Michael Shibrowski got the season started right as he led the Gophers from the net in the team's season opening 5-1.
It's long been rumored that you have to be nuttier than squirrel turds to be a hockey goalie. After all, your job is to get in the way of a hard piece of rubber coming at you at speeds upward of 90 miles an hour. It's unnatural for a human being to throw themselves in front of objects hurling at them, let alone at those speeds. Click here for more hockey news. Despite the physical dangers associated with the position, the mental dangers can be even more crippling. Goalies are often an afterthought when their team wins, and the first to have the finger pointed at them when the team loses. It not only takes athletic prowess to play the position, it also takes mental toughness. Yeah, they say you probably have to have a screw loose to get between the pipes in hockey. This is where Mike Shibrowski doesn't fit the mold of your "typical" net minder. The junior from Andover is as humble, even keeled and polite a young man as you'll ever meet, and doesn't seem to be in the least bit crazy.
For those that bet on sports, the Gophers are one of the favorites to contend for the national title and their dominating opening series over Michigan State did nothing to dispel those predictions. "Shibby", as he's known to his teammates, started the season off strong as the net-minder stopped 25 shots leading to a 5-1 Gopher win. After watching last season from the bench, he is finally being given the chance to earn a starting role on the team. He and heralded Freshman Adam Wilcox will be jockeying for the #1 Goaltending spot the first part of the season, with Head Coach Don Lucia indicating it's anyone's job at this point. "We could have one of the goalies emerge as the clear cut starter, or we could have them splitting weekends the entire season. They're both going to play, and we'll see how that pans out", Lucia said.
Shibrowski has gotten to where he is through hard work and determination. But those attributes only go so far. You have to have talent. Talent is something that Shibby has plenty of. A successful high school career at Benilde-St. Margaret would be an understatement. During his time with the Red Knights, he helped the team to a third place finish in the 2008 State High School Hockey Tournament, co-captained the team, was All-State Honorable Mention, finished top ten in every goaltending statistical category, and was a four year honor student. After High School, Shibrowski's hockey path took a lot of twists and turns, including stints with Des Moines of the USHL, the Owatonna Express of the NAHL, and even a brief time with WCHA foe Colorado College, before returning to Minnesota for a chance to play for the Gophers.
GopherHole sat down with Shibrowski recently to get a better understanding of who he is, how he got here, and what it's like to be a starting Goaltender for one of the top college hockey programs in the country.
GH: You were an honor student in high school. How much of a strain has it been for you to balance school with sports as a collegiate athlete?
MS: It was tough at first. You really need to have good time management skills, or learn some skills fast, because things get busy quickly. I spend a good part of my day between classes and the rink, and it doesn’t leave much time for homework. Being able to manage your time and stay ahead can alleviate a lot of the stress.
GH: Your road the last few years has really had you on the move. You've spent time in Des Moines, Kansas City, Owatonna and Colorado Springs. Do you feel like you've finally become a little more grounded here at Minnesota?
MS: Definitely! I have had a bit of a roller coaster ride the last few years, but I feel more settled now knowing I’m going to be here a for few years. This feels like home.
GH: Take us through the life of a goalie prospect? Coming out of High School, was there any interest from the Gophers? How about other colleges? How were you finally contacted by the Gophers?
MS: When it comes to hockey players, everyone is a little different. I think most goalies seem to find their game and mature with a few years of junior hockey. So for me, I knew I was going to need to play some Junior hockey before I was ready to make the jump to College. It was in Junior hockey that I started to get some interest from Division I schools. I was given the opportunity to finish the second half of the 2009-10 season with Colorado College, and made the move there. However, after that year, I went back to play another year of juniors with Des Moines in the USHL and decided around Christmas that Colorado College just wasn’t the right fit for me. I de-committed from CC shortly thereafter. It was about that time that I first spoke with the staff here at Minnesota and ended up making my commitment to the Gophers after the conclusion of the USHL season.
GH: You indicated that you grew up a Gopher Hockey fan. Knowing that, was it hard for you to play for Colorado College, seeing as they have been one of the Gophers biggest rivals in recent years?
MS: I grew up a big Gopher fan. My Brother and I used to play knee hockey in between periods of games, and I was always Adam Hauser. Playing for the Gophers is still a bit of a surreal experience, but it's a lot of fun. I gotta say though, it was actually a pretty cool experience playing at CC. It's true, you grow up in Minnesota dreaming about playing for the Gophers, but when you get an opportunity with a program like CC, you can't pass it up. Problem is, by going to a rival school, now you're kind of the enemy to people at home. We had a lot of Minnesota guys on our team though, so I wasn't alone. The situation forces you to temporarily switch your allegiance. Mostly you’re excited though. And honestly, you're just happy to be a part of the WCHA.
GH: In a situation like you experienced last year as the backup to Kent Patterson, how do you stay ready and maintain your focus in the event you get called upon to come into a game?
MS: I just tried to keep consistent with my preparation before a game and make sure that I had the focus I needed in case I was called upon. Other than that I just worked to make myself better in practice every day, and if I did get the call to go in, I just had to hope that the hard work I put in at practice is evident in my play.
GH: Top tier athletes always want to get playing time. How did you handle being a backup last year? Do you think that it was beneficial for you to sit on the bench?
