“As far as the values we’re trying to teach, I guess the easiest way to sum it up is if you talk to kids about 10 things in a day — when you have them for only a couple hours — we’ll talk about five things hockey, whatever the practice needs are for that day, and five things about life. We talk about being a good kid, being polite to refs, taking care of family, and being a good person in the community and around school. It’s not just words — it’s really trying to lead by example as a coaching staff. A lot of good programs do that. We’re not coming up with a magic pill.” — Veteran Hill-Murray boy’s hockey coach Bill Lechner
Hill-Murray, off to a 3-2 start, has wins against Eden Prairie 4-1, Mahtomedi 3-2 and Hastings, and losses against Benilde-St. Margaret’s 5-3 and Hermantown 4-1.
The Pioneers host Wayzata on Wednesday and St. Thomas Saturday at Aldrich Arena.
A recent Q & A with Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner, truly one of the great guys in the game:
Your thoughts on the season so far, coach?
Bill: “Benilde is obviously a very good team — a top-10 team, I guess. There’s a bunch of us up there, but it’s still early in the season. We’ve had some guys out with injuries, which carried over from the football section finals season. We were a little short against Eden Prairie and a lot short against Benilde. I think we have potential. We have some top-end talent and some guys from the junior varsity who are filling in nicely, as they learn our systems and get acclimated to the varsity coaching staff and everything.”
Thoughts on Benilde?
Bill: “Solid. They got some good young guys, they’re scrappy and work very hard. They’re all over the ice and they put a lot of pressure on you. They play a little different style than some of the systems we play against — and are a little less predictable because they’re high energy. That’s a compliment to (Coach) Ken Pauly and those guys. Some teams you play are very mechanical and very systematic, and you can kind of read everything they’re doing consistently. Benilde is full of energy and comes at you in a lot of different ways.”
On Eden Prairie?
Bill: “He (Coach Lee Smith) lost a very senior-laden team. I think he said he had five guys back from last year’s group. I saw talent in a first game type situation for those kids.”
Your view of 2A, statewide?
Bill: “There’s a lot of talent in 2A, teams very similar in a lot of ways. I mean, they’re all well-coached and are going to be good. Some teams have high-end offense and maybe a little less on defense or in goal. We scrimmaged Grand Rapids and Cretin, and we’ve played Benilde, Eden Prairie and Hermantown, the top-ranked team in 1A. 2A is wide open. I think sometimes we get hung up on rankings, why we’re listed where we are. They’re just high school kids, and sometimes when they’re rated high they think they can just put on their jersey and it will happen — and that’s not the case. The target grows on your back as you move up higher in the rankings. Our message is always keep working it day to day, keep competing.”
Your take on the Pioneers?
Bill: “Both of our goalies are very solid. Nick Erickson (2-2-0, 2.77 GAA, .894 SVS%) is a senior, a second-year varsity goalie. And we’ve got Jack Erickson (1-0-0, 0.00, 1.000, 1 shutout), a junior who is very capable. He’d be the starting goalie for a lot of teams around the state.
“Defensively, we return seven defensemen who played varsity last season, which solidifies our back end. We have high-end talent up front: the (Dylan) Godbout’s, (Anthony) Madigan’s and (Brendan) Bonin’s, with experience there.”
The Pioneers’ strength?
Bill: “The back end — for size, strength and talent. The front end will be good. We have two very solid lines and we’d like to grow it to three or four. If you’ve watched us play through the years, and especially when we get to sections and state, we do like to play four lines. It’s not pee wee hockey where everybody pays their $300 and gets their turn. We really work hard to grow the confidence, depth and experience. We use our third and fourth lines to wear down teams. But, it’s going to take a little time here to develop that depth.”
Is being 2A private Catholic school in the Twin Cities high school hockey market an advantage or a disadvantage?
Bill: “Yeah, that a very good question, Howie. We hope that kids choose Hill-Murray for a good student-athlete education and experience – and for the values we talked about earlier. I have not, nor have we promised kids anything. I’m not at bantam tournaments all over the state. Some programs do that, and hats off to them. We follow the Minnesota State High School League rules. At Hill-Murray, we try to put a good program out there and teach good values. If we run a quality program, they’ll come. Most of our players live within five to eight miles of campus. They all get a fair chance in hockey at Hill-Murray.”
How would you like to be remembered?
Bill: “I haven’t thought about it, actually. I’m not out there to be on the billboard. You also hope what you did on this earth has value. I’d like to be remembered as a guy who tried to do the right things and genuinely cared about people while trying my best to balance family, coaching and life. I certainly don’t want to be remembered as the guy who had his funeral and nobody showed up. You don’t have to love me, but hopefully I’ve gained some appreciation of respect.”