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Puckhandling prodigy

By Loren Nelson, Editor, 10/26/11, 10:06AM CDT

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Moorhead's Matt Cullen, a Top 100 pick, developed hockey passion on Iron Range

Matt Cullen

Born: Nov. 2, 1976

H.S. Class: 1995

Position: Forward

Rank
28

Status: Active

Top 100 Scoring System

HOMETOWN HIGH SCHOOL COLLEGE
Moorhead Moorhead St. Cloud State

Notable stats

State Tourney Appearances State Titles All-State Tourney Mr. Hockey Stanley Cups
1993, 94, 95 None 1993, 94, 95 1995 finalist 2006 (Carolina)

161

  • High School | Max 185

    157 points

  • State Titles | Max 10

    0 points

  • Post H.S. Career | Max 5

    4 points


Moorhead's first family of hockey, from left: Mark Cullen, Matt Cullen, father Terry Cullen and Joe Cullen. Courtesy photo

Forward Matt Cullen led Moorhead to three state tourney appearances and two runner-up finishes


Matt Cullen was a finalist for Mr. Hockey in 1995, when he was named the Associated Press Player of the Year. Courtesy photo

There are multiple Pierre Turgeon posters, one of Doug Gilmour and, of course, a Gretzky.

Every hooked-on-hockey kid growing up in the 1980s and ’90s had a Wayne Gretzky poster as the centerpiece of his collection.

Oddly out of place among all the vintage ’90s NHL superstars papering the walls of Matt Cullen’s old -- and still untouched after all these years -- Moorhead bedroom is a picture of Mike Antonovich.

Antonovich, while legendary on the Iron Range for leading Greenway to back-to-back state titles in 1966 and ’67, isn’t your typical 1990s hockey idol. A 5-foot-6 puckhandling phenomenon, Antonovich played most of his professional career in he WHA, including four seasons with the Minnesota Fighting Saints in the early- to mid-1970s.

“I liked him a lot,” Cullen said. “I had him as a coach once. I don’t remember what all-star thing it was. I learned some things from him, little things about the game.

“Somebody gave me a picture of him, and I put it up.”


Moorhead's Matt Cullen played two seasons at St. Cloud State University, scoring 17 goals and adding 59 assists in 75 games. Courtesy photo

A passion for hockey -- with roots that stretch to the Iron Range -- is layered deep in the Cullen family. Matt grew up in Virginia where his dad, Terry, coached the high school team for eight seasons. The Cullens moved to Moorhead when Matt was 10. A large chunk of Iron Range hockey came with him.

Matt remembers listening to his dad craft game plans for the Blue Devils as they prepared to play the Iron Range Conference’s powerhouses.

“I remember a bunch of good players from International Falls,” Cullen said. “I remember listening to what the game plan was going to be when we played International Falls.

“That probably helped me a lot as a player, learning the thought process that goes into each game. It was fun seeing what the Blue Devils were going to do against the great players.”

Matt played for his father in Moorhead, where Terry coached for 11 seasons. The Spuds made three trips to the state tournament with Matt in the lineup, finishing third, second and second from 1993-95.

Cullen squared off against some of the state’s most legendary modern-era teams and players, including Bloomington Jefferson squads featuring Mike Crowley, Joe Bianchi and Mark Parrish and Duluth East led by the irrepressible tandem of Dave Spehar and Chris Locker.

After finishing third in 1993 with Cullen as a sophomore, Moorhead reached the title game the following season. Jefferson beat the Spuds 3-1 to claim its third straight championship.

“When you are growing up in Minnesota you don’t really look further than high school hockey, I don’t think, until you get there,” Cullen said. “Your whole life you grow up wanting to be a high school player. Those guys were my heroes.”

“To play in three state tournaments, every experience was so different and so great.”


Minnesota Wild center Matt Cullen of Moorhead is in his 14th NHL season and approaching 1,000 career games. Star Tribune file photo

Cullen scored twice and added an assist in a thrilling 1995 championship showdown against Duluth East. The score was tied 2-2 heading into the third period, but the Greyhounds’ Spehar completed his third hat trick in as many games in a 5-3 Duluth East victory.

