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Recruiting Herter was a real challenge for Western Michigan's Ferschweiler

The former North Dakota defenseman and Minnesota Duluth associate head coach immediately drew the respect of the Broncos players when he arrived on campus this fall.

Western Michigan head coach Pat Ferschweiler talks to reporters during NCHC media day on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

ST. PAUL — First-year Western Michigan coach Pat Ferschweiler called his associate head coach, Jason Herter, “one of my best friends in the world.”

But that friendship didn’t make it any easier for Ferschweiler to lure the former North Dakota defenseman and Minnesota Duluth associate head coach away from his hobby farm in Hermantown and back to college hockey.

“Jason may be the best recruiter in college hockey, and I had to recruit him, so maybe I am? I don’t know,” Ferschweiler said last week during NCHC Media Day at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

“We had talked for years that if we ever had the opportunity to coach together, that we would take the opportunity.”


Ferschweiler — an assistant coach and associate head coach at Western Michigan for six seasons from 2010-2014 and 2019-2021 — was promoted to head coach of his alma mater after the resignation of Andy Murray on Aug. 3.

Having worked with Herter during the founding of the Russell Stover youth hockey program in Kansas City in the early 2000s, Ferschweiler said he interviewed just one person to be his No. 2 with the Broncos, and offered the job to just one person.

“We had some great candidates, but for me, there was only one candidate, and that was Jason Herter,” Ferschweiler said.

Herter was on Scott Sandelin’s staff at UMD for nine seasons from 2011-2020 as an assistant coach and associate head coach, helping the Bulldogs win two NCHC Frozen Faceoff titles and back-to-back NCAA national championships in 2018 and 2019. He stepped away from the Bulldogs in the spring of 2020 to spend more time with his family, and on his Hermantown hobby farm.

Herter also wanted to pursue possible jobs in the NHL, something Ferschweiler — a former assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings — said would have been easy to do if not for the cuts teams made to scouting staffs during the pandemic.


The NHL’s loss has proven to be the Broncos' gain, giving the program an associate head coach who immediately draws the respect of the players the moment he set foot in the locker room of Lawson Ice Arena.

“Knowing his resume as a player and as a coach and as a recruiter, they know he's going to make the program better,” Ferschweiler said.

The Broncos, who were picked to finish sixth in the eight-team NCHC this season after finishing in that slot at the end of last season, return their top 10 scorers from a season ago. Among those returnees are a trio of fifth-year senior forwards in Ethen Frank, Paul Washe and Josh Passolt.

Defenseman Ronnie Attard is also back for his junior year. He was named to the All-NCHC preseason team after being named first-team All-NCHC and first-team All-American a year ago as a sophomore.

According to Ferschweiler, the most important piece for Western, however, could be its starting goaltender, junior Brandon Bussi. After being named to the All-NCHC Rookie Team as a freshmen, Bussi went down with an injury 28 minutes into the 2020-21 season, and didn’t return until the final week of the regular season.

Ferschweiler said Bussi looked so good in practice prior to the start of the 2020-21 season at the NCHC Pod in Omaha, that he told Murray they’d better find a new goaltender for 2021-22, because Bussi was getting signed to a pro contract in the spring.


“I'm not a guy that projects out to the pros very often, but he wasn't being scored on in practice, almost ever. He looked fantastic,” Ferschweiler said of Bussi before last year’s injury.

“If our goalie is healthy all year long, then we have a real chance to be a real hard team to beat.”

Western Michigan team captain Paul Washe talks to reporters during NCHC media day on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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