The Illinois State Redbirds Division III hockey team is expecting success under new leadership as Mike Hernbrott takes over the head coach position for the 2014 season.
Hernbrott, who is beginning his second year with the program, was promoted to head coach of the DIII team for this upcoming season. Hernbrott held an assistant coaching position for the DII team for the 2013 season. A lifelong hockey player and enthusiast, Hernbrott has a lot to offer the program in terms of coaching.
“Hockey has always been a part of my life,” said Hernbrott, reflecting on his own experiences. “I learned to skate when I was eighteen months old, started playing hockey when I was three, I’ve been in ice rinks my entire life.”
In addition to starting young, Hernbrott played for four years for the US Marine Corps hockey team. The experience with the Marines gave him insight not only as a player, but also as a college coach. Hernbrott believes that the Marine Corps hockey team was a similar experience to that which college hockey players are going through, and knows the similarities will help him as a coach.
Hernbrott also is starting his second year as general manager at the Pepsi Ice Center, after twelve years of experience running Rinkside Sports in Gurnee, Illinois. While in Gurnee, Hernbrott added to his hockey knowledge as a youth coach for various age groups.
“There’s a lot of differences, but amazingly a lot of similarities,” said Hernbrott. “Number one thing is it needs to be fun. The emphasis more at this level is on winning—a little bit more of a competitive battle, but ultimately if it wasn’t fun kids wouldn’t want to come out here and play for the program. They wouldn’t want to put in the effort and discipline needed to do it unless it was somewhat fun. Ultimately hockey is a game, and it needs to be fun.”
The DIII team has a record of 39-65 over the last four years, and Hernbrott believes this season’s roster is strong and headed for success. The Redbirds DII team had a strong recruiting year, and that talent is reflected in the DIII team as well.
“This upcoming season, like I said, the last few years the DIII team has struggled a little bit as far as their win/loss record,” said Hernbrott. “I do believe we added an excellent recruiting year for the top team which is going to make the competition a lot harder for those kids to make that top team. So, really what that means is a lot of the players that we have on the DIII team are going to be very strong. What we need to start with is to get a focus on what our program is going to be like. It’s going to feel similar to that top team. Our goal should be this year, just like every other year, is we want to win our MACHA conference. That’s where it starts.”
Also added to the DIII coaching staff this year is former ISU hockey player and new assistant coach Alex Murphy. Hernbrott is excited to have an ISU alum alongside him for the upcoming season, and can see equal benefits for everybody with the partnership.
“What I hope to teach him is kind of the mental aspects of the game: what keeps people focused,” said Hernbrott about Murphy. “I think we’re going to learn a lot from one another and I am excited about it.”
With the new recruitments and coaching changes, The Redbirds are excited about continuing success on both levels this upcoming season. The DII team is looking for not only a return to nationals for the third year, but an eventual national championship to bring back to Normal. With Coach Brian Corley leading the DII team and Coach Hernbrott at the head of the DIII team, success seems inevitable for the entire program.