College of Science and Engineering
Math education student featured in New York Times
Friday, March 1, 2013
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.
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.