team.

Mesenburg said that he had some specific points of emphasis for working on his game after his first full season in the NAHL.

"One thing I wanted to work on was my puck protection down low and then my speed and quickness are always things I can improve on," he said. "I think part of it is just experience and confidence. It took a little time. Last year was a good experience, even though we weren't a great team."

Committing to Miami

He had 13 points in the first 17 games this season and then the recruiting interest from NCAA Division I programs began to increase. He verbally committed to Miami University in March.

"There really wasn't much (interest) until mid-December when I started to heat up," said Mesenburg, who had four goals and four assists in seven December games. "A couple schools kept calling and then things just went on from there. I was able to make a decision that I'm really excited for and it's going to be a perfect spot for me.

"Education is an important thing for me and that was on top of my list," said Mesenburg, who is taking two online courses from Century College for spring semester and will join the RedHawks in the fall. "The history of the (Miami) program — where they've been and where they're headed — has shown success ... The NCHC is a great division and you get to play some games in Minnesota, so it's a great spot for me."

Chase decided to pursue broadcast journalism after a professor in college heard her voice and asked her if she ever thought about sports broadcasting. Now she's in St. Cloud calling the Norsemen.

Mesenburg, who wants to major in business management in college, took an interesting route in high school. His first two years, he played for Shattuck-St. Mary's, a boarding school in Faribault. But his last two years, he played for Benilde-St. Margaret's, a prep school in St. Louis Park that plays in Class AA in the Minnesota State High School League.

"I loved my two years at Shattuck and I would have had no problem staying there for four years," he said. "It's a different high school experience, living in dorms and having curfews. That's part of the reason that pushed me to play Minnesota high school hockey.

"(Benilde-St. Margaret's) is only 20 minutes from my house. It was an awesome experience. There's nothing like playing games in Minnesota high school hockey. I wasn't fortunate enough to go to the state tournament, but our Section (6AA), we played at (3M Arena at) Mariucci for the section final. It felt like the Xcel (Energy Center)."

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The former Gopher and NHL forward from Cloquet is the head coach of the NAHL's team in St. Cloud, which has won 10 straight games.

Now, Mesenburg is trying to help the Norsemen to advance to the Robertson Cup tournament, which will be held May 20-24 at Fogerty Arena in Blaine.

After the season ends, Mesenburg said that he plays golf about three times a week and is a 3-handicap golfer. Part of his love of golf comes from his dad, who works in international sales for Callaway Golf.

3 Norsemen named All-Central Division

Three Norsemen have been named to the NAHL's All-Central Division team: forward Ryan O'Neill, defenseman Evan Murr and goalie Tomas Bolo.

Former St. Thomas Academy standout plans to play for Tommies next season. Tommies assistant coach Leon Hayward had established recruiting interest in O'Neill before this season.

O'Neill, a 21-year-old from Roseville, led the NAHL in points (80) and power-play assists (20) and was second in assists (50) and game-winning goals (8) and eighth in goals (30) and was a plus-20 in 58 games. A former St. Thomas Academy forward, he has committed to play at the University of St. Thomas.

MSU-Mankato commit has helped one of the top power-play teams in the NAHL to lead the Central Division.

Murr, a 19-year-old from Stillwater, was second among NAHL defensemen in points (43) and power-play assists (17) and was a plus-17 in 56 games. He has committed to play for Minnesota State University-Mankato.

Bolo, a 19-year-old from Zilina, Slovakia, was second in the NAHL in wins (29), fourth in shutouts (5) and 15th in save percentage (.912) in 37 games. He was on the roster for Slovakia for the IIHF World Junior Championships.

NAHL Central Division Finals

Aberdeen (34-24-3-2) vs. St. Cloud (44-18-2-1)

Game 1 — 7 p.m. May 6 at Municipal Athletic Complex
Game 2 — 7 p.m. May 7 at MAC
Game 3 — 7:15 p.m. May 13 at Odde Ice Center
Game 4 (if necessary) — 7:15 p.m. May 14 at OIC
Game 5 (if necessary) — 7 p.m. May 16 at MAC

Tickets for the games at the MAC are $5 and are available at https://tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com/

Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com
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