“I just remember seeing him sitting on the boards after we won it,” Locker said about Cullen. “He was a senior, and he put everything on the ice trying to win that game. Matt was one of the toughest guys I ever had to play against, he was so strong on his stick on his skates.

“He was their heart and soul.”

Cullen’s incredible puckhandling skills were developed at an early age during 2-on-2 basement games with his dad and two younger brothers, Mark and Joe (losers had to make the milkshakes). Cullen said the boys’ birthday parties were held on the family’s backyard rink.

Terry Cullen developed a series of off-ice stickhandling drills the boys practiced in the garage, and a 16-year-old Matt starred in an instructional video that is still selling.

“Dad would always say the kids who had the puck the most are the ones who have the most fun,” Cullen said. “He always believed the best players had the best hands.

“He wanted to make a way with stickhandling where you could kind of measure what you were doing. It is a great video. Although I don’t recommend wearing shorts that short. I guess that was the style back then.”

Cullen was an all-state tourney selection three years, and he was a Mr. Hockey finalist in 1995, when he was named the state’s Player of the Year by the Associated Press after scoring 47 goals and adding 42 assists in 28 games.

“(Cloquet’s) Jamie Langenbrunner and Matt Cullen were two high school payers that you just knew would be playing at the highest level,” Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said. “They had a lot of the intangibles that a lot of high school players don’t.”

Cullen played two seasons at St. Cloud State University, turning pro after the 1996-97 season.

A center with the Minnesota Wild, Cullen is in his 14th NHL season and approaching 1,000 regular season games. He won a Stanley Cup title with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

Matt Cullen, 1995 Mr. Hockey finalist

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Moorhead's Jack Stetz (21) throws his arms up as he and his teammates celebrated the win. ] ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com

