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A natural fit: Monsrud takes over reins for Lumberjack boys hockey

Bemidji High School boys hockey head coach Eric Monsrud tees off at hole No. 1 during the Galen Nagle Memorial Golf Tournament in July. (Pioneer file photo)

BEMIDJI -- A new face is at the helm behind the Bemidji High school boys hockey bench, but it’s a familiar one.

Eric Monsrud is taking over the head coaching position vacated by Wade Chiodo in April. Monsrud worked as Chiodo’s assistant for six seasons, and he’s ready for the next step.

Eric Monsrud“I’ve been in coaching for a long time, and when Wade stepped down it just felt like a nice, easy transition in the program, knowing that I know what’s going on the youth hockey program,” Monsrud said.

“I knew what was going on in this program. We were working together to keep building some of these walls that have been built, and it just felt like a natural fit for me to go for the position knowing everything that I do and the standpoint of knowing the program and the kids coming into the program.”

Out of Rochester, Monsrud graduated high school in 1989, played junior hockey for the Rochester Mustangs for two years and came to Bemidji State.

Playing for the Beavers, he racked up 44 goals and 49 assists in 114 games between 1991 and 1996, helping the team to three straight NCAA Division II national titles from 1993 to 1995.

“To play for championships like we did and do it the way we did was real special, and to do three in a row, not too many people can say that they’ve done that,” Monsrud said. “There’s a group of us that are part of that family, and so it’s pretty special and I still talk with quite a few of those guys to this day.”

Monsrud’s time at Bemidji State caused him to “fall in love with the town,” and after graduating from BSU, he got right into coaching the Lumberjacks.

“I always heard the stories of George Pelawa and some of those other players that were in high school in those days,” he said. “And when I was playing for the Beavers, their games were at the John Glas (Fieldhouse) and so I would stick around after practice and watch some of those games sometimes. I always had a feeling I kind of wanted to get into coaching, and I really liked this town, and I wanted to make this my hometown. So I did and this is where I am.”

After several years away from coaching to focus on raising his first daughter, Monsrud rejoined the program and coached under Chiodo. He and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters – Summer, 24, and Molly, 12.

Already prepared

The success of the Bemidji hockey program as a whole, according to Monsrud, comes from the preparation the youth hockey program provides before players hit the high school level.

“The kids come up, and when they come up to us, they’re pretty prepared to play high school hockey,” he said. “Yes, there is a step and there is a two-step for some kids, but eventually they all get acclimated to the game and they all play at a high level.”

The fact that Monsrud served as an assistant for the team made the transition a smooth one for the players.

“It’s been great so far,” senior forward and captain Ryan Pogue said. “I love the guy. Great coach – I’ve had him for three years, and a really good guy. I can’t say enough about him.

“We haven’t really changed our systems much yet. We’re still getting into it. But so far, everything has switched over good. It’s good a lot of us knew him before, so it’s been good.”

As far as possible changes to the way the varsity team is managed, Monsrud said not to expect much, besides perhaps some differences in coaching style.

“I’m not sure if there’s gonna be tons of changes,” Monsrud said. “We’re still gonna be working toward what we’ve built. But I think for me I like to talk and I like to believe in the players and I like to let them know that I believe in them. I do a lot of yapping on the bench to them, good and bad. I’m a talker, so that’s one thing that these kids are gonna get. They’re gonna get me in their ear a lot, and it’s gonna be a lot of positive, but there also will be the constructive criticism that will come at them, too.”