Ask Brett Stern what he did during his summer vacation and there’s a good chance he’ll tell you a story about a monster fish and a forgetful friend.
The Centennial High senior defenseman who recently committed to play at Minnesota State-Mankato might just talk some hockey, too. Stern was a standout in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League this fall and was a member of the Minnesota Red team that routed Shattuck-St. Mary’s 10-3 in the league’s recent season-ending invitational tournament.
Stern’s current hot streak, however, doesn’t compare to the success he enjoyed this summer on an action-filled Ontario lake. Which brings us to that fish story.
The way Stern tells it, he and a buddy decided to kill some time on a rainy day by trying some low-key casting for northern pike. They grabbed light gear ---- baitcasters equipped with 12-pound test ---- and headed out on the lake.
Soon enough, Stern got more than he bargained for in the form of a giant muskie. After battling the behemoth for 30 minutes and then wrestling it into the boat ---- the pair didn’t bring a net big enough to handle the monster ---- it was time to document the feat.
Turns out a suitably sized dip net wasn’t the only essential item missing from this outing.
“We finally get this man-beast of a fish into the boat, and I said to my friend, ‘OK grab the camera,’ ” Stern said. “He was like, ‘I didn't bring it.’
“It was just unbelievable that we didn’t even have a phone on us. We had one boat with three cameras in it … there were no boats around us. It was the worst possible time to catch a muskie.”
To measure the fish, they used a permanent marker to draw lines on the floor of the boat. The inch count: 51½.
“Catching a muskie that size is extremely, rare,” Stern said (the Minnesota-record for muskies is 56 inches). “I'm still shocked to this day that I did it. We caught five in the whole group for the week, and I had three of them.”
Stern caught one muskie per day for three consecutive days. They measured 34, 44 and 51½ inches. He calls that his natural hat trick.
“He loves hunting and fishing,” said Jamie Stern, Brett’s father, adding that Brett has spent hours upon hours of outdoors time with Erik Aus, Stern’s coach at Centennial and muskie mentor and Aus’ son, Charlie, a close friend and fellow senior defenseman.
A top-scorer as a fisherman, actual hockey hat tricks are a rarity for Stern, who as a defenseman is as versatile as a Swiss Army knife but not necessarily built in the mold of, say, Bobby Orr.
Stern had six goals, 12 assists and eyebrow-popping plus/minus ratio of plus-29 last season for a powerhouse Cougars team that lost just four regular-season games and reached the finals of the Section 5AA playoffs.
“He is a very physical, tough, hard-nosed kid who has good skills with the puck,” Erik Aus said. “And he’s got a heavy shot.”
Throw in the fact that Stern is still in the process of packing muscle onto his 6-foot-2 frame (he currently is listed as weighing 175 pounds) and it’s obvious why multiple Division I programs have shown interest during the past year.
Stern, who drives a 2004 red Chevy Silverado with a lift kit and 35-inch tires, settled on MSU-Mankato because he likes the aggressive style employed by Mavericks coach Troy Jutting.
“Basically, there aren’t really any just stay-at-home defensemen on the team,” Stern said. “They have all got the big shot, they all work hard and they all throw the body.”
Helping Stern settle on MSU-Mankato was the inside intelligence he has been receiving from friend and former Centennial teammate Tyler Pitlick. A freshman forward, Pitlick is off to a fast start for the Mavericks with two goals and three assists in nine games.
“I’ve been talking to him quite a bit lately,” Stern said about Pitlick. “He is a lot of fun to play with.”
As for that fishing buddy who shall remain nameless, well, Stern isn’t one to harbor a grudge.
“Don’t worry, I’ve made him pay for not bringing a camera that day,” he said.
Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub managing editor, can be reached at 612-379-1030 ext. 126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Name||High School||Year||Pos.||College||Verbal Committ|
|Mark Alt||Cretin-Derham Hall||Senior||D||Minnesota||Yes|
|Joey Benik||St. Francis||Senior||F||St. Cloud State||Yes|
|Justin Crandall||St. Thomas Academy||Senior||F||UM-Duluth||Yes|
|Joe Faust||Bloomington Jefferson||Senior||D||Princeton||Yes|
|Danny Fick||Forest Lake||Senior||D||Harvard||Yes|
|Zane Gothberg||Thief River Falls||Senior||G||North Dakota||Yes|
|Caleb Herbert||Bloomington Jefferson||Senior||F||UM-Duluth||Yes|
|Christian Isackson||St. Thomas Academy||Senior||F||Minnesota||Yes|
|Brock Nelson||Warroad||Senior||F||North Dakota||Yes|
|Andrew Prochno||Minnetonka||Senior||D||St. Cloud State||Yes|
|Connor Reilly||Holy Angels||Senior||F||Minnesota||Yes|
|Ryan Reilly||Holy Angels||Senior||F||Minnesota||Yes|
|Adam Wilcox||South St. Paul||Junior||G||Minnesota||Yes|
Is someone missing from our list of recruits? Send us an e-mail