Minnesota's Top 100 Players

Rank Name School Grad. Pos. Born Status St. Titles Mr. Hockey College Olym. NHL
1 John Mayasich Eveleth 1951 F 5/22/33 Retired 1948, 49, 50, 51 NA Minnesota (1951-55) 1956, 1960 -
2 Neal Broten Roseau 1978 F 11/29/59 Retired - NA Minnesota (1978-81) 1980 1,099 gms; four teams; 80-97
3 Phil Housley South St. Paul 1982 D 3/9/64 Retired - NA - 2002 1,495 gms; eight teams; 82-03
4 Tim Sheehy International Falls 1966 F 9/3/48 Retired 1964, 65, 66 NA Boston College (1967-70) 1972 27 gms; DET, HAR; 77-80
5 Henry Boucha Warroad 1969 D 6/1/51 Retired - NA - 1972 247 gms; four teams; 71-77
6 Mike Antonovich Greenway 1969 F 10/18/51 Retired 1967, 68 NA Minnesota (1969-72) - 87 gms; three teams; 75-84
7 Willard Ikola Eveleth 1950 G 7/28/32 Retired 1948, 49, 50 NA Michigan (1951-54) 1956 -
8 Mike Crowley Bloomington Jefferson 1994 D 7/4/75 Retired 1992, 93, 94 1994 Minnesota (1994-97) - 67 gms; ANA; 97-01
9 Dave Spehar Duluth East 1996 F 11/7/77 Retired 1995 1996 Minnesota (1996-00) - -
10 John Matchefts Eveleth 1949 F 6/18/31 Retired 1948, 49 NA Michigan (1950-53) 1956 -
11 Kyle Rau Eden Prairie 2011 F 10/24/92 Active 2009, 11 2011 Minnesota (2011- present) - -
12 Aaron Broten Roseau 1979 F 11/14/60 Retired - NA Minnesota (1979-81) - 748 gms; six teams; 80-92
13 Craig Norwich Edina East 1974 D 12/15/55 Retired 1974 NA Wisconsin (1974-77) - 104 gms; three teams; 79-81
14 John Pohl Red Wing 1998 F 6/29/79 Retired 1997 (Class 1A) 1998 Minnesota (1998-02) - 115 gms; StL, TOR; 03-08
15 Gary Sargent Bemidji 1972 D 2/8/54 Retired - NA Bemidji State (1972-73) - 402 gms; LAK, MIN; 75-83
16 Bob Krieger Edina 1970 F 10/5/52 Retired 1969 NA Denver (1970-74) - -
17 George Pelawa Bemidji 1986 F 2/14/68 Deceased - 1986 - - -
18 Bill Nyrop Edina 1970 D 7/23/52 Deceased 1969 NA Notre Dame (1970-74) - 207 gms; MON, MIN; 75-82
19 Tom Chorske Minneapolis Southwest 1985 F 9/18/66 Retired - 1985 Minnesota (1985-89) - 596 gms; seven teams; 89-00
20 Steve "Pokey" Trachsel Duluth Cathedral 1969 D 4/16/51 Retired 1966, 67, 68, 69 (Catholic) NA Minnesota-Duluth (1969-73) - -
21 Scott Bloom Burnsville 1986 F 2/6/68 Retired 1985, 86 1986 finalist Minnesota (1986-90) - -
22 Phil Hoene Duluth Cathedral 1967 F 3/15/49 Retired 1965, 66, 67 (Catholic) NA Minnesota-Duluth (1968-71) - 37 gms; LAK; 72-75
23 Corey Millen Cloquet 1982 F 4/29/64 Retired - NA Minnesota (1982-87) 1984, 1988 335 gms; five teams; 89-97
24 Reed Larson Minneapolis Roosevelt 1974 D 7/30/56 Retired - NA Minnesota (1974-77) - 904 gms; six teams; 76-90
25 Bob Young Hill 1971 D 3/1/53 Retired 1970 (Indep.) NA Denver (1971-75) - -
26 Brad Shelstad Minneapolis Southwest 1970 G 9/14/52 Retired 1970 NA Minnesota (1970-74) - -
27 Mike Ramsey Minneapolis Roosevelt 1978 D 12/3/60 Retired - NA Minnesota (1978-79) 1980 1,070 gms; three teams; 80-97
28 Matt Cullen Moorhead 1995 F 11/2/76 Active - 1995 finalist St. Cloud State (1995-97) - 966 gms; five teams; 98- present
29 Bill Baker Grand Rapids 1975 D 11/29/56 Retired 1975 NA Minnesota (1975-79) 1980 143 gms; four teams; 80-83
30 Paul Martin Elk River 2000 D 3/5/81 Active - 2000 Minnesota (2000-03) 2006 487 gms; NJ, PIT; 03- present
31 Wally Grant Eveleth 1945 F 12/8/27 Retired 1945 NA Michigan (1945-46, 47-50) - -
32 Brian Bonin White Bear Lake 1992 F 11/28/73 Retired - 1992 Minnesota (1992-96) - 12 gms; PIT, MIN; 98-00
