Attitude is everything: Gotz brings right mindset to rink each day is ready to help Huskies

Photo courtesy of Wilderness defenseman Eric Gotz fight for the puck during an NAHL playoff game last season.

HOUGHTON — With the losses of six defensemen in the past two seasons, the Michigan Tech Huskies are in need of reinforcements along the blue line. Interestingly, that’s where incoming freshman Eric Gotz fits in. A smart righthanded defender with a simple game, Gotz, who spent his last two seasons with the North American Hockey League’s (NAHL) Minnesota Wilderness, put up 56 total points in 157 games over two seasons.

“I would describe myself as a smart (and) simple two-way defenseman (who) shuts down teams in the defensive zone,” said Gotz. “Then (I like to) take opportunities in the defensive zone and just work on getting pucks to the forwards, allowing them to make plays and be there to help if they need it.”

His offensive numbers last season with the Wilderness were impressive. He had 39 assists and 47 points in 60 games, Gotz believes in the same philosophy, when it comes to his own end of the rink, that Huskies head coach Joe Shawhan does, play a 200-foot game.

“(I) just (play) a simple, two-way, smart game,” he said. “I think my hockey IQ is pretty top-notch. I think I’ve got a pretty good sense of the game with my brain. I just like to use that to hopefully out think someone or get an edge.”

When asked what drives him, Gotz suggested that he has a high internal motivation to advance his gameplay. He felt that Michigan Tech, which has won two straight WCHA playoff titles, was the right place to push himself to be better.

“A lot of it’s internal motivation,” said Gotz. “There’s also some external (motivation) with being in this program. It’s such a rich program with a lot of history, especially recently with the WCHA championships.”

Gotz has an interest in studying mechanical engineering, and that, coupled with the short four-hour drive from his hometown of Hermantown, Minnesota, drew him to Houghton, where engineering is a huge part of the identity of Michigan Tech.

“I liked Tech just because of the academic side because I want to be a mechanical engineer,” he said. “So this was a good fit for me schooling-wise.

“It’s also not far away from home. It’s only about four hours away.”

Gotz is also aware of the proud history of a Huskies’ program that has three national championships and has been to the NCAA Tournament three of the last four seasons.

“On the hockey side, it speaks for itself with the amount of tournament appearances and WCHA championships,” Gotz said. “It’s a good league and a good program to be a part of right now with the recent success. I want to continue that and hopefully build on it and make another run.”

Gotz is one of the 11 new players coming in this season and as a freshman with NAHL play under his belt, he looks forward to growing as a player and as a team over the next few years.

“As a player, I would just like to contribute to the team’s success, be in the lineup as much as possible, and just kind of manage my game (by) being a good team player,” said Gotz. “As far as team goals, (I would like to) win the WCHA championship (and) move on after that, the national championship is the end-all goal.”

Gotz’s confidence grew between his 2016-17 season and his 2017-18 campaign with the Wilderness.

“I think, in my rookie year, I was in more of a shutdown kind of role,” said Gotz. “Last year, I was able to do more offensively on the power play and (play) in more key situations as the year progressed.

“I got to be the guy on the back end for the team, so that created a lot more opportunities for me. Just having that confidence (that) I can put up points and shut down teams defensively will help me transition into this level.”

Growing up in what is known as the “State of Hockey,” it is no surprise that Gotz was up a fan of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. Gotz focused on watching one of the Wild’s star defenseman, and alternate captain, Ryan Suter. Suter has been a staple in Minnesota since he signed as a free agent in 2012.

“You flip on the TV and you’re just going to watch the Wild being from Minnesota. So, I look at his game and how he, night in and night out, puts down top minutes in the NHL and how he works his stick pressure and his presence in the defensive zone,” he said.

Gotz knows it is not easy to play at the college level, but he feels that he has been working his way there the right way.

“(It took) a lot of hard work in the summers,” he said. “I was told in juniors, and in high school, that footwork is a big knock against me. I worked on that over the summers.

When former head coach Mel Pearson was still with the Huskies, he considered Gotz, but felt that the young defender was not ready yet.

“I was actually told no by Coach Pearson back in high school,” said Gotz. “I just kept that in the back of my mind as a motivation to hopefully be here one day.”