As a second-line forward last season, Eagan’s Zach Glienke had 27 goals and 15 assists in 31 games. He is a commanding presence at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. Photo by Helen Nelson
For most athletes, the state tournament is a dream come true. The pinnacle of a prep career. Their proudest moment.
For Zach Glienke, as a sophomore forward with Eagan, it was a wake-up call. A shot in the arm.
Hoping to be a steady third-line presence, Glienke played himself in and out of coach Mike Taylor's lineup. It wasn't because of skill, Taylor said. It was more about him believing he could compete at that level.
"He'd be taken out, and we'd explain why. I don't necessarily know that he disagreed with us," Taylor said. "I think he was more upset at himself."
When the Wildcats made their state tournament run in 2011, Glienke found himself on a fourth line and not playing much. It didn't sit too well.
"Just getting to that state tournament and seeing what that was like, it was just motivation going into the summer for me to work harder to get better so I could be a bigger part of the team this last year," Glienke said. "I wanted to make it to state and enjoy playing in it as a player and not just sitting on the bench."
Glienke began working out a lot more in the offseason and took advantage of every bit of ice time he could get his gloves on. The towering forward grew both in stature, maturity and hockey sense.
"Boy, the light went on last year," Taylor said. "He had a great year."
Perhaps overshadowed by the four Division I recruits anchoring the Wildcats -- Michael Zajac, Will Merchant, Eli May and Sam Wolfe -- Glienke put up 27 goals and 15 assists for 42 points in 31 games on the second line. Eagan again made it to Xcel Energy Center for the year-end festivities. This time he saw plenty of ice time.
Thankfully for the Wildcats, Glienke will return for his senior season.
At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Glienke has the size, hands, shot and toughness to be an instant offensive threat.
"That's where he is the complete package," Taylor said. "He's big enough and tough enough to go in front and bang. But he also can beat you one-on-one. He's got that kind of skill."
The power forward could have played in the USHL or NAHL this season, Taylor said, but chose finishing high school above all else. He has been evaluated by NHL scouts and is getting Division I offers and interest.
But he's in no rush to move on.
"I pretty much knew that I wanted to finish up my senior year at Eagan playing with my friends. We only get to play together for so long. I want to cherish that senior season with them," said Glienke, who also plays tight end and punts for the Wildcats football team. "We should have a good team this year to make another run at the state tournament, so it should be fun."
After making a massive leap in production and playing time from his sophomore to junior season, Glienke is again tasked with improving. Eagan lost 193 points with the graduation of its top line and defensiive pairing. He, along with vets Cullen Willox and Will Peterson, will be looked upon.
"His challenge now is: He is the guy, or one of the key guys," Taylor said. "He's no longer an auxiliary cog in the wheel."
Glienke has a message for those who think Eagan's time is done.
"Just wait and see," he said. "I kind of like our spot. Flying under the radar, people don't think -- since we lost those guys -- people don't think we'll be too good. We'll find out eventually."