In a Pioneer Press article titled “Burnsville Brock Boeser can’t wait to be a Badger,” Boeser told Press staff writer Garrison Shepard that the University of Wisconsin was his “dream school.” His cousin, Dan, who was an assistant coach at Burnsville while Brock was there, played at Wisconsin from 2000-2004. His mother’s family was from Madison. Heck, his name, Brock, is derived from the Gaelic word “broc”, which means badger.
So, when the University of Wisconsin took an interest in him after his sophomore year of high school, offering a verbal commitment there was a no-brainer. “It was nice to know you could play at your home state,” he told Shepard in December 2013, “but at the end it was just Wisconsin from the start.”
Now he is reconsidering that decision.
Boeser left Burnsville for the USHL after his junior year and joined former high school teammate Tyler Sheehy in Waterloo. Together they formed a line with Tom Novak, who played at St. Thomas, and have become the most productive players on the Waterloo Black Hawks. Boeser leads the team with 35 points (19 goals, 16 assists) halfway through the season, followed by Sheehy with 29 points (11G, 18A) and Novak with 27 (6G, 21A).
Boeser is the goal-scorer, Novak the set-up man and Sheehy bridges the gap between them.
“I’m not really sure [if it was intentional],” says Sheehy. “Both those guys do things that are unbelievable.
“Brock can score an unbelievable amount of goals, and Tommy can set up unbelievable plays, and I’m kind of a guy who gets them the puck, works in the corners a little bit and things like that. But like Brock said, we kind of rely on each other, and it’s something that’s pretty cool, and hopefully it’s something that can carry on.”
By “carry on”, Sheehy means replicating this line at the University of Minnesota. Gopher coach Don Lucia wants Boeser, who de-committed from Wisconsin in November of 2014, to play at Mariucci Arena next year, but Boeser remains non-committal.*
“I’m still looking at Wisconsin,” he says, “and then Minnesota and North Dakota.”
He says that personal growth was an important element in his decision to relinquish his verbal commitment. “I would say that’s the biggest factor,” he said before the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. “It was a tough decision. I just committed when I was young, so I just wanted to take a step back, re-do my decision, and just make sure I’m making the right decision for my development.”
The other factor is that it would allow him to potentially keep a productive line intact through college. All three players agree that the instant chemistry they had helped them on and off the ice. They all knew that the level of play was going to increase dramatically, even though they played for strong prep programs in high school, and that they would also be moving away from home for the first time.
“In this game, it’s pretty important,” Novak says of the chemistry. “Coming in, a lot of guys aren’t used to playing with each other, and I think it’s a good step ahead to be familiar with your linemates.”
While Boeser and Sheehy were high school teammates, Boeser had played with Novak since he was 11 or 12, according to both players. They played in summer leagues together and knew, even then, that they had complimentary skill sets.
“We grew up playing hockey together on a Triple-A team in the summer, so we were linemates there,” says Boeser, “and then we skated together and trained together and just grew from there and became good buddies and had good chemistry on and off the ice.”
Boeser says that Novak pushed him to come to Minnesota when he de-committed from Wisconsin in November. “He was,” says Boeser, laughing, “but he’s backed off a lot more now.”
“Sometimes we joke about it a little bit,” says Novak, “but at the end of the day he’ll make his own decision where he wants to go, where he feels most comfortable for him.”
If Gophers fans are looking for a sign that Boeser might have a change of heart, they don’t have to look any further than Sheehy. Originally committed to Ohio State, Sheehy got homesick during his first year in Waterloo and decided that he wanted to play his college hockey in Minnesota.
“Going to the USHL my senior year in high school, that was kind of tough, being away from home,” he says, “and there’s nothing better than growing up watching the Gophers and finally having the chance to play for them.”
The irony with Boeser and Novak is that Novak is from Wisconsin, but he is trying to convince Boeser to play in Minnesota. While he spent time in Cottage Grove, MN as a kid, his family moved to River Falls, WI.
“He likes to say that he’s a Minny Boy,” says Sheehy, “and everyone says, ‘No, you’re not,’ but being that close to Minnesota, going to Minnesota, playing high school in Minnesota, he’s definitely a Minnesota kid.”
“I mean I’m five minutes out of Hudson, so a lot of people consider themselves around the Twin Cities there,” says Novak, rolling his eyes. “I’ve always been a Gopher fan; it was kind of a dream school for me.”
The three of them are considered the “Minny Boys” in the Waterloo locker room and their teammates from around the country give them a lot of flak.
“We’ve got a lot of guys in Waterloo who are committed to Minnesota, so some of the other guys give us a little crap and things like that,” says Sheehy. “But yeah, I mean I think everybody kind of has a struggle being away from home at kind of a young age, and then it’s hard again to go to college somewhere that’s really far, so yeah, the guys who are from Minnesota going to Minnesota are definitely fortunate.”
The key for Novak and Sheehy, however, is to get Boeser to see things the way they do.
“We kind of tug on him every day, and kind of let him know that Minnesota wants him and things like that,” admits Sheehy. “He definitely knows that, and he’s kind of getting closer to a decision, and hopefully Minnesota will be his choice.”
*Ed. Note – Boeser committed to the University of North Dakota on 2/12/15
Follow Tom Schreier on Twitter via @tschreier3