Gophers face familiar coach in SCSU

by Chris Lempesis

When Minnesota’s men’s hockey coach Don Lucia said this weekend will be much tougher on St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko than it will on him, he wasn’t talking about a difference in talent level between the teams.

Lucia was referring to the fact that this weekend’s series will be the first – and perhaps, only – time this season Motzko coaches against the team he was an assistant for from 2001-2005.

“The reality right now (is), he knows our players better than his own,” Lucia said.

The seventh-ranked Gophers (2-1-1, 2-0-0 WCHA) hope Motzko doesn’t know too much about them as they head to St. Cloud for a two-game Western Collegiate Hockey Association set with the Huskies (1-2-1, 0-1-1) this weekend. Game times are set for today and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the National Hockey Center.

Motzko, named coach of the Huskies on May 31, said he’s trying to treat this week like any other. But he admitted that might change come tonight.

“I don’t think it will really hit me until the game starts,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.

“I think it won’t hit me until I actually see those guys out skating around in the (Minnesota) uniforms.”

He also said it already has been different, starting when he put game film on to begin breaking down the Gophers.

Ironically, Motzko is responsible for a lot of those players he saw on the tape; he was known for many things in his time as a Minnesota assistant, especially his work as a strong recruiter.

One of those players is sophomore forward Kris Chucko. Chucko said Motzko played a big part in his coming to Minnesota.

But while he might have more in-depth knowledge of the quirks and tendencies of his opponent than others, both Motzko and Lucia said that does not give St. Cloud State any sort of advantage.

“It still comes down to who’s going to play and perform on a given night,” Lucia said. “So I don’t think that makes a whole lot of difference.”

Another thing that doesn’t make much of a difference, at least for the duration of the two games, is the friendship between Motzko and those who remain at Minnesota.

Although Lucia and his players had nothing but good things to say about Motzko, those good feelings all come to an end when the puck drops tonight.

“And I’m sure he feels the same way; that he wants us to do well, but not at St. Cloud’s expense,” Lucia said. “So you go out and play the game and when it’s over on Saturday night, you can be friends. Especially this year, ’cause we don’t play them anymore the rest of the year.”