MS: It was hard. You want to play, and you want to be out there helping your team win. But learning was my main focus last year, and I could talk for days about how beneficial it was for me to sit on the bench and watch Kent. Knowing that he was going to be playing on the weekends, I treated every practice as if it were a game, and used my time on the bench to learn. Kent did so many things well. I just tried to watch him, how he played, how he handled certain situations and just soaked it up. It’s not often you get to work with an All-American, and get to ask him questions on a daily basis. Another great way to learn is paying attention to the game, what players are doing, and how the different characteristics of the rinks we played in affected the game. I just tried to learn as much as I could, and use it to develop my game.
GH: Does the Gophers Coaching staff have requirements for your off-season training? What does your off-season training look like?
MS: We have Cal Dietz, who is a nationally recognized Strength & Conditioning Coach. He does a great job designing our workouts, and running us through those workouts. He definitely knows his stuff. He's another one of those guys behind the scenes that probably doesn't get the credit he is due. I also get out and skate at school with the guys from the team during the offseason to try and stay in game shape.
GH: You play a relatively unknown sport called Bandy in the summertime. What role has Bandy played in your preparations for Hockey?
MS: For me it’s a great way to stay in shape and work on some different skills. Playing goalie in Bandy is a lot different than playing in Hockey. In Bandy, you play with a ball versus a puck. The way the bandy ball comes off the shooter's stick has different characteristics than a hockey puck being shot at you. The ball can knuckle, dive, or curve in either direction. It really helps with tracking and hand-eye coordination. In Bandy, the equipment you wear is smaller, which means that you have to rely more on your skating and crease movements, helping med refine those areas as well. Most of all it allows me to be competitive. I’m very competitive by nature, and Bandy is a great outlet for me to get some of those competitive juices flowing in the offseason.
GH: Coach Lucia has indicated that you will be splitting time with Freshman Adam Wilcox at least the first part of the season. Does that put a strain on your relationship with Adam?
MS: No, Adam and I are cool. The competition between us is healthy. On the ice we're competitors, off the ice we're friends and help each other out. As goalies, we need to bond and we have. Between Adam, Ryan Coyne and Matt LaPrade, we have a great group of guys. Ultimately, the Coaches will decide what's best for the team, and we will all support those decisions, and support each other.
GH: How do you prepare for a game? Is there a particular meal you eat, music you listen to….do you juggle?? Any superstitions?
MS: I don’t have any superstitions, but I have a lot of routines some might be considered a bit weird. I usually perform these routines to keep me consistent and help me prepare. I like to listen to music before a game as a way to get my head straight and relax. And, actually, I do have some tennis balls that I juggle with. Juggling is great for hand-eye coordination, and sharpens my focus before a game. Bottom line is, I try to keep the same routine before every game, but I’m not dependent on it.
GH: When playing Goalie, concentration is vital. How do you maintain your level of intensity/concentration during the grind of a long season?
MS: I take a lot of breaks. I’ve learned that trying to have such a deep concentration can be mentally draining. Taking a break in between whistles during a game and refocusing, or taking the time between periods to relax, makes a huge impact. I appreciate the occasional break away from the rink too. On those rare occasions that we actually get a day off from practice, I like to use that to do other things, and get away from hockey for a bit.
GH: Goalie equipment is expensive! Do you have to buy your own, or does the school supply the equipment? Either way, do you have any restrictions on which brand you wear?
MS: We are fortunate in that we get our gear supplied now, after having my parents buy countless pairs of pads when I was growing up. I know my parents are pretty happy that they haven’t had to buy anything the last few years. As far as the brand goes, we don’t have any restrictions on what we wear. Our Equipment Manager Lee (Greseth) is really good about helping us out with the equipment, and getting us what we need. He does a great job behind the scenes, and doesn't get the credit he deserves.
GH: What would you say is the strength of your game? Quickness? A great glove?
MS: I don’t know If I have one strength that stands out. I know I'm not what you would consider a flashy goalie. I just try to be technically sound, keep it simple, and control the game. When I'm playing well, I'm not moving around too much out there.
GH: What are your thoughts on the upcoming season?
MS: I’m excited! We have a great group of guys coming back this year, and we've added some outstanding players. There's a little bit more pressure on me this season, because I've been told I will be starting some games, but I just gotta stay focused and do my job. As long as I do my job, and everyone else does their job, we'll put together a winning team, no matter who's between the pipes. We have a great defensive core. They do a great job of clearing players and the puck from in front of the net and keeping them to the outside. It also helps that we have a great offense, and we as goalies don't have to worry about having to get the shutout every night. I think it's going to be a fun year.
GH: In the locker room after a win last season, the team got to celebrate by playing music. Does the team have a locker room playlist ready for this season yet? Who decides on the music selection? If you had your choice, what would the top five songs be on your playlist?
MS: I think a playlist is in the works? I'm not really involved in the music selection, most of the older guys have control of that. We have a mix of musical tastes on the team, so we always get a little of everything in the locker room. I like a wide variety of music, so that works for me. If you're asking for my top five picks, I think I'd have a hard time picking. There are just too many classics out there.
GH: What are your hopes for your post college life/career?
MS: I will play hockey as long as I can. After that I'll probably look to a marketing or promotional career in business. It’s something that I’m studying and have taken a real interest in.
Tag(s): Other Gopher Sports