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Coaching Tree Seeds Hockey Futures

Longstanding, title-winning coach Tim Coghlin sees the succession of coaches bred from his Green Knights program as on one of the biggest assets it can bring to the table. Read on for more about St.Norbert men’s hockey’s impact on the youth and college hockey scene, on the ripple effect experienced by the newer women’s program, on alumni contributions in the world of pro hockey, and on the Coghlin coaching tree.

The hockey world is perhaps as tight of a community as any in all of sports, so it is of little surprise the extent to which the uber-successful St. Norbert College men’s hockey program is impacting teams from youth hockey through the professional ranks across the USA.

Tim Coghlin, who has guided the Green Knights for the past quarter-century, is proud of a coaching tree that features more than 20 former players holding positions at various levels of organized hockey. Even Coghlin himself coaches a Pee Wee A team outside of his St. Norbert duties.

“Many of our graduates have spent time coaching youth hockey in the Green Bay area,” Coghlin says. “It’s one of the biggest assets we can bring to the table.”

Collegiate hockey crosses international borders and blurs the lines between full-scholarship NCAA Division I programs and non-scholarship Division III programs such as St. Norbert. Since there are only 60 Division I and no Division II programs, Coghlin and his staff often recruit against much bigger programs for the same pool of athletes worldwide.

“If you’re playing college hockey, you’re either in Division I or the next tier is Division III,” Coghlin explains. “We get Division I-caliber athletes here at St. Norbert.”

Success carries over to the women’s side
Meredith Roth has noticed a carryover effect from the men’s success to the women’s hockey program she is leading for the fourth season. Despite women’s hockey having only eight seasons as a varsity sport at St. Norbert, the name recognition generated by the men’s dozen Frozen Four appearances gives her a recruiting head start virtually anywhere she goes.

“The hockey world is a small one, so someone will know about St. Norbert wherever I go into a rink,” she says. “I’ll wear a jacket with a logo on recruiting trips over in Europe or Canada, and people will recognize it.”

Roth, a native of Dubuque, Iowa, has witnessed the spectacular growth of collegiate women’s hockey beginning with her own recruiting visit to the University of Wisconsin to watch that program’s very first game.

“We definitely benefit from all the time Coach Coghlin and his staff have put into building a highly reputable program,” Roth says. “Growth-wise we’re at a different place, but at least we have that connection that [a high level of success] is possible.”

Moving up the coaching ladder
Coghlin’s coaching tree includes several alumni who have earned significant coaching assignments at higher levels of competition. Spencer Carbery ’06 is in his first season as head coach of the Hershey Bears, the top minor league affiliate of the defending NHL champion Washington Capitals.

“When Coach Coghlin talked about the program and where it was going – the expectations and championships – I felt very strongly that St. Norbert would be a great place for me to go to school and play hockey for him,” recalls Carbery, a native of Victoria, British Columbia, who transferred to SNC prior to his sophomore year. “A lot of my life was shaped in those three years.”

Carbery says the maturity and team development skills he learned at St. Norbert were every bit as important as anything that happened on the ice. He has shared those lessons with his own players at every level of coaching.

“I learned a lot about what it takes to actually put in the work, be accountable for your actions, and put the team in front of yourself,” he says. “I thought I knew what it took to be part of a winning culture and be a good hockey player and teammate, but I had no clue. I look back now and I laugh. Coach Coghlin does a tremendous job of teaching young men values and what it takes to be part of a successful team.”

Ryan Petersen ’09 is in his second season as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Gamblers, one of the top Tier 1 junior hockey leagues for college-eligible players in North America. A former Gambler himself and captain on the Green Knights’ first national championship team in 2008, Petersen credits Coghlin for instilling a sense of community involvement that continues today.

“Coaching becomes a natural progression for guys to continue that attachment to hockey when you’re not able to play anymore,” says Petersen, a native of North St. Paul, Minn. “We gain an overall perspective of who we are as young men during our playing time. Our hockey program was always the first to raise our hand to help, not only on the coaching side, but also community service events.

“It’s an expectation for all our past, present and future players to have that as part of their world.”

