2023 East Metro boys hockey Player of the Year: Cretin-Derham Hall’s Jake Fisher
Jake Fisher was perturbed after a freshman season of varsity hockey in which he finished with 11 goals and five assists.
Just five assists?
The Cretin-Derham Hall forward expressed his dismay to Raiders coach Matt Funk.
“He was bummed out that he was all goals and no assists,” Funk said. “He was really bummed out.”
In the three seasons that have followed, Fisher has recorded exactly the same number of assists as goals scored – with 75 of each entering this week’s Class 2A state tournament. The unseeded Raiders will meet second-seeded Maple Grove in the quarterfinals at 11 a.m. Thursday in St. Paul.
“I love scoring goals, there’s nothing wrong with scoring goals, but assists are just as important, just as good,” Fisher said. “So I think the playmaking side of my game, it’s really progressed over the years. Just looking to make my teammates better every time I have the puck. But if there is a shooting option, take that. If there’s a better pass, dish it off to my teammates.”
That’s the story of Fisher’s career. Flush with talent, the Northern Michigan commit finds deficiencies in his game and addresses them. It’s that pursuit of improvement that’s made Fisher – who has 34 goals and 27 assists this season – into the 2023 Pioneer Press East Metro boys hockey Player of the Year.
“Just kind of talking with my coaches over the years and obviously watching a lot of film, just kind of trying to get your game to the best that it can,” Fisher said. “There’s obviously gaps in your game and in everyone’s game. Just kind of pointing those out and trying to find those is really important, and doing everything you can to make those gaps better is something I’ve done over the past few years.”
For instance, skating used to be a knock on the senior.
“You wouldn’t know that watching him skate this year,” Funk said.
And then there’s the overarching view of the Cretin-Derham Hall program. Fisher noted those on the