Credit: Courtesy YHH.
With the turnover rate of youth hockey, winning a state championship is a herculean effort, with every level of a program playing a role in overall success.
When a program wins two state championships, it’s worth taking a look at the head coach behind the bench.
Brian Murphy has been the Minnetonka Bantam AA coach for the past five seasons, and his teams have won the past two state titles at the ultra-competitive and talent-laden AA level.
“We’ve been fortunate enough the past couple of years to have a good group of parents and a good group of kids,” Murphy said in a recent interview.
Coaching in a high-enrollment program like Minnetonka means a high level of talent is a given, and Murphy admits as much.
But considering how many players make the jump from their Bantam teams as ninth graders to the high school level, the Skippers are not immune to star players forgoing their second year of Bantam eligibility.
“We lose a kid every year,” Murphy said. "So we lost (Bobby) Brink this year, we lost (Grant) Docter last year, we lost K’Andre (Miller) the year before that,” Murphy continued, adding that he finds no fault with parents and players making the leap.
Brink and Docter are currently heavy contributors to the Minnetonka varsity team, while Miller joined the Under-17 National Team Development Program last spring after two seasons of varsity hockey.
While the departures may hurt his lineup on paper, Murphy says that starting each season with a new crop of players is something he looks forward to.
“It’s extremely exciting to get new kids every year,” Murphy said. “It makes the journey and process fun.”
The philosophy that Murphy and his assistant coaches Avi Friedman and Michael Gergen have established for the Skippers’ showcase youth team plays a key role in “keeping the process fun.”
“We’ve had so much success the past (few) years because our culture has been set and standards have been set as to how we want to do things and how we want the kids to behave,” Murphy explained.
Murphy said that the culture includes putting a premium on family time, schoolwork and recovery between practices and games.
“The kids have to fall in line, because it’s not about the individual, it’s about the team,” Murphy said before acknowledging the overworked sentiment. “That’s cliche to say that, but the reality of it is that’s how you win at the end of the year.”
Cliche or not, Murphy’s 2016-2017 season has been another remarkable campaign, including a 5-3 win on Dec. 9 over the 2002 Chicago Mission and elite Tier I program that is widely regarded as the nation’s top team in that age bracket.
As for the second half of the season, Murphy says that the Skippers are moving full speed ahead.
“The goal is to do it again,” Murphy said, referring to capturing another state crown. “Hopefully we can put ourselves in a good situation to be there at the end of the year.”