Mike Szkodzinski ’00 accomplished something as head coach of the Lawrence University men’s hockey team that no one else in Coghlin’s coaching tree can claim: his team defeated Coghlin’s Green Knights 5-4 during the 2013-14 season.

Szkodzinski was an All-American goalie his junior season at St. Norbert and the team’s MVP his final two seasons. He was Coghlin’s goalies coach for two seasons (2004-06) and is now in his 13th season leading the Lawrence program.

“The No. 1 thing Coach Coghlin taught me was to make sure I understand all the circumstances of every situation,” Szkodzinski states. “No matter what decision has to be made, you have to take everything into context. Sometimes you get wrapped up in wins and losses rather than the important aspects of coaching. He’s really good at making sure that the human is growing just as much as the hockey player.”

The Coghlin coaching tree
More than 30 players and coaches who have come through the St. Norbert men’s hockey program under head coach Coghlin have gone on to coach at various levels of competition.

Tim Coghlin, head coach Pee Wee A, Green Bay Area Youth Hockey Association (GBAYHA)
A.J. Aitken, head coach Green Bay Jr. Gamblers, Squirt Major (asst. coach at SNC 2004-17)
Andy Brandt, SNC associate head coach, now also in charge of the Learn to Skate program for GBAYHA
Luke Strand, head coach Sioux City (Iowa), USHL (asst. coach at SNC 2000-03)
Kipp Karakas ’88, goalie coach at SNC (coached youth and high school hockey from 1998-2014)
Scott Vettraino ’95, high school coach in Chicago
Todd Deacetis ’96, youth hockey coach in Chicago
Brent Cyr ’97, youth hockey coach in Vancouver, B.C.
Silverio Mirao ’97, assistant coach Notre Dame Academy high school, Green Bay
Andy Bradford ’97, USA women’s hockey director, Green Bay
Cale Politoski ’97, Bantam coach, Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, Faribault, Minn.
Matt Molaski ’98, Squirt A, GBAYHA
Cory Borys ’98, head coach College of St. Scholastica for six years (asst. coach at SNC 1999-2002)
Blake Sorensen ’99, head coach Loyola Academy, Chicago
Scott Jewitt ’99, Mites, GBAYHA
Mike Szkodzinski ’00, head coach Lawrence University (asst. coach at SNC 2005-06)
Tommy Cianflone ’00, Mites, GBAYHA
Shane Dickson ’01, Pee Wees, GBAYHA
Bucky Gruber ’01, head coach Green Bay Jr. Gamblers Banana Minor
Ryan Wempe ’02, Squirt A, GBAYHA
Wayne Brown ’02, power skating coach, Chicago
Mike Buchan ’04, head coach Bay Port High School, Suamico, Wis.
Jason Deitsch ’05, assistant coach Allen (Tex.) Americans (ECHL, Premier AA league)
Spencer Carbery ’06, head coach Hershey (Pa.) Bears, AHL (NHL’s top minor league)
Ryan Petersen ’09, assistant coach Green Bay Gamblers (USHL, Tier I juniors)
Eric Smith ’09, assistant coach Bay Port High School, Suamico, Wis.
Shane Wheeler ’10, De Pere Youth Hockey
Sam Tikka ’10, Midgets, Anchorage, Alaska
BJ O'Brien ’11, assistant coach and goaltending coach for Augsburg College, Southwest director for Minnesota Elite Goaltending Academy, Minnesota Advancement Program , FHIT Hockey Training and owner of AAA Goaltending
Derek Donohue ’13, assistant coach Bay Port High School, Suamico, Wis.
Carl Exstrom ’13, De Pere Youth Hockey
Patrick McCadden ’14, assistant coach Lawrence University
Michael Hill ’15, assistant coach Aberdeen Wings (NAHL, Tier II juniors)
Connor Bradshaw ’16, associate head coach, Green Bay United (high school team)
Tony Kujava ’16, goalie coach, GBAYHA

(This list includes individuals known to Coghlin and may not be complete. Let magazine@snc.edu know of any others who should be included. We’d be delighted to add their names.)

Oct. 31, 2018