Academy of Holy Angels a pipeline for Minnesota players

Holy Angels coach Greg Trebil has won two state titles in just five state tournament appearances.

Mark Remme

Academy of Holy Angels coach Greg Trebil is no stranger to the Minnesota men’s hockey program.

Trebil, in his 10th season as coach of the boys’ hockey team at Holy Angels, has produced 20 percent of the second-ranked Gophers’ opening-day roster.

Of that group of Holy Angels alumni, three joined the team this season.

Freshmen forwards Mike Carman and Jay Barriball and freshman defenseman Erik Johnson joined sophomore goalie Jeff Frazee on the Minnesota depth charts this year.

Sophomore defenseman Nate Hagemo, whose career recently ended due to a shoulder injury, also played for Trebil at Holy Angels.

“It’s pretty special to have four guys that you basically grew up with through high school here with you,” Johnson said. “That’s part of the fun, growing up with these guys and winning some hockey games, too.”

Trebil said he could tell during each of these players’ prep careers that they would find success after leaving the academy.

“They’re very unselfish and they’re just as willing to pass as shoot,” Trebil said. “I think that’s the kind of hockey Don Lucia teaches and expects Ö so I think they’re used to it when they got there.”

Gophers coach Don Lucia said he agreed with Trebil’s assessment of Holy Angels players.

“The way they move the puck, if you ever watch Holy Angels play they’re one of the top puck-moving teams in the state,” he said. “They’re very unselfish players and that’s why they’re so successful.”

Trebil’s trend of coaching future Minnesota standouts didn’t begin with this young crop of players.

Trebil coached several players while a Bantam A coach at Bloomington Jefferson that ultimately became Gophers.

The likes of Nick Checco, Brian Lafleur and Mike Crowley, all Minnesota standouts for former coach Doug Woog between 1993 and 1997, came through Trebil’s Bantam program.

His sons, Dan and Ryan, also wore the maroon and gold.

“I think at one time I had six or seven kids that played Bantam A for me (playing for the Gophers) all at the same time,” Trebil said.

Lucia said Holy Angels has become an elite program in the state since Trebil took over, which attests to his coaching style.

“I think that number one he’s a disciplinarian,” Lucia said. “He allows his kids to play. They play an up-tempo style, which allows them to get better.”

Lucia said that while his players from Holy Angels are all skilled entering the collegiate level, their love for the game is what brings them such success.

Minnesota isn’t the only Division I-A team benefiting from that love of the game, either. Former Holy Angels players are all over the country, including Colorado College, St. Cloud State, Michigan State, Harvard and Minnesota State-Mankato.

The four active members of the Gophers’ roster share a small window of Holy Angels history in which they all wore the academy’s jersey at the same time, making this high school reunion even more unique.

Carman said reuniting with former teammates is making the college experience that much more special.

“Erik and I kinda grew up together, but all of us played together in high school,” Carman said. “Getting to play together in college, we’re pretty lucky. It’s kinda nice to know that we have a little background history together before we got here.”

Barriball said he attributes much of his post-high school success to Trebil’s program and, specifically, his coaching ability.

“He knows how to get to each kid and how to make them learn – he supports all his players,” Barriball said. “He taught us all how to play a high-tempo game and how to work with stick skills and to always move your feet and go to the net.”

For Johnson, his time at Holy Angels might have been one of the first influences that helped him become the No. 1 pick in last April’s NHL Entry Draft.

Trebil said when Johnson came up to the varsity level as a freshman, he needed a lesson on how to play defense against aggressive, older players.

“It was really frustrating for him because they were just walking around (him),” Trebil said. “But he just went out there and kept trying and I think that may be more than anything why Erik is going to continue to be a successful player – he’s going to be one of the great ones.”

With that willingness to succeed and the knack for team play, this crew of former teammates might not be the last crew Trebil sends to Minnesota’s roster.

“(The style) we play at Holy Angels is a team-oriented, unselfish type hockey,” Trebil said. “And I think for a coach like Don that’s the way he expects kids to play. I think that gives (those players) the advantage.”