ST. PAUL — Playing hockey at St. Cloud State has become a bit of a family tradition for the Brodzinskis of Ham Lake.
It started with father Mike, the program’s all-time pre-Division I era leader in goals (76) and points (146). A two-time All-American, Mike Brodzinski played for Herb Brooks and captained the Huskies in 1986-87, leading them to a third-place finish at the DIII championships.
Oldest brother Jonny followed, playing three years in St. Cloud and scoring 64 goals and 112 points over three seasons from 2012-2015, numbers that ranked him 19th during the Division-I era.
Next will be brother Easton, one of four hockey-playing sons of Mike and Kathy. Their third-born, Easton recently completed his season with Penticton of the British Columbia Hockey League and will play with Fargo of the United States Hockey League this winter before enrolling at St. Cloud State in the fall of 2017.
“I’ve got a lot of things to live up to,” Easton Brodzinski said. “Hopefully I can tie them, if not, do a little bit better than them, but just getting there is a great accomplishment.”
Following in his family’s foot steps was a tough decision for Easton. He wanted to blaze his own hockey path, but decided in the end that an opportunity to go to the school he always cheered for as a kid, was too good to pass up.
“It was a relief off my shoulders. My dad went there, my brother went there. We’ve been going to games there ever since we were little. Just to be able to say that one day I’ll be playing there, it’s a big relief and it’s also a great accomplishment for me in my hockey career.”
The only brother not to play at SCSU was Easton’s older brother Michael, who recently finished his career at the University of Minnesota. After playing three years for the Gophers, Michael signed with the San Jose Sharks in March and joined Jonny in the American Hockey League.
That’s made things more difficult for Kathy, who has made the wise decision not to pick a favorite.
“She’s got a jersey that’s half and half, so she doesn’t really pick sides,” Easton said. “She’s got half St. Cloud, half U of M and she’s both sides, she doesn’t really pick so nobody throws a fit at home.”
Easton has made a solid impression this week at Wild Development Camp. Making his first appearance at an NHL prospect camp, Easton said he wanted to keep things simple.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “It’s been a lot of publicity and I’m just trying to stick to my game and trying not to be somebody I’m not. If I do that the way I know I can, hopefully better things will follow.”
Brad Bombardir, the Wild’s Director of Player Development, said it’s important for Easton to soak up as much of the experience as possible. Going against older and professional players will allow him an opportunity to see where he measures up before heading off to the USHL this fall.
A goal-scorer at Blaine High School and in Penticton last season, Brodzinski has the same quality shot that his dad and his older brothers had at this age. Now, it’s about refining the other parts of his game.
“He just has to round out his game,” Bombardir said. “What’s his secondary game? If he can’t score, what’s he going to do? If you can’t score 30 goals or 20 goals at the next level, what are you going to do? How are you going to break in? That’s going to be the challenge for him.
“But he’s come in and had a great attitude and worked hard and I think he’s learned a lot.”
Easton said he’s made a big effort to learn as much as he can from teammates and coaches this week so he can use the experience next season and beyond.
“It’s a great opportunity. Some of the guys here are a few years older than me and they’ve helped me already, just little things I’ve been doing. They give me pointers and what I can do better,” Easton said. “I’m just going to take whatever I can get out of this and bring it back home and work on it the rest of the summer.”