ST. CLOUD, Minn. — There is a chance that St. Cloud State men's hockey senior forward Easton Brodzinski will play this weekend.

The Huskies, ranked Nos. 2/3 in the NCAA Division I polls, play a nonconference series against the University of St. Thomas, which will be making its Division I debut. The teams play at 6:05 p.m. Saturday at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and at 5:07 p.m. Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

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The news on Brodzinski is a bit surprising. The senior forward from Blaine, Minn., suffered a broken femur when he was checked in the Northeast Regional championship game against Boston College on March 28 in Albany, N.Y. Brodzinski went to the hospital and had the bone surgically repaired.

At NCHC media day on Sept. 16, Huskies coach Brett Larson said that he was not sure at what point of the season that Brodzinski would be far enough in his rehabilitation to play. On Tuesday, Sept. 28, Larson said that there is a decent chance the team's leading goal scorer each of the last two seasons could play against the Tommies.

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"A lot of that (determination) lies in (athletic trainer) Bryan DeMaine and the medical people and their opinion," Larson said of Brodzinski. "The biggest thing for me to know is whether he can hurt it worse or not. Some things, you need people to play through it to get better.

"That's the question as we go through the week. Is he at the point where we need to play him to push him through some things to keep getting better or does he need a little bit more rest? We'll rely on the medical experts for that and, obviously, I want to make sure Brodzy feels that he is mentally ready to play, too. The one thing I do like is that each week, he continues to get better. I thought he actually looked really good in our intrasquad scrimmage (Sunday). He scored the only goal of the night ... typical Brodzinski."

Forward Easton Brodzinski (Courtesy of St. Cloud State University)
Forward Easton Brodzinski (Courtesy of St. Cloud State University)

Brodzinski had 13 goals in 29 games last season and has 55 goals and 98 points in 140 career college games.

Before he got injured, he was on a line with center Nolan Walker and wing Micah Miller. In the regional, the Huskies had 10 goals. That line had five goals, three assists and was a combined plus-8 in the regional.

"It's crazy because, back then (when it happened), you hear that with that injury you could be out 8-12 months," Walker said. "He's really put in the work to get back to where he wants to be. He's maybe not 100%, but I know he wants to be out there.

"He's a leader and we can count on him to score a lot of goals for us. I think what helped me a lot last year was playing with him. At the tournament, we had really good chemistry before he got hurt. Even before that, we kind complement each other. I can find him and he can score from anywhere. We're hoping he can get out there and play."

Walker tied for the team lead in points (24) last season, including seven goals and eight assists in the team's last 15 games.

St. Cloud State forward Veeti Miettinen (29) skates the puck away from Minnesota Duluth forward Luke Loheit (16) In the first period Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn. Miettinen had two goals and an assist in sixth-ranked St. Cloud State's 3-1 NCHC win over fourth-ranked Minnesota Duluth. (Jason Wachter / The Rink Live)
St. Cloud State forward Veeti Miettinen (29) skates the puck away from Minnesota Duluth forward Luke Loheit (16) In the first period Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn. Miettinen had two goals and an assist in sixth-ranked St. Cloud State's 3-1 NCHC win over fourth-ranked Minnesota Duluth. (Jason Wachter / The Rink Live)

Miettinen also feeling healthy

Another St. Cloud State player who got injured in the postseason was Veeti Miettinen, the NCHC Rookie of the Year and All-NCHC Second Team pick. Miettinen, who also had 24 points last season, suffered a left leg injury on March 12 in an NCHC quarterfinals game against Colorado College. Tigers senior defenseman Zach Berzolla was given a five-minute major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct for a hit on Miettinen.

He played the rest of the games in the season, but was held to one point (a goal vs. Boston University) in the last seven games. Miettinen said Tuesday that it took "a few months" for the injury to fully heal and it did not require offseason surgery.

"It was a tough situation to play, but I wanted to play," said Miettinen, a 20-year-old from Espoo, Finland, and a Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick. "So that was my decision. I talked to coach (Larson) and he was OK with that.

"Now I'm feeling great and everything is fine and I can't wait to play again."

One year ago, Miettinen was still in Finland, going through a long process to get his visa to get to St. Cloud State. He did not have his first practice with the Huskies until Nov. 11.

After last season, he went back to Finland for the summer and he has been on campus with the team since August.

"I'm so happy to be here now because it was kind of hard to start playing because I was (only) here two weeks before games got started," he said, remembering last season. "I've had two months of practice now and I'm ready to play."

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Miettinen led the Huskies in power-play goals (5), was third in shots on goal (81) and assists (13) and finished a plus-5 last season. He said he has no set goals for the coming season.

"I'm an offensive player, so I've got to score goals and that's what I have to do for the team," he said. "I've got to make better plays in the defensive zone as well.

"I don't want to make too many expectations for myself. I just want to play and have fun, score goals and score points — that's my thing. I just want to play free and have fun."

Forward Veeti Miettinen (Courtesy of St. Cloud State University)
Forward Veeti Miettinen (Courtesy of St. Cloud State University)

Larson is glad that the team does not have to play the waiting game to get him onto campus this season and is glad that Miettinen is healthy to start the season.

"He wasn't 100% in the playoffs, but he battled through it the best he could," Larson said. "Having a healthy Veeti, who has been through close to a full college season, you hope that he is able to make the next step, becoming a guy that, game in game out, you can rely on. Not just to score.

"What we're working on with him is refining his game where that whole line is dangerous," he said, referring to Miettinen playing with center Jami Krannila and wing Zach Okabe. "I think he's come back with a desire to get better, which I like. He doesn't seem satisfied with his season last year. He seems like he's motivated to keep getting better as a player.

"Even today, he came back into my office after a video session and asked me a few more questions about something that we're teaching. That tells me that he's the kind of guy who wants to keep getting better."

The other health news that Larson had an update on is that his players and staff are all fully vaccinated in the COVID-19 battle and he's hopeful that the team will avoid any outbreaks.

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OK with no Tommies game video

Even though it is the season-opener, teams typically view video footage of their opponent from the previous season to take a look at their style of play, tendencies on special teams, etc.

That really is not an option with St. Thomas, which was a Division III program last season. There are some players with Division I experience and head coach Rico Blasi (Miami) and assistant coach Leon Hayward (Colorado College) have coached at this level. But there's nothing to study with this group of players together.

"You know that they're going to come hard and they're going to excited to play and it's going to mean a lot to them," Larson said of the Tommies. "In some ways, I kind of like (no video footage). All we can do this week is focus on what we can control, which is to bring our best game.

"We're really going to be focused on playing well defensively, trying to break out quickly to get on the attack and on the rush and play our fast, up-tempo game that we play. We don't know how Rico is going to coach his team. We can look back at how he coached (20 seasons) at Miami a bit, but obviously he's had some time to refine what he likes and what he doesn't like.

"The most important thing is to respect our opponent, know that they're going to come out and play hard no matter what systems they're playing. We need to bring our best game. That's the focus for us."