Ethan AuCoin's adjusting to college hockey with SCSU after successful season with Lloydminster in the AJHL
Freshman forward from Calgary picked up his first college goal last weekend against Minnesota Duluth.
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The transition from junior hockey to college hockey is different for all players.
For some, they go to college, quickly find a routine and a place in the lineup. For others, it takes a bit more time to settle in, get used to going to school again and find themselves in and out of the lineup.
The latter has been the case for St. Cloud State freshman forward Ethan AuCoin.
"I think I went through a rough stretch for a little bit," AuCoin said. "I was not down on myself. But I was going through figuring out hockey and school together. Now that I've kind of got that figured out, I can really focus on both and getting both done.
"The hockey has been really picking up for me with the confidence level."
Something that adds to any forward's confidence is scoring a goal. After being a healthy scratch for 11 games over a two-month stretch, AuCoin got back into the lineup on Saturday and picked up his first college goal for the Huskies in a loss to Minnesota Duluth.
Ugly goal? Still counts! 🙌— St. Cloud State Men's Hockey (@SCSUHuskies_MH) January 29, 2023
Congrats, @E_Coin11! #GoHuskies | #HuskyHockey 🏒 pic.twitter.com/dAGXoKwWEp
For the 20-year-old from Calgary, Alberta, a scrappy goal in which he fought through traffic in front of the UMD net to knock in a loose puck signaled another sign that he's moving in the right direction. The differences between junior hockey — where most players do not have to go to school and play is less structured — to college hockey provides some challenges.
"The maturity (level) is the biggest difference between junior and college," AuCoin said. "When you look at all the guys on our team and the teams that we play, everyone is so structured and disciplined to their role that it's tough to get scoring chances.
"Once you really dial in and play to your strengths and the team's strengths, things go well."
AuCoin spent two seasons of junior hockey playing for the Lloydminster Bobcats in the Alberta Junior Hockey League ... sort of. In 2020-21, because of COVID restrictions in Canada, he was limited to two games with the Bobcats.
A goal scorer in juniors
Last season, he emerged as one of the top point producers in the AJHL. He tied for sixth in the league in goals (36), was fourth in the league in power-play goals (16), tied for second in game-winning goals (9) and tied for 15th in points (63) in 60 regular season games.
AuCoin, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, ended up committing to the Huskies on Feb. 20. At that point, he was unsure of when he would join SCSU. This season, he has junior eligibility remaining and the Huskies were unsure of how many of their senior forwards would return for the extra year granted to players by the NCAA for those who played during the 2020-21 season.
AuCoin's development earned him a spot in the lineup on Saturday on a line with graduate student center Aidan Spellacy and freshman right wing Jack Rogers .
"AuCoin has really, really worked in practice the last few weeks to prove that he deserves a chance to be in the lineup and when a guy does that, you have to reward him," Larson said. "He's got good size and compete. He's also got a good offensive knack.
"What we were hoping with that line was that he would bring that same intensity that those guys play with and maybe finish off a play and get himself on the score sheet. He's just continued to get better and better as he's gotten focused on the details of his game."
When AuCoin is playing well, he can bring a number of elements to a lineup.
"I think energy, my forechecking, my speed and I think I shoot the puck well and see the ice," he said. "When I'm feeling it, I'm just myself out there and I'm having a lot of fun doing it. Yeah, I make mistakes, but it's how you react to them. When I'm playing well, I can get the puck back right away."
Calgary, Canadian connections
AuCoin said that he has felt very comfortable in the locker room with his new teammates. He is one of three players on the SCSU roster who are from Calgary. Senior defenseman Dylan Anhorn is from Calgary and senior wing Zach Okabe is from the Calgary suburb of Okotoks.
AuCoin is also one of seven Canadians on the roster. The other Canadians are James Gray (Fr. goalie, Toronto), Kyler Kupka (Sr. F, Camrose, Alberta), Ryan Rosborough (Fr. F, Mt. Brydges, Ontario); Adam Ingram (Fr. F, West St. Paul, Manitoba).
During the IIHF World Junior Championships, the Canadian Huskies enjoyed some good-natured ribbing with their American teammates.
"It was a mix when (American teammate Jack) Peart was playing, but it was nice when (Canada) won gold and we got to rub it in the other guys' faces a little bit," AuCoin said.
Overall, though, AuCoin has felt the tight-knit bond with his college teammates.
"The guys are awesome," he said. "I don't think I can say one bad thing about a single guy on the team. Everybody fits together so well. If you're not hanging out with one guy one night, you're hanging with him in another group the next night. Everyone hangs with everyone and that's why everyone is so close.
"I think that's why the culture here is so good and why the team is so good in the past few years."
AuCoin's parents will be making their third trip to watch him play when the Huskies (10-6 NCHC, 18-8 overall) play Miami (2-13-1, 7-17-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday (both on FOX 9+) at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
AuCoin and his parents have been a bit surprised by college hockey and the passion of its fans.
"I think they're more shocked at the fans and how crazy the environment is around college hockey and how big it is," he said. "When you grow up in Canada, all the focus is on the WHL. So you see it all there. When you see the college atmosphere ... I think that's the biggest shock to Canadians.
"It's really fun when we're playing at home and the crowd is on our side. You get that extra boost at times that you need or want. You want to play for them as much as you want to play for the guys beside you. When you're on the road, you've got to shut it out and just focus on playing. Ultimately, you want them to hate you and you want to beat them."