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SCSU notebook: Brett Larson has mixed emotions about losing Nick Oliver, a look at probable roster additions

Oliver, the first person that Larson hired after he became the Huskies head coach, is the new head coach of the Fargo Force. With the transfer portal closed, a look at the 9 probable additions to next season's roster. Jack Ahcan wins an award with Providence.

St. Cloud State University coaches Dave Shyiak, Brett Larson and Nick Oliver talk during a break in the action during a game against Minnesota State Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, at the Mayo Clinic Health System Events Center in Mankato.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — It became official on Monday, May 2, that Nick Oliver will be leaving the St. Cloud State men's hockey team to become the head coach of the United States Hockey League's Fargo Force.

Oliver, 30, spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach for Brett Larson.

"He got an offer last year, I can tell you," Larson said of another junior hockey head coaching position. "As good as he is and the success that he's been a part of here, he was going to be getting offers every year. He deserves it. He's earned it and I'm excited for him."

There is a bittersweet aspect to Oliver's departure, though, for Larson. Oliver was the first person that Larson hired after he became the Huskies head coach in 2018.

"As happy as I am for him, I'm also really sad that we're losing him," Larson said. "Since Day 1, he and I have been in this together in St. Cloud and he's been such a big part of it. I'm not only going to miss him as a coach, but as a person. He was a guy who was really fun to be at the rink with every day."


Assistant coach Nick Oliver SCSU Huskies mug 19-20.jpg
Nick Oliver
Courtesy of St. Cloud State University

Larson can also relate to why Oliver is making this move. Larson was an assistant coach for Minnesota Duluth from 2008-11. He left the Bulldogs and spent two seasons (2011-13) as the head coach and general manager of the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL.

He left that position to become an associate head coach at Ohio State (2013-15) before returning to UMD to be an assistant coach (2015-18) and then taking the head coaching position at SCSU.

Larson said that he thinks Oliver has many qualities that will help him become a good head coach.

"His work ethic is second to none and you add to that that he's a really good person," Larson said. "He connects with the players and the players can see that he genuinely cares about them and wants them to get better. Anytime players can see that, they're going to go through a wall for him and do whatever it takes for him.

"He's got a really good combination of work ethic, character and being really hockey knowledgeable."

When employees leave SCSU, one of two routes are taken to replace them. There is either a public posting for the position or it can be an emergency hire. When an emergency hire occurs, a person can take the position for one year on an interim basis. After that year, the position has to be posted, the interim person can submit to become a permanent hire and the top candidates for the position are interviewed.

It sounds like SCSU may be leaning toward the latter choice.

"It should be a fairly quick process," Larson said.


Oliver has spent the last four seasons as an assistant to Brett Larson with the Huskies

One person who may be a candidate already works for St. Cloud State. R.J. Enga spent last season as the team's director of hockey operations and video coordinator. Before taking that position, Enga was an assistant coach for Colorado College from 2014-21.

Episode 38: Huskies Hockey Insider video podcast for Sept. 13, 2021.

The situation in Fargo is also a bit unique, compared to junior hockey positions for a majority of the franchises. Former Force and Sioux Falls head coach Cary Eades is the team's president of hockey operations and its general manager. So Oliver will be able to focus on coaching and not also be entirely in charge of personnel moves.

And a minority owner of the Force is former St. Cloud State and long-time NHL forward Matt Cullen.

"I think Nick left for a really good opportunity," Larson said of Oliver. "Hard for me to say 'No' to him since I left for the same (type) of opportunity. I left for Sioux City and it was a valuable part of my experience as a coach. I'm really excited for Nick and I know he's going to do a great job."

It looks like 9 new players for the fall

With the transfer portal closing on Sunday, it looks like the Huskies have a very good idea of what their roster will look like in the fall. There will be 10 new players, one of whom is yet to be determined.

The Huskies have received commitments from transfers Grant Cruikshank (Forward, University of Minnesota ), Dylan Anhorn (D, Union ) and Dominic Basse (G, Colorado College ).

The freshman class is likely to include forwards Grant Ahcan (19, Burnsville , Cedar Rapids Roughriders of USHL), Ethan AuCoin (19, Calgary , Lloydminster Bobcats of AJHL), Jack Rogers (19, East Northport, N.Y. , Steinbach Pistons of MJHL) and Adam Ingram (18, West St. Paul, Manitoba , Youngstown Phantoms of USHL) and defensemen Cooper Wylie (20, Stillwater , Waterloo Black Hawks of USHL) and Mason Reiners (20, Edina , Waterloo Black Hawks of USHL).


There is one position that the team is looking to fill. Joey Lamoreaux, who spent the last three seasons as a backup goalie for the Huskies, has announced his plans to transfer to Alaska-Anchorage. So look for the Huskies to add a third goalie in the next few months.

Eyssimont gets hot, Ahcan receives award

Former St. Cloud State players have been making some news in pro hockey.

* Forward Mikey Eyssimont, a 25-year-old who played for the Huskies from 2015-18, made his NHL debut for the Winnipeg Jets on April 11. Eyssimont played 5 minutes, 49 seconds and had a shot on goal in a 4-2 win over Montreal.

He returned to the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose and has gotten hot. He had a hat trick in Manitoba's last game of the regular season and in five games since returning from the NHL, he has four goals, nine points and is a plus-5. For the season, Eyssimont has 19 goals, 44 points, 90 penalty minutes and is a plus-16 in 59 games. All of those marks are the best in his pro career.

* The Providence Bruins of the AHL have named former St. Cloud State captain Jack Ahcan as their Rookie of the Year. The 24-year-old defenseman from Savage had 17 assists, 23 points, 10 penalty minutes and was a minus-3 in 46 regular season games. He also has a goal and is a minus-3 in six games for the Boston Bruins this season. He scored his first NHL goal on March 10 in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

* Will Borgen played in his first pro game in the state of Minnesota on April 22 when the Seattle Kraken played the Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Borgen, a 25-year-old defenseman from Moorhead who played for the Huskies from 2015-18, played 15:51 of the game and had a shot on goal, a hit, a blocked shot, was a plus-1 and a fight. For the season, Borgen had eight points, 28 penalty minutes and was a plus-1 in 36 games for the Kraken.

* David Hrenak made his pro debut a memorable one on April 15. Hrenak, a 23-year-old from Slovakia who played goalie for the Huskies the last five seasons, had a 25-save shutout for the Ontario Reign in an AHL win over San Diego. He played in three games to finish the regular season and was 1-1-0 with a 1.81 goals-against average and .951 save percentage.


* Forward Kevin Fitzgerald has moved up to the AHL. After finishing the season with the Huskies, Fitzgerald signed a free agent deal with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. In seven games, Fitzgerald had four goals, eight points, two penalty minutes and was even in plus/minus. On April 28, the 25-year-old from Hinsdale, Ill., signed a professional tryout agreement with the Hershey Bears of the AHL.

CC Bowlby helped the Hornets win three Class AA state titles. She led Dartmouth in scoring as a senior and had other offers, but chose to try to help the Huskies take another step.
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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

For more coverage of St. Cloud and the surrounding communities, check out St. Cloud Live.
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