D-III West: Augsburg’s Rodriguez tearing up opposing defenses

Augsburg Hockey vs St. Mary's 11-16-2018 Alex Rodriguez of Augsburg (Kevin Healy/Photo by Kevin Healy for Augsburg)
Alex Rodriguez of Augsburg already has two hat tricks in the young season. (Kevin Healy/Photo by Kevin Healy for Augsburg)

Alex Rodriguez first got involved in hockey while living in Miami, not exactly where you expect a hockey dream to be born. His father, who moved from Cuba to Los Angeles when Wayne Gretzky mania was at its height, sparked his interest in the sport.

“The buzz around the Kings was crazy, and he’d go to games when he had a chance. When my brother and I were born, he put skates on us right away, and I took off with it,” Rodriguez said. “I love to play. The rest is history.”

Rodriguez spent his first two years at D-I Rensselaer. He’s now in his second season at Augsburg and tearing up the ice, on pace to easily top what he did a year ago when he scored seven goals and dished out 12 assists.

The senior has already scored nine goals, including a hat trick in the season opener, and has tallied three assists as well. He leads the 7-1 Auggies in goals and points.

His success is a credit to the work he put in over the summer. Rodriguez came into the year feeling good about what he could accomplish.

“A lot of it is I came into the season with confidence,” Rodriguez said. “I had a big summer of training and skated whenever I could. My linemates and I are playing well together. They deserve a lot of credit for my success.”

Physically, Rodriguez has always felt good about where he is going into a season. His mental approach, however, has changed significantly and might just be his biggest improvement.

“Getting geared up mentally has been big for me,” Rodriguez said. “The season is short, and you have to be ready for each game. They go by quick, and you have take full advantage of each one. I’ve done that.”

No doubt about it. Rodriguez opened the year with back-to-back hat tricks and has scored at least one goal in all but two games. There has been only one game where he hasn’t registered a point.

That has led to defenses changing their approach to keeping him in check. Rodriguez welcomes the challenge.

“I have taken my fair share of hits, and I definitely see guys shadowing me more and stuff like that,” Rodriguez said. “It comes with the territory. I love the challenge. When you have a target on your back, you have to rise to the occasion.”

Rodriguez and his family moved to Minnesota before he entered high school, and he ended up playing for Shattuck in St. Mary’s.

He remembers his days of playing hockey in Miami, though, and having to explain to friends what his sport is all about.

“I was gone every weekend, missing school for tournaments, and people would ask what the heck I was doing, and I’d tell them that I was playing hockey,” Rodriguez said. “I had a lot of people asking me what hockey was and about playing it. It was crazy.”

The scene was decidedly different once he moved to Minnesota.

“I go from explaining the sport to being in Minnesota where people love the game and where it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t play hockey or at least knows how to skate. It was interesting to see both sides of it,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez ended up as Augsburg through his connection with former Augsburg standout and Shattuck alum Mario Mjelleli, now an assistant coach with the Auggies. He came for a visit to the school and loved it. Now, he’s hoping to help the Auggies contend for another MIAC tournament championship and trip to the NCAA tournament.

He loves playing on a team with so much depth and talent. Augsburg has had 13 different players score goals, and a total of 17 have at least one point.

“It’s big time for us,” Rodriguez said. “We are getting everyone’s best shot, and it’s good to have depth. “We have a lot of guys stepping up.”

Rodriguez is confident the Auggies can achieve their goals, including making a run at the national championship.

“We just need to continue to rise to the occasion and prepare for games the right way,” Rodriguez said. “We have to enjoy the grind, because that’s what it’s going to be, and continue to work hard.”

Pointers almost perfect
Wisconsin-Stevens Point has yet to lose in the eight games it has played this season, though it has played to a pair of ties.

The No. 1 team in the nation and a Frozen Four team a year ago, the Pointers are once again a high-scoring group, racking up 31 goals. They are getting it done on defense as well, giving up just 14 goals.

Zach Zech leads the team in points with three goals and five assists, while Carter Roo has come through with five goals and two assists.

This is a Pointers team that has seen 18 different players tally at least two points, and all but two of those players have scored at least one goal.

Connor Ryckman anchors the defense. He is 3-0-1 and has given up just 12 goals this season while making 153 saves.

The Pointers are hosting a holiday tournament this weekend that features St. Thomas, Utica, and Nichols before opening WIAC play against Wisconsin-River Falls next Friday.

Clutch play for Cordeiro
Dustin Cordeiro came through with the first multi-goal game of his career Tuesday night as he helped St. Scholastica knock off Wisconsin-Superior, 3-1. The Saints have won three of their last four against the Yellowjackets, and Cordeiro, a junior out of Ontario, finished his night with a pair of goals.

The Saints are 3-1-1 on the season and are unbeaten in their last four games.

The goals by Cordeiro are the first two for him this season. He tallied three goals and an assist last season. He now has five goals and two assists in his career with the Saints, who return to action next Tuesday against Hamline.

In the Poll
Four of the top five teams in the country are from the West, including top-ranked Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Adrian is No. 2, and St. Norbert is third. Wisconsin-Eau Claire is fifth. Augsburg sits at 11th, and Marian is 14th.