Broten Sabo’s third season with the St. Cloud Norsemen hasn’t always gone according to plan in the first several months, but he’s battled back from injury twice and is a cornerstone of Corey Millen’s defense. Sabo played in the first four games of the Norsemen season at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine but then missed two games against Austin and Aberdeen each. He made his return to the lineup on Friday, October 7th in Bismarck but then suffered an unrelated injury causing him to miss three more games over three weekends before dressing next in Cloquet Friday, October 28th vs. the Minnesota Wilderness.
“Obviously it was a little frustrating not being in the lineup, I had two different injuries, and even when I got back in the lineup it was still a little sore, I was playing a little tentative,” admits Sabo. “Last weekend (hosting Bismarck) I felt like I took a big step. It’s good to be back.”
Despite Sabo’s season starting and stopping a few times, he’s been incredibly productive. Through nine games Broten has a goal and four assists, he’s second amongst defensemen on the team in points and first in points per game from the Norsemen blueline. Sabo has shown a propensity for offense as he put up a monster junior year for Rosemount High School with eight goals and 30 points in 27 games including the playoffs. Then last year, his second season in the NAHL, he exploded with a line of 3-24-27 in 59 regular season games before going off in the postseason, scoring five goals and eight points in 11 games.
Returning Norsemen defenseman Duke Kiffin has seen first hand what can happen when Sabo gets hot. “He’s kind of picking up where he left off and he’s making some really good offensive plays,” points out Kiffin. “He’s very good with the puck, which has carried over from last season. In the playoffs he really came into his own offensively.”
St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz is in charge of the defensive side of things and he knows just how valuable Sabo is at both ends of the ice. “He does a good job in our end which is great but obviously he’s got a lot of offensive ability. And then playing on the power play he makes a lot of stuff happen,” compliments Kautz. “He scored Friday night which was a big goal for us so it’s great to have him back.”
While everyone with the team is glad Sabo is back, perhaps nobody is more excited than Kiffin, who is often paired with Sabo. Kiffin’s face lights up when asked what it’s like playing with # 17 as his defensive partner. “It definitely makes the game easier,” chuckles Kiffin. “It’s his third year in the league and we’ve played together before. You’re out there with a guy that you have chemistry with, he knows the system so it’s easy to make plays, call out guys, make different passes. It makes it easier in the defensive zone and in the offensive zone where he is making those plays and that helps me get involved as well, which is always nice.”
In a season where the injury bug has plagued the Norsemen early and often, Kautz, who played five seasons in the NAHL himself, is well aware of how many intangibles Sabo brings to the ice and how much value there is to having a third-year NAHL veteran on the blueline. “Obviously he’s been here so he understands the lay of the land and can help guide some of the younger guys on the back end,” Kautz acknowledges. “He’s very intelligent, he knows what’s going on all the time whether in games, in practice or off the ice. He brings a lot of elements and the guys look up to him.”
Broten does some looking up to a player in his own family; if the last name sounds familiar, it should to hockey fans in Central Minnesota. His brother Jackson, a forward, played with Broten for the Norsemen two seasons ago. They both were acquired in a trade from the Janesville Jets in November of 2020. Jackson continues to play in the St. Cloud area as he is a sophomore at St. John’s University. “Two years ago I played with my brother here and that was great, that was really fun,” Broten says with a grin. “I lived with him as well and it was great to be on the same team with him again like when we were growing up.” Their younger brother Ryker also plays hockey as he, like his older brothers before him did, plays for Rosemount High School where he’ll be a senior this year. This fall the 2005 birth year defenseman played for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs’ 18U AAA program.
Broten and the Norsemen are on the road this coming weekend as they play two more games against the Bismarck Bobcats, the opponent they split with in St. Cloud this past weekend. You can watch the games online at hockeytv.com with the puck drop Friday and Saturday at 7:15 pm.
The next home games for the Norsemen back at the MAC are Friday and Saturday November 18th and 19th vs. the Minot Minotauros. Tickets can be purchased online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.