Broten Sabo's got a name that St. Cloud Norsemen fans should remember
Defenseman has two game-winning goals in the playoffs, including in Game 3 of the Central Division championship series in triple overtime. Sabo was second in the NAHL in plus/minus (plus-38) and had 27 points in 59 regular season games. St. Cloud is the top seed in the four-team Robertson Cup Championship tournament this weekend in Blaine.
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Growing up in Minnesota, one would think that the name "Broten" would be so recognizable that a pronunciation guide would not be needed.
After all, three Broten brothers (Neal, Aaron and Paul) played for Roseau High School, the University of Minnesota and then in the NHL.
But when Broten Sabo was growing up, he discovered that not all of his teachers were hockey fans.
"My dad really loved the sport and named me after his favorite player — Neal Broten," said Sabo, a 19-year-old defenseman from Rosemount, Minn. "He used to love watching the North Stars.
"The teachers would say it wrong, but it's all good."
Sabo has been good and productive for the St. Cloud Norsemen since the North American Hockey League playoffs started. He leads the team in playoff goals (4), game-winning goals (2) and is third on the team in points (7) and plus/minus (plus-5) in nine playoff games.
The Norsemen (47-17-4-1) are the top seed going into the battle for the Robertson Cup Championship tournament this weekend at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minn. St. Cloud begins a best-of-three series against the Anchorage Wolverines (39-20-4-4) with a game at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
In the other semifinals, the New Jersey Titans (47-19-3-0) will play the New Mexico Ice Wolves (44-20-3-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Fogerty. The winners of the semifinals series will play for the championship at 7 p.m. May 24.
A big goal shows his development
For Sabo and all but two of the Norsemen (forwards Brandon Lajoie and Gramm McCormack), this is their first time playing in the junior hockey playoffs. And now, they are three wins away from winning the league title.
"It's really fun and last year, we didn't make it," said Sabo, whose team just missed making the playoffs after a late season surge in 2020-21. "It's fun being here this time of year and we got the No. 1 seed. That gives us some confidence. We're going down there (Wednesday), stay in a nice hotel — unlike usual."
Sabo was laughing as he said that. The 60-mile trip to Blaine will seem short to the Norsemen, who had Central Division series against Bismarck (N.D., 365 miles) and Aberdeen (S.D., 235 miles) to get to the Robertson Cup.
And Sabo is one of the reasons why the Norsemen are still playing. On May 13, St. Cloud and Aberdeen were playing Game 3 of their best-of-five series with the series tied 1-1. The game went into triple overtime with Sabo scoring on a rush at 14:32 off a pass from Ethan Benz.
"There was a delayed offsides, so they dumped it in on us and all had to tag up," Sabo said of how the play started. "It came down to me in the corner and I started skating and I passed it up to Benz and I went to the center and it was a 3-on-2. He hit me in the slot and I one-timed it into the lower right (corner) .... Yeah, it was a good pass."
Sabo also showed some development by scoring on that play.
"He moves pucks well, almost to a fault at times — sometimes he will pass when he should shoot," Norsemen coach Corey Millen said. In the May 6th game, "he had one just like it and he passed it. He's a pass-first guy and he does a good job, sees the ice pretty well and he has some good feel for the game.
"He's becoming a better defender," Millen said of the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Sabo, who finished the regular season with 27 points and was second in the NAHL in plus/minus (plus-38). "He's starting to get a better feeling and understanding of the when to join into the offense, when to stay back and be a little more prudent and stay back in spots. Those are learning things."
Sabo is the middle of three hockey playing brothers. His younger brother, Ryker, was a junior defenseman for the Rosemount High School team in 2021-22. His older brother, Jackson, just completed his freshman season playing forward for St. John's University after finishing the 2020-21 season with the Norsemen.
St. John's plays its home games across town at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, so Broten got a chance to see Jackson at different points of the season after he transferred from Air Force.
"He was nice and close and I got to go to his dorm a couple times and I'm staying at the same house we did last year and he stopped by a few times," Broten said of Jackson. "He's kind of a role model for me, my buddy. It's good to talk with him and see him."