College of Science and Engineering


Math education student featured in New York Times

Friday, March 1, 2013

Drew LeBlanc

Drew LeBlanc

St. Cloud State University senior hockey player Drew LeBlanc was featured in an article written by reporter Pat Borzi in The New York Times.  LeBlanc is a math education major.

The St. Cloud State hockey players and coaches who were there grimly recount the gruesome details of Nov. 5, 2011, the night when Drew LeBlanc, the team captain, broke his left leg.

Late in the second period of a home game against Wisconsin, LeBlanc chased a puck that he dumped into the Badgers’ zone. His left skate caught a rut in the ice at the end boards while the rest of his body kept moving. Down he went. The awkward move fractured both bones in his lower leg, punctured the skin and left the leg dangling at a grotesque angle. Jared Festler, LeBlanc’s roommate, waved frantically for the trainer.

The scene reminded St. Cloud Coach Bob Motzko of the equally chilling fracture that Joe Theismann, a former Washington Redskins quarterback, sustained when he was tackled by Lawrence Taylor during a “Monday Night Football” game in 1985.

“I walked out on the ice, and you just knew it was bad,” Motzko said.

LeBlanc missed the rest of the season. Feeling he let down his teammates, LeBlanc applied for an N.C.A.A. medical redshirt rather than pursue a free-agent deal with an N.H.L. team. Also, LeBlanc needed to student-teach to finish his degree in mathematics education.

“I didn’t want to go out like that,” LeBlanc said. “I felt like I left my own senior class kind of high and dry. I didn’t want to do that to these guys.”

Playing with a metal rod in his leg, LeBlanc, a 6-foot, 195-pound center, ranked first in the nation with 30 assists and was sixth with 40 points heading into Saturday’s game against Colorado College. With LeBlanc, goaltender Ryan Faragher and defenseman Nick Jensen as the catalysts, the Huskies (18-12-1) rank eighth nationally and entered Saturday leading the Western Collegiate Hockey Association by a point over Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota with five games to play.

Two weeks ago, LeBlanc helped St. Cloud knock off top-ranked Minnesota. His breakaway wrist shot on a third-period power play gave the Huskies a three-goal lead in a 4-3 victory, after St. Cloud lost to the Gophers, 4-2, the previous night. Minnesota dropped to No. 2. That meant plenty to Motzko, a former Minnesota assistant.

“Getting LeBlanc back as a fifth-year senior has really helped their team,” Minnesota Coach Don Lucia said. “They’ve got a very veteran defensive corps, a veteran goaltender, and their freshman forwards have really come in and scored at a great pace. I really like their team. They’re skilled, they’re balanced, and they can get up and down the rink and make plays.”

St. Cloud is usually not this good. Since joining the W.C.H.A. in 1990, the Huskies have never won the MacNaughton Cup as the regular-season champion. They won the conference tournament title once, in 2001, and though qualifying for eight N.C.A.A. tournaments, St. Cloud had never won a game until its last bid, in 2010.

Motzko says he doubts St. Cloud would have reached its lofty heights without LeBlanc. “I don’t think there’s any chance,” he said. “That’s what he’s meant to this team. He’s given us a chance to become an awful good hockey team.”

Mark Parrish, a former Islander who played at St. Cloud and is a Huskies television analyst, says he cannot understand why LeBlanc was not drafted. He believes LaBlanc already possesses the smarts and two-way skill to play in the N.H.L.

“His hockey I.Q. just blows me out of the water,” he said. “I guarantee you, this guy will not make as many rookie mistakes as I did.”

LeBlanc exhibited that savvy early this season. With the senior left wing Ben Hanowski out with an upper body injury, Motzko teamed LeBlanc with the freshman wings Kalle Kossila and Jonny Brodzinski, sensing chemistry among them. With LeBlanc, both surged among the top freshman scorers in the country. Brodzinski shifted to another line when Hanowski returned but remained productive; his 16 goals led the Huskies and ranked second nationally among freshmen heading into Saturday.

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