by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Zach Hnath was stopped one game short of “state” four times in his 13 years playing hockey but the Rogers senior has enjoyed a productive career overall, helping the Royals win three conference championships and 53 games, while emerging as the program’s career scoring leader.
Hnath, who logged 100 points on 47 goals and 53 assists, started hockey during kindergarten, introduced by his dad, Bill, who played for Robbinsdale. He was one of 11 seniors playing their final game when the Royals lost to top-ranked, unbeaten Hermantown 4-0 in the Section 5A finals last Friday in Duluth.
“I grew up with those guys, playing with them since I was about four,” he reflected. About their last year together, he said: “We had a great time. We scored a lot of goals and it’s always fun to score goals.”
His career highlight? “I’d say, playing in a game to go to state against Hermantown the last two years. Actually, we were a game from state four times — in peewees we lost to Duluth East, and in bantams we lost to Wayzata.”
Two wins over No. 9 ranked Cathedral this year will rank high in the memory bank, too. “We don’t really like Cathedral, but they bring out the best in us, and the rink is always packed when we played them.”
Hnath led a balanced Rogers attack this year with 24 goals and 24 assists for 48 points on a 20-7-1 team, skating on the top line with Bryan Jungles and Spencer Marchand.
Coach Tim Marchand describes Hnath as “a sniper” with the puck. Indeed, the lanky, agile, 6-foot-2 and 175-pound Hnath can crank up and launch some sizzling slap shots, and is dangerous slashing to the net as well. “I love to shoot and see what happens,” he cheerfully admits.
“Zach is is a very fast skater, and strong on his skates,” said Marchand. “He’s a nice playmaker. He sees the ice extremely well and finds the open guys.”
Hnath had 10 goals and 14 assists in 10th grade on a 15-9-3 team that shared the Mississippi 8 title, and 13 goals and 15 assists as a junior on an 18-9-1 team, making all-conference. The Royals were unbeaten in conference his last two years.
Hnath’s second sport is golf, where Rogers has fielded one of the premier programs in the state the last three years. Hnath broke into the varsity lineup as a junior on a team that tied for the state championship. Hnath made the lineup in nine of 16 events, averaging 82.1, including the state meet where he shot 83-81 and placed 66th of 88. He averaged 80 in conference meets. The Royals graduated their best player but will remain a state power and he’ll compete for the fourth through sixth slots.
“Zach is natural athlete, with good strength, and he puts in the time, too, even during hockey season, with trips to the golf dome,” said coach Dan Bursheim. “He’s the guy who keeps the team loose with a good sense of humor, but he gets down to business, too. He’s a very consistent shooter.”
As much as Hnath savors the speed and fury of hockey, he enjoys the change of pace in golf, too. “You don’t have a bunch of huge guys coming up and hitting you in golf, that’s for sure,” he chuckled. Another pleasing twist: “In hockey it’s all about team, which is great, but in golf, it’s all on you.”
Hnath hopes his hockey career will continue. He said he’ll play Juniors if he can catch on with a team, and if not, he’ll start college at St. John’s in the fall and try make the hockey team there.
THE HNATH SCORECARD
Personal file – Age: 17 … Family: parents Bill and Sara; sister Emily, 21 … Sports: hockey, golf … Other activities: DECA …. Academics: 3.4 GPA … College plans: St. John’s eventually; hope to play Juniors first
Favorite stuff – Class: World History … TV show: “Family Guy” … Movie: “Warrior” … Music: rap, especially Drake and Li’l Wayne, and country, especially Zach Brown Band … Food: fettucini alfredo … Reading: USA Hockey magazine … Team: Philadelphia Flyers … Athlete: Wayne Gretzky … Kickback activities: golf, fishing … Place he’d like to visit: Alaska