When Bob Motzko served as an assistant at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, he thought he had hit his peak when it came to coaching at the international level.
Little did Motzko know he would be at the helm of the U.S. National Junior Team two years later.
In April, it was announced that Motzko would coach Team USA when it plays at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Canada. As coach of the Americans, Motzko will bring the fast-paced, high-scoring style he has used in his 11-year career as the head coach of St. Cloud State University.
In his tenure with the Huskies, Motzko has turned the school into a perennial college hockey powerhouse with six NCAA Tournament appearances, including the Huskies’ first-ever Frozen Four invitation.
Two trademarks of Motzko coached teams have been a dynamic offense and a potent power play unit.
During the 2015-16 season, St. Cloud State scored on nearly 30 percent of its opportuniites with the man advantage while averaging more than four goals per game.
With his pick of USA Hockey’s top young talent, Motzko is looking to bring a similar style to the international stage.
“We want to get after it offensively and play on our toes,” Motzko said. “That’s the North American system. We want to score goals. We’re excited because we have some players who can play that way.”
With the tournament fast approaching, Motzko and others at USA Hockey are putting the finishing touches on the U.S. roster. It’s the end of a long process that began in early August when 42 potential candidates came together for the National Junior Evaluation Camp at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich.
After looking at the players that could fill the roster for this year’s tournament, Motzko feels good about his options.
“We had players who wanted to be there,” Motzko said. “It’s an outstanding group of guys that really cared. I think that bodes well for us.”
The Americans enter this year’s World Juniors looking to build on last year’s bronze-medal effort in Finland. Four players from the 2016 squad are in the running to make the 2017 team. That experience can help the team from both a leadership and motivational perspective.
“I think they all want to get that semifinal game back,” Motzko said. “Hopefully that’s fuel for those guys who come back and are selected to this year’s team.”
Motzko will continue to work behind the bench at St. Cloud State until the U.S. team heads to Buffalo for selection camp in December. The Americans will open World Juniors play against Latvia on Dec. 26 in Toronto.
Aside from Motzko being a head coach at the international level for the first time, he will also look to bring him his first medal. In 2014, the U.S. failed to medal after bowing out in the quarterfinals after losing to Russia.
“I think the World Juniors is at the highest rung of my wish list,” Motzko said. “I was so fortunate to be an assistant coach. To have the opportunity to be the head coach of this team, it’s been awesome. We’re really looking forward to the opportunity.”