by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The new Rogers Royals boys hockey coach is Justin Strunk, an assistant at Maple Grove the last six seasons.
Strunk was named by activities director Dan Ohlgren on July 22 to succeed Tim Marchand, the only coach the Royals had in their first 10 seasons before resigning June 28.
“I’m excited. I think Rogers is a great city, great community,” Strunk told the Crow River News, “and Dan Ohlgren has been amazing every step of the way for me.”
Strunk, 31, is a Robbinsdale Cooper and Augsburg College graduate and got his masters at Bethel. Currently a special education teacher at Park Center High School, Strunk said he hopes to teach at Rogers eventually.
Strunk inherits a program on solid footing. Rogers slipped to 12-13-2 last year but had seven straight winning seasons before that.
Marchand’s overall record was 147-106-16, including 69-11-7 in eight seasons of Mississippi 8 play with four championships. Marchand’s son Spencer is one of the top returning players along with Travis Brown and Matt Hellickson.
Rogers, twice a Section 7A runner-up behind Hermantown in the last four years, will move up a class this year, playing in Section 5AA with Anoka, Blaine, Centennial, Champlin Park, Coon Rapids, Maple Grove, Osseo and North Metro.
“There’s definitely some steps up in competition from the last few years,” said Strunk.
Meanwhile the Mississippi 8 has added North Branch, Chisago Lakes and St. Francis for boys hockey, expanding from six to nine teams. For several years the champion has been either Rogers or Buffalo.
Rogers has produced a pair of Division I players, Nick Jensen (St. Cloud) and Jesse Ramsey (Air Force) while Brown has signed with Michigan Tech.
Strunk noted that Rogers’ history of developing top talent, and the “excitement and sense of community pride” in the program, made the Royals opening an attractive opportunity.
Rogers will have two new head coaches this winter. Previously, longtime Elk River assistant Dale Sager was hired as Royal girls coach. Sager was head coach for Centennial last year.