33 Larry Olimb Warroad 1988 D 8/11/69 Retired - 1988 Minnesota (1988-92) - -
34 Dave Langevin Hill-Murray 1972 D 5/15/54 Retired 1970, 72 (Indep.) NA Minnesota-Duluth (1972-76) - 513 gms; three teams; 79-87
35 Joe Bianchi Bloomington Jefferson 1994 F 8/17/75 Retired 1992, 93, 94 1994 finalist Wisconsin (1994-98) - -
36 Peter Fichuk International Falls 1965 F 4/8/47 Retired 1964, 65 NA Minnesota (1966-69) - -
37 Jon Casey Grand Rapids 1980 G 8/29/62 Retired 1980 NA North Dakota (1980-84) 425 gms; three teams; 83-87
38 Doug Woog South St. Paul 1962 F 1/26/44 Retired - NA Minnesota (1963-66) - -
39 Darby Hendrickson Richfield 1991 F 8/28/72 Retired - 1991 Minnesota (1991-93) 1994 518 gms; five teams; 94-04
40 Paul Ranheim Edina 1984 F 1/25/66 Retired 1984 NA Wisconsin (1984-88) - 1,013 gms; five teams; 88-03
41 Steve Christoff Richfield 1976 F 1/23/58 Retired - NA Minnesota (1976-79) 1980 248 gms; three teams; 79-84
42 T.J. Oshie Warroad 2005 F 12/23/86 Active 2003, 2005 (Class 1A) 2005 finalist North Dakota (2005-08) - 184 gms; StL; 08- present
43 Scott Lecy Rochester John Marshall 1977 F 4/8/59 Retired 1977 NA Wisconsin (1977-81) - -
44 Scott Bjugstad Irondale 1979 F 6/2/61 Retired - NA Minnesota (1979-83) 1984 317 gms; three teams; 83-92
45 Mike "Lefty" Curran International Falls 1962 G 4/14/1944 Retired 1962 NA North Dakota (1965-68) 1972 -
46 Joe Micheletti Hibbing 1973 F 10/24/54 Retired 1973 NA Minnesota (1973-77) - 158 gms; StL, COL; 79-82
47 Rob McClanahan Mounds View 1976 F 1/9/58 Retired - NA Minnesota (1976-79) 1980 224 gms; three teams; 80-84
48 Nick Leddy Eden Prairie 2009 D 3/20/91 Active 2009 2009 Minnesota (2009-10) - 46 gms; CHI; 10- present
49 Tom Pederson Bloomington Jefferson 1988 D 1/14/70 Retired - 1988 finalist Minnesota (1988-91) - 240 gms; SJ, TOR; 92-97
50 Dave Christian Warroad 1977 F 5/12/59 Retired - NA North Dakota (1977-79) 1980 1,009 gms; five teams; 80-94
51 Jay North Bloomington Jefferson 1980 F 6/26/62 Retired - NA Harvard (1980-84) - -
52 Paul Johnson Breck 1953 F 5/18/36 Retired - NA - 1960, 1964 -
53 Pete Waselovich International Falls 1973 G 11/15/54 Retired 1972 NA North Dakota (1973-77) - -
54 Tom Kurvers Bloomington Jefferson 1980 D 9/14/62 Retired - NA UM-Duluth (1980-84) - 659 gms; seven teams; 84-95
55 Mark Osiecki Burnsville 1986 D 7/23/68 Retired 1985, 86 - Wisconsin (1997-90) - 93 gms; four teams; 91-93
56 Mark Pavelich Eveleth 1976 F 2/28/58 Retired - NA UM-Duluth (1976-79) 1980 355 gms; three teams; 81-92
57 Mark Parrish Bloomington Jefferson 1995 F 2/2/77 Active 1994 1995 finalist St. Cloud State (1995-97) 2006 722 gms; seven teams; 98- present
58 Bryan "Butsy" Erickson Roseau 1978 F 3/7/60 Retired - NA Minnesota (1979-83) - 351 gms; four teams; 83-94
59 Roger Christian Warroad 1956 F 12/1/35 Deceased - NA - 1960, 1964 -
60 Bill Christian Warroad 1956 F 1/28/38 Retired - NA - 1960, 1964 -
61 Trent Klatt Osseo 1989 F 1/30/72 Retired - 1989 Minnesota (1989-92) - 782 gms; five teams; 91-04
62 Erik Rasmussen St. Louis Park 1995 F/D 3/28/77 Retired - 1995 Minnesota (1995-97) - 545 gms; three teams; 97-07
63 Robb Stauber Duluth Denfeld 1986 G 11/25/67 Retired - NA Minnesota (1986-89) - 62 gms; LAK, BUF; 89-95
64 Joe Dziedzic Minneapolis Edison 1990 F 12/18/71 Retired - 1990 Minnesota (1990-94) - 130 gms; PIT, PHX; 95-99
