MINNEAPOLIS — Indicative of the many hats that college hockey coaches need to wear, just hours before the Minnesota Gophers welcomed their top Big Ten rival Wisconsin to 3M Arena at Mariucci last weekend, coach Bob Motzko was taking a brief break from thinking about that evening to ponder what his lineup would look like 11 months later.
On Friday, Nov. 22, the Gophers formally announced the signing of a pair of defensemen expected to patrol the blue line in 2020-21 and beyond. Brock Faber and Mike Koster are two highly regarded defensive prospects from the Twin Cities suburbs who will return to their home state next season.
Faber, from Maple Grove, Minn., is in his second season with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Michigan. Koster, from Chaska, Minn., is skating with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL in Nebraska and was named the top defenseman in Minnesota last season after his senior year for Chaska High School.
“We’re losing two seniors on defense after this year, so you do the math. We’re going to bring two in and we couldn’t be more pleased,” Motzko said, referencing current senior defensemen Tyler Nanne and Ryan Zuhlsdorf. “They’re two of the top defensemen in their age group in the United States.”
Coached by former Gophers standout Dave Snuggerud in Chaska last season, Koster was second on the Hawks offensively behind Rhett Pitlick, another future Gopher.
“He was a guy that you knew was going to make a play when he had the puck on his stick, every time,” Snuggerud said of Koster, who was picked by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL Draft last summer. “It was just a comfort level for a coach that I had a player that was going to be making plays every time. It was fun to see what he would do with the puck.”
Faber, who did not play high school hockey in Minnesota, has instead been finding success on the international stage, representing the USA in major tournaments in 2017 and 2018.
“Brock is an elite puck moving defenseman who has worked to become one of the best defenders in the world in his birth year,” said Seth Appert, a Cottage Grove, Minn., native who is head coach of the U.S. National Under-18 Team. “He comes from a great family and brings high-level work ethic and character along with his skill package.”
Motzko said both players fit the mold of the kind of defensemen he wants on his teams.
“They’re the prototypical Gophers defenseman. They’re skating, puck-moving, offensive-minded, both learning the defensive side of the game,” said Motzko, who worked with Gophers back end stars like Jordan Leopold, Paul Martin, Keith Ballard and Chris Harrington during his time as an assistant coach for Don Lucia in the early 2000s. “They’re going to come in well-rounded. They’re great fits for the program, and surely are moving our D core to something that Gopher hockey fans are very familiar with.”
Perbix status uncertain for North Dakota series
The Gophers will not know until roughly 36 hours before they face North Dakota whether they will have the option of having freshman forward Jack Perbix in the lineup. Perbix, who left last Saturday’s 3-3 tie with Wisconsin in the first period with an undisclosed injury, skated with the team on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
“We’re working him through right now and we will know more (Wednesday) morning,” Motzko said after Tuesday’s practice.
Perbix, who hails from Elk River, Minn., began Saturday’s game at center on the fourth line between Cullen Munson and Joey Marooney. He has played in all 14 of the Gophers’ games thus far and has a goal and two assists.