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Bulldogs head in new direction with Mikesch as coach

HANCOCK — When the Hancock Bulldogs hockey team next hits the ice, it will be under the tutelage of a new, yet infinitely familiar face in Scott Mikesch. Mikesch was tapped to follow two-time state champion Dan Rouleau as the sixth head coach in Hancock hockey history.

Mikesch carries a name that is extremely well known in local hockey circles. His brothers, Patrick and Jeff, both played at Hancock High School before starring for the Michigan Tech Huskies at the college level, following in the footsteps of their father, Bob.

Following Rouleau will be no easy task. To make matters worse for Mikesch, he has not served as a head coach at a significant level since 1996-97. The game has changed a lot since then.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Mikesch said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been behind the bench, but

I think I have the fire in my belly to do it. I’m excited about it.”

Mikesch has seen enough of the game over the years to know that coaching is no easy task, even without the pressures of following a legendary coach and coaching at one’s alma mater.

“Everything about any job isn’t always fun, but even the things that are maybe aren’t so much fun, I’m taking those on and knowing that it’s gonna lead to good things down the road,” he said. “So my attitude is really good about it and it’s more or less excited (to be a part of it all).”

Getting involved in the coaching scene was something Mikesch felt he was ready to do, especially after discussing the idea with friends and family.

“(I) talked to my family, talked to people in the hockey world and a lot of people really encouraged me to get back into it,” Scott said. “I felt that I was ready to do it.

“It takes a lot of work and a lot of time, and it takes effort. You have to be mentally prepared for the ups and downs that are there. I feel that I am and I’m excited to get started.”

The good news for Mikesch is that he has a tremendous amount of family support. His brother Jeff has been serving as coach of Team Copper Country the last two seasons while Pat is coaching the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League, a league Scott has some history with.

“The Copper Country, not just Hancock, but the whole area, is one big hockey family,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to learn from different cultures I grew up with that helped me along the way. I see other people that are doing things to try to make kids from our area maybe go ahead in hockey or just (have) them experience their days as a high school hockey player (be) better and more productive. So that too was something that (helped me say), ‘You know, I want to be part of this.’ “

Mikesch relishes the chance to follow Rouleau and another legendary Hancock coach, Rick Miller, as both impacted the team he feels passionate about teaching moving forward.

“I think it’s the right time, first of all, to step into this role,” Mikesch said. “As far as what Rick and Danny and the people before them did, it’s a big deal. They all did such a great job and they put a lot of their life on hold and poured their time and energy into it and did a lot of great things for kids that you know that grew up in Hancock and went through the hockey program.

“(They) made them better individuals, turned boys into men, and that’s what’s daunting. That responsibility is now on my shoulders, and I’m gonna think about that every day as I go forward.”

Mikesch feels that he is well-versed in what the Bulldogs will be returning, provided they get to play this season.

“I attended more than half of the games last year, so I have a good feel for the kids, not so much personally, but where their skills are as hockey players,” he said. “We’re gonna work on our strengths and weaknesses both and try to improve.”

Mikesch, who previously coached in the USHL with the Waterloo Black Hawks and the Dubuque Fighting Saints, has worked with high-end talent in the past in former NHLers such as Jason Blake and Mark Eaton, as well as NCAA players like Rich Metro and Todd Steinmetz, knows that building relationships with his players will help with overall team success.

“Building a relationship with the kids is kind of No. 1 on my list,” Mikesch said, “getting to know them and how to reach them, so that they feel comfortable talking to me and taking the advice that I want to pass on.”

While it has taken some time for Mikesch to feel that need to get behind the bench and lead a group of young men again, the game around him has changed from when he was last leading a group of high school, and post-high schoo-aged kids in his favorite sport.

“In many ways, the game has changed,” he said. “The defense gets involved with the offense a lot more. That’s just the way that the game has evolved. I mean, you see it in the NHL in the last 30 years, it’s changed a ton. The game’s a little bit more wide open.”

Some areas of the game have not changed.

“You have to be good in your own zone to have success,” Mikesch said. “So that’s something that hasn’t changed. If you spend too much of the game In your own zone, you’re obviously not going to have an opportunity to get offensive opportunities. The more time you are in your zone, the more likely you’re going to get scored on.

“Let’s get good at being in our own zone, whether we have the puck or don’t have the puck. That’s kind of old school.”

Mikesch likes what he sees now with how teams utilize all five skaters on the ice.

“There are things with getting all five people involved in the offense that are different,” he said. “I think a lot more teaching situational hockey, whether it’s 5-on-4, 4-on-3, or 4-on-4 or faceoffs or all the different situations in the game are taught much, more than they were 20-30 years ago. Knowing the game is one thing, but teaching it is important.”

No matter when he gets the chance to truly sink his teeth into his new role, Mikesch feels that he is up to the challenge before him.

“Taking on the role of the head coach at Hancock is a big responsibility,” he said, “and I’m going to do my best every day to try and move the program forward in the right direction.”

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