Myers: Brodzinski's late-season heater earns a Florida trip for his family -- divided loyalties and all
There have always been Gopher factions and Husky factions in the Brodzinski family. As youngest son Bryce lit up Fargo, the red and black stayed tucked away.
FARGO – Michael Brodzinski Sr., known in hockey circles as “Big Mike” (as opposed to his son, the former Minnesota Gopher, who is just “Michael”) offered smiles and friendly handshakes in the lobby of Scheels Arena prior to Saturday’s Fargo Regional title game.
It pitted his two favorite teams against one another. Big Mike played for the Huskies and had two sons – Easton and Jonny – play at St. Cloud State under Bob Motzko. Michael Jr. was the family’s odd duck for a time, taking 35W south (rather than 94 west) from the family home in Blaine to play for Don Lucia’s Gophers.
Michael played in a NCAA title game with Minnesota in 2014, and maybe earned the family’s biggest prize during his days in Dinkytown when he asked a talented member of the Gophers women’s team out on a date. In the summer of 2022, Olympic gold medalist Dani Cameranesi and Michael were married. Rumor has it that several college hockey coaches have already inquired to see if the couple might start a family someday, and if so, might their child be interested in a hockey scholarship.
Bryce, who was Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey in 2019 and was named USA Today’s prep athlete of the year (in all sports, for the entire nation) that summer, was committed to follow two-thirds of his brothers upstream on the Mississippi River to the land of the Huskies, but changed his plans when Motzko went from St. Cloud State to Minnesota five years ago this week.
Thanks to his older brothers, Bryce grew up going to “the Herb” on the south end of the St. Cloud State campus to watch college hockey when he was a teen. Now a senior for the Gophers, Bryce got to play a game there in early January and joked beforehand that even with no more Brodzinski brothers in red and black, Big Mike would more than likely be wearing some piece of Huskies gear at the rink.
In the arena lobby during warmups, prior to the Gophers' 4-1 win, Big Mike wore a white Minnesota hoodie. When a reporter asked to see what t-shirt the Brodzinski family patriarch had on under his sweatshirt, Big Mike flashed a devilish grin and said no. Then he showed the back pocket of his jeans, and the red Huskies fan towel tucked in there, out of sight. In the Brodzinski family, water (the frozen kind) is apparently thicker than blood.
Divided allegiances notwithstanding, this hockey dad clearly had three more wins in mind for the youngest of his quartet of sons.
“I told Bryce this morning that I always dreamed that Jonny or Easton would win a national title with the Huskies,” Big Mike said. “But now it’s his turn.”
The Gophers and Huskies split their games earlier in the season. Bryce didn’t have a point either night. That has generally been typical of his time as a Gopher – streaky. Motzko likes to say that Brodzinski may take a while to get going, but once he starts scoring, he doesn’t stop. This season has been an exception to that rule.
After a productive stretch in late January and early February, Bryce entered the NCAA playoffs with just two points in his previous seven games. He came to Fargo – a place where spring weather is stubbornly refusing to make an appearance just yet – in need of a warm-up. And in the third period versus a stubborn Canisius team, he found it, recording his first career hat trick.
Bryce joked that the only difference this week was his linemate Jaxon Nelson yelling in his ear to shoot the puck more often.
On Saturday, as if to prove Motzko — the coach of 75% of the Brodzinski brothers — right, Bryce didn’t stop scoring once he started, giving the Gophers a 1-0 lead less than seven minutes into the opening period. All season, he has played the role of shooter on the Gophers’ second line, alongside the muscle (Nelson) and the brains (Mason Nevers).
The Gophers survived a determined Huskies team and a spate of penalties to win their 28th game of the season. Bryce was named the regional’s most outstanding player. Big Mike’s red towel stayed out of sight in his back pocket. If he was wearing a Huskies t-shirt, it never made an appearance.
"That's where he played and that's something he's proud of. I know the towel will be strapped to his golf bag at the start of the summer," Bryce said after the game. "He's got about 15 golf towels and about 15 of them are St. Cloud towels."
The Brodzinski family will be heading to Florida in 10 days or so, looking for two more Gophers wins, and that elusive first NCAA title for one of their boys. Which will present a challenge for Big Mike.
It will be much more difficult to conceal a Huskies t-shirt beneath a Gophers golf shirt.