The NAHL is a developmental hockey league and while most fans think of the players moving on to other junior leagues or college hockey, the same can be said for staff members on NAHL squads, including coaches. St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz is moving up in the ranks as he’ll be an assistant coach with the Bemidji State University’s men’s hockey team coming this fall.
Kautz only spent one season with the Norsemen but it was a special one as St. Cloud battled through injuries and a rough start to finish in third in the Central Division, clinch a playoff spot the last week of the regular season and then swept the Aberdeen Wings before ultimately falling to the Austin Bruins in the second round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs. Brock’s prior two seasons were also spent coaching in the NAHL but as a goaltending coach for the Minnesota Magicians, who have since relocated and rebranded as the Wisconsin Windigo.
Kautz talks about the things that he learned from his first season as an assistant coach in the NAHL. “When joining the league (from a coaching perspective) I was only doing the goalie side and working with the goalies, working two or three times a week. Obviously I really enjoyed that, kind of keying in on a couple guys,” admits Kautz. “Being an assistant coach for St. Cloud brought a lot more responsibilities in doing film, recruiting, helping with practice and helping on the bench as well. Kind of a lot of different responsibilities but I enjoyed all of them and all of them helped grow my knowledge for the game and expand my skill set.”
The position allows Kautz to remain in his home state, where he has been for almost his entire hockey career and life. Growing up in Rochester, MN Kautz was a goalie for Rochester Century High School before beginning a five-year NAHL playing career. He twice joined an NAHL team in the state of Minnesota with the Owatonna Express in 2010-11 and in Cloquet, MN for the Minnesota Wilderness in 2014-15 where he won a Robertson Cup with St. Cloud Norsemen Head Coach Corey Millen at the helm. In between those two stints he spent three seasons for the Janesville Jets, the only time in his playing career he left the state and played in Janesville, WI, three and a half hours from his hometown. Kautz then played a four-year career for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers from 2015-19.
Kautz points out that having Coach Millen as his head coach both as a player and a coach himself really helped him along in his career. “Playing for him, I felt that I learned a lot that way as well. Being injured for most of the year when I played for him I was able to listen more to different situations,” Kautz points out. “And being in the room with him every single day as his assistant coach, you just accumulate so much knowledge from someone that knows a ton about the game and played at an extremely high level. He has coached for many years so I was very grateful and blessed to be beside Coach Millen for a year and I learned a ton.”
The Bemidji State Beavers compete in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association against such in-state schools as Minnesota State University in Mankato and the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. There are a number of aspects of the position Kautz is looking forward to, but the biggest aspect for him is getting back to collegiate hockey. “I think getting into the Division I college hockey game is probably the most exciting thing I am looking forward to,” admits Kautz. “Surrounding myself with talented players and obviously coaches that have a ton of respect in college hockey. The other side is the recruiting side; going to games with a different jacket on and trying to find players that we think are great for the University both as students and as hockey players so a lot for me to be excited for.”
Kautz knows that throughout your career you need to catch some breaks and rely on making the most out of your opportunities and he certainly is thankful of the Norsemen organization and the chance he got in the granite city. “I’m super grateful that Chris (Canavati) and the ownership gave me an opportunity to coach in St. Cloud and I’m very blessed to have that opportunity and to do that in the state of hockey,” Kautz acknowledges. “For Coach Millen, someone that’s close to my heart for trading for me my last year of juniors and winning a championship with him, for him reaching out and getting me involved in coaching… I’m forever in debt to him and I can’t thank him enough for everything that he’s done for me in my career as a player and a coach.”
Kautz and the Beavers start their 2023-24 season at a familiar spot for Brock; Mariucci Arena in an exhibition road game against his former University of Minnesota squad on Sunday, October 8th. The regular season kicks off in Bemidji with the 2023 Ice Breaker Tournament where they’ll host the University of Wisconsin on October 13th and on October 14th he’ll take on last season’s Norsemen Captain Nik Hong with his new team, the Army Cadets out of West Point. Bemidji begins their CCHA schedule on October 27th and 28th hosting St. Thomas and Brock will return to St. Cloud on December 31st as the Beavers take on the Huskies in a New Year’s Eve matchup.