Blaine brothers met on the ice for the first time at the North Star College Cup semifinal
Brothers Jonny and Michael Brodzinski always wore the same blue-hued Bengals jersey all the way through the youth hockey ranks to the top of the Blaine High School varsity team.
Since then, both moved on to play in the United States Hockey League (Jonny at Fargo, 2010-2012 and Michael at Muskegon 2012-13) missing each other by one season.
Neither really thought about what would happen once those days past until they learned about the North Star College Cup.
Both are off to great seasons with their respective teams ranked among the best teams in the nation with the St. Cloud Huskies ranked fifth and Minnesota Gophers No. 1 in the polls.
Jonny and elder brother Michael are sons of Mike and Kathy Brodzinski of Ham Lake, who watched as Jonny scored the lone goal for St. Cloud State in a 4-1 loss to Michael and the Gophers Jan. 24 in the inaugural tournament played at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Mike recalled how the two brothers and best friends went back and forth during a deer hunting trip to Zimmerman last fall with the conversation continuing around the campfire.
Two years earlier, the brothers’ bond was strengthened after Michael had surgery to remove a brain tumor. Mike said his second oldest son’s recovery went so well he tried out for the U.S. world 18s team five weeks later and was playing for Muskegon three months after surgery.
While Michael didn’t make the final cut for the 18s, he did play on the 17s team that won the gold medal at Lake Placid.
“He’s had check-ups every six months and is now clean,” Mike said.
Leading up to the game, Mike told both sons to focus on playing hard and not to worry about who was in the way.
With the new men’s college hockey conference realignment, the Brodzinski brothers had to wait until the end of January before facing each other for the first time.
Jonny, the sophomore scoring standout forward, kept working around the Gophers goal crease before flipping the resting puck in for the only St. Cloud goal.
Jonny narrowly missed a corner in the first period, breaking through for an open look. “That was in because he had net, but he shot a couple inches wide,” Huskies head coach Bob Motzko said. “He’s playing great for us and that’s what he’s going to do – get goals. We just have to find ways to get him the puck.”
Jonny had a team-high seven shots on net and as an encore added two goals and an assist in a 6-4 consolation final win over Minnesota State Mankato Jan. 25. The three points boosted his team-best totals to 25 points and 14 goals.
Jonny said the team success is a result of everyone buying into Motzko’s ideas. “The puck seems to be finding the back of the net and I’m doing the little things right and that’s a big part of my game,” he said.
In response to the barbs going back and forth, Jonny said he believes in the old thought of what goes around comes around.
Jonny tried to deliver on that with a hit in the corner on Michael on their second shifts of the game.
“It was awesome,” Jonny said. “Playing against my brother was unbelievable. He’s a tough player to play against, but you just have to treat it like any other game and treat it like you’re really not playing your brother and just one of their guys.”
He admitted it was tough to get past, but “if he’s in the corner with the puck I’ve got to in the corner and hit him,” according to Jonny.
Between plays, Jonny said he heard a few “nice hits” from Michael, but he didn’t believe him. “I think he was joking about it because I gave him a soft one,” Jonny said.
Michael is also having quite the season as part of a five-freshman group that is contributing to the success of the top-ranked Minnesota program.
He has 10 points (five goals) and is third on the team in blocked shots with 26 as a freshman defenseman. He blocked four shots Friday and left midway through the third period with a lower-body injury before earning bragging rights over his brother.
The Gophers went on to hoist the first-ever North Star College Cup trophy after a shoot-out win over University of Minnesota, Duluth, without Michael, who was scratched from the Saturday line-up.
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