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NA Now: St. Cloud Norsemen

September 6, 2023

The NA Now series features a look at all 32 teams in the NAHL for the 2023-24 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.

St. Cloud Norsemen

Head Coach: Corey Millen (8th Season)

2022-23 record: 60 GP, 28-23-9, 65 pts. (3rd in the Central Division)

2022-23 leading scorer: Kade Peterson (50 points)

2023 Playoffs: Lost in the Central Division Finals to the Austin Bruins, 3 games to 1

2023-24 Division: Central

First regular season game: Wednesday, September 13th vs. Shreveport Mudbugs

Home opener: Friday, September 29th vs. Aberdeen Wings

A year after winning the Central and representing the division at the 2022 Robertson Cup Championship, the Norsemen returned in the 2022-23 season with a solid group of veteran players ready to give it another run. Despite winning 13 less games and earning 20 less points, the Norsemen were right in the thick of the playoff race for the final three spots and ended up securing a post-season bid with a 3rd place finish.

In the Central Division Playoffs, the Norsemen opened with a big Semi-Final sweep over the Aberdeen Wings, allowing just a single goal in the three games. In the Division Finals, the Norsemen carried that momentum into Game 1 with a 4-3 overtime win in Austin. However, the Bruins won Games 2 and 3 decisively and then punched their ticket to the Robertson Cup with a 2-1 overtime win in Game 4 in St. Cloud.

It was another successful season under veteran Head Coach Corey Millen, who not only guided the team to another playoff berth, but also saw 11 players end the season committed to NCAA schools.

The off-season was a busy one for the Norsemen, who not only had to reload most of their roster, but also find a new assistant coach as former assistant Brock Kautz was promoted to be an assistant in the NCAA Division I ranks with Bemidji State. Enter John Mitchell, who had been the head coach for the Milwaukee Power in the NA3HL. Mitchell joined the Power as an assistant in the 2021-22 season and became head coach for the 2022-23 season, leading the Power to their first 30-win season in franchise history and a playoff berth.

Mitchell, who will be the Associate Head Coach for the Norsemen beginning this season, said that it was a ‘no-brainer’ to jump at the chance to coach in the NAHL with an organization like the Norsemen. “It was bittersweet. I feel in love with the city and the NA3HL team. It was hard to walk away, but whether you are a player or a coach, you have a desire to develop and advance, and this was a part of the Ladder of Development. I was fortunate to get the opportunity in St. Cloud and learn from a coach like Corey Millen who has an incredible coaching record and pedigree,” said Mitchell.

“I am eager to take the next step in my coaching career. I am passionate about the game of hockey, and I am eager to share my experience with the next generation of young players. Mentoring, coaching, and watching my players reach their potential gives me a newfound appreciation for the game. It’s an invigorating feeling that brings me peace of mind.”

Watch: NA Now video interview with John Mitchell

Mitchell said that most of the Norsemen roster will be new, and the team will be much younger than previous years. “We are excited about this season. The Norsemen have had a good run the past couple years in the playoffs, so we are going younger this year. We feel we have some 2005 and 2006 birth-year players that have the talent to play in the NAHL, but there is going to take a little time to adapt to the junior game and level.”

Many of the new faces will be up front at forward and in goal. However, most of the returning players will be defensemen, which should help the Norsemen defensively to start the season with a younger team. Defenseman Wyatt Wurst from Edina, Minnesota, returns on the back end with 56 games of NAHL experience and a spot on Team Central at the 2023 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. Carter Bradley and Owen Hendrickson are also included in that group of returning defensemen with NAHL experience.

“All of these veteran defensemen have made a big impact so far in camp and can be those leaders we are looking for. They all lead with a different style so that gives a nice mix of personalities to work with,” said Mitchell. “As a staff, we are trying to set the stage for them to be successful and that includes as many teaching moments on and off the ice. The depth of the division is huge, so it’s going to be a big mountain to climb this season with a younger team. We are going to have some patience and give them time to gel and succeed. Ultimately, it’s about our players development and advancement. Success is based on a lot of work, a lot of patience, a lot of practice, and some discipline.”

Next Up: Wisconsin Windigo

 
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