65 Ryan McDonagh Cretin- Derham Hall 2007 D 6/13/89 Active 2006 2007 Wisconsin (2007-10) - 40 gms; NYR; 10- present
66 Craig Johnson Hill-Murray 1990 F 3/18/72 Retired - 1990 finalist Minnesota (1990-93) 1994 557 gms; five teams; 94-04
67 Matt Hendricks Blaine 2000 F 6/17/81 Active 2000 2000 finalist St. Cloud State (2000-04) - 137 gms; COL, WSH; 08- present
68 Wally Chapman Edina 1982 F 7/6/64 Retired 1982 NA Minnesota (1982-86) - -
69 Bob Paradise Cretin 1962 D 4/22/44 Retired - NA Saint Mary's (1962-66) 1968 368 gms; four teams; 71-79
70 Ben Hanowski Little Falls 2009 F 10/18/90 Active - 2009 finalist St. Cloud State (2009- present) - -
71 Damian Rhodes Richfield 1987 G 5/28/69 Retired - NA Michigan Tech (1987-90) - 309 gms; three teams; 90-02
72 Eric Strobel Rochester Mayo 1976 F 6/5/58 Retired - NA Minnesota (1976-79) 1980 -
73 Dick Dougherty International Falls 1950 F 8/5/32 Retired - NA Minnesota (1951-54) 1956 -
74 Gino Guyer Greenway 2002 F 10/14/83 Active - 2002 Minnesota (2002-06) - -
75 Jim Amidon International Falls 1963 F 2/18/45 Retired 1962 NA Colorado College (1964-67) - -
76 Karl Goehring Apple Valley 1996 G 8/23/78 Retired 1996 NA North Dakota (1997-01) - -
77 Rube Bjorkman Roseau 1947 F 2/27/29 Retired 1946 NA Minnesota (1948-51) 1948, 1952 -
78 Tony Bianchi Bloomington Jefferson 1989 F 12/15/70 Retired 1989 - Minnesota (1991-94) - -
79 Oscar Mahle International Falls 1957 F 8/22/39 Deceased 1957 NA Minnesota (1959-61) - -
80 Mike Randolph Duluth Cathedral 1970 F 11/5/51 Retired 1967, 68, 69 (Catholic) NA - - -
81 Aaron Ness Roseau 2008 D 5/18/90 Active 2007 2008 Minnesota (2008-11) - -
82 Doug Palazzari Eveleth 1970 F 11/3/52 Retired - NA Colorado College (1970-74) - 108 gms; StL; 74-79
83 Nick Checco Bloomington Jefferson 1993 F 11/18/74 Retired 1992, 93 1993 Minnesota (1993-97) - -
84 John Rothstein Grand Rapids 1975 F 10/28/56 Retired 1975 NA UM-Duluth (1975-79) - -
85 Gary Wood International Falls 1965 D 9/28/46 Deceased 1964, 65 NA - - -
86 Al Hangsleben Warroad 1971 D 2/22/53 Retired - NA North Dakota (1971-74) - 185 gms; three teams; 79-82
87 Doug Peltier St. Paul Johnson 1968 F 6/29/50 Retired - NA Minnesota (1969-72) - -
88 Mike Lauen Edina East 1979 F 2/6/61 Retired 1978, 79 NA Michigan Tech (1979-83) - 4 gms; WIN; 83-84
89 Max Oshie Warroad 1948 F 6/10/28 Deceased - NA - - -
90 Tom Gorowsky Centennial 2004 F 4/8/86 Retired 2004 2004 Wisconsin (2005-09) - -
91 Jack McCartan St. Paul Marshall 1953 G 8/5/35 Retired - NA Minnesota (1955-58) 1960 12 gms; NYR; 59-61
92 Doug Zmolek Roch. John Marshall 1989 D 11/3/70 Retired - 1989 finalist Minnesota (1989-92) - 467 gms; four teams; 92-00
93 Pete LoPresti Eveleth 1972 G 5/23/54 Retired - NA Denver (1972-74) - 175 gms; MIN, EDM; 74-81
94 Terry Abram South St. Paul 1965 D 2/14/47 Retired - NA North Dakota (1966-69) - -
95 Bill "Buzz" Schneider Babbitt 1972 F/D 9/14/54 Retired - NA Minnesota (1972-75) 1976, 1980 -
96 David Backes Spring Lake Park 2002 F 5/1/84 Active - 2002 finalist Minnesota State (2003-06) 2010 364 gms; StL; 06-11
97 Don Ross Roseau 1960 F 10/11/42 Retired 1958, 59 NA North Dakota (1961-65) 1964, 1968 -
98 Mike Polich Hibbing 1971 F 12/19/52 Retired - NA Minnesota (1971-75) - 226 gms; MON, MIN; 76-81
99 Chris Locker Duluth East 1996 F 10/14/77 Retired 1995 - UW-River Falls (1999-2000) - -
100 Herb Brooks St. Paul Johnson 1955 F 8/5/37 Deceased 1955 NA Minnesota (1955-59) 1964, 1968 -