Minot has a small tie to the Frozen Four, which begins today at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
The assistant coach for Miami of Ohio is Brent Brekke, who was born in Minot in 1971. Brekke is in his first year with the Red Hawks after spending the last nine seasons coaching at Cornell University.
The team that Brekke will be coaching against in the first semifinal of the day is the Bemidji State Beavers, a team that has former Williston High School hockey standout Tyler Jundt on their roster.
"It is kind of interesting that Jundt is
playing against us in the tournament. We had looked at him while I was coaching at Cornell and we thought that he was a tremendous kid with a lot of character," said Brekke. "It is nice to see that some of the players from North Dakota are now able to go on from high school and play at a higher level."
Brekke also played at the next level. Before his senior year, Brekke left Jamestown High to play junior hockey in the USHL for the Rochester Mustangs in 1989. His family moved out of Minot at a very young age and he started playing youth hockey when he lived in Devils Lake before relocating to Jamestown.
He went on to have a great college career at Western Michigan University before being taken in the NHL draft by the Quebec Nordiques in 1991 as the 188th overall pick.
After a few years on the farm clubs in the AHL, Brekke decided to go into coaching, spending most of the last handfull of years at Cornell.
Brekke's Cornell team made the Frozen Four in 2003 and he is happy to be back at the event with Miami.
"It seems like an eternity since we were there. The long wait shows us all how challenging it is to even get there," Brekke said. "It makes you appreciate it a lot more when you are fortunate enough to be playing on the final weekend."
The Red Hawks had to suffer through the selection process to get into the National Tournament after losing in the second round of the CCHA playoffs.
"We played very well the first half of the season, but we ran into some adversity in the second half," said Brekke. "The bid into the tournament gave us a second lease on life so to speak."
Brekke's decision to take the job in Ohio had a lot to do with getting closer to family, as his wife, Stacey, has her close family in Michigan not far from where the Brekkes live now.
"I also knew that the program here had come real close to getting to the national finals in the past and that we felt that we could attain the goal of the Frozen Four," Brekke said.
The Red Hawks will be appearing in their first Frozen Four, and their first round opponent, Bemidji State, will be the first team in the history of the CHA to have a shot at the national championship.
"We feel we have a very good chance to win this thing. We have been playing well and our young players are starting to mature right when we need them to," Brekke said.
Brekke is referring to a defensive core that is built around two freshman goalies and four freshman defenseman, which gives the team a lot of hope for the future.
"I have a lot of people back in Minot that have been very supportive of me all these years, and I hope they will cheer for us this weekend," Brekke said. "Maybe we can do them proud come Saturday night."
Miami plays Bemidji State at 4 p.m. today followed by Boston University versus Vermont at 7:30 p.m. The winners will clash in the championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday.