Last weekend was a bye week for the St. Cloud State men’s hockey team, but some business was getting done.
The Huskies received a verbal commitment Wednesday from Mike Eyssimont, a 16-year-old center from Littleton, Colo. Eyssimont, who is 5-foot-10 and 171 pounds, is playing for the Colorado Thunderbirds Tier I 16AAA midget team.
The Thunderbirds were in Blaine for a tournament over the weekend and Eyssimont and his parents made a drive up for an unofficial visit on Saturday.
“I loved the campus. It was just amazing,” he said. “After the visit, my parents were ready for me to go there. I took a few days to think it over, but I really wanted to go there.”
Eyssimont’s team is coached by Angelo Ricci, who played forward for Denver University from 1991-95. Huskies head coach Bob Motzko was an assistant at Denver in 1993-94 and St. Cloud State assistant coach Mike Gibbons was an assistant for the Pioneers from 1990-94.
“Coach Motzko saw him play for the first time just a month ago when we were playing in a tournament in Phoenix and Mikey was playing unbelievable against some very good competition,” Ricci said. “I played for Omaha (in juniors, in the United States Hockey League) against Coach Motzko when he was coaching North Iowa, so I’ve known him a long time.
“Mikey and (his parents) George and Nancy, I’ve known them for four years and I told them that Bob has extra patience with his players. The way his team’s play, even when he was in the USHL, his team’s guys had big (offensive) numbers and they were creative in how they can get things done. It’s a good fit for Mikey.”
Ricci said that Eyssimont has 71 goals, 51 assists and is a plus-110 in 61 games this season.
“I try to be an emotional leader as an assistant captain, be vocal on the ice,” Eyssimont said. “I can score goals, I’m a power play guy, I can move the puck around. I do whatever I can to win and try to produce as much as possible.”
Penn State, Michigan Tech, Dartmouth, North Dakota, Denver, Cornell, Princeton and Colgate all showed interest in Eyssimont, according to Ricci. Ricci said that the Thunderbirds began in 2005 and the program has had 38 players play NCAA Division I hockey.
“He’s a very talented and gifted offensive hockey player,” Ricci said of Eyssimont. “He’s got a knack to score goals. His biggest thing is he competes hard, which you love to see. He goes to the dirty areas of the ice.
“He’s learned to play away from the puck in all three zones and he’s matured a lot. St. Cloud’s getting a very good hockey player and student. He’s going to be a good asset to the school.”
Eyssimont began by playing roller hockey.
“My dad used to take me to parking lots and we’d play some roller hockey and he’d always say that I was a natural,” Eyssimont said. “I’ve been playing ice hockey since I was 8 years old.”
The Thunderbirds play in the state tournament this weekend and then play in regionals the following weekend.
Eyssimont was taken by the Fargo Force in the USHL Entry Draft and plans to play there next season. Eyssimont said that he would like to play for St. Cloud State starting in the 2014-15 season, but said he would play more junior hockey than that if he needs it for his development as a player.
“I think he’s going to be a top six forward (for the Huskies) and see a lot of ice time in all situations,” Ricci said. “That’s the potential he has.
“He doesn’t get hit straight on. He’s very skilled, very shifty. He’s scored some beautiful goals, has good vision, can set up guys. He’s got some special gifts you can’t teach.”
Eyssimont has two sisters, one of which, is his twin. His twin sister, Ana, is a club gymnast who plans on competing in the sport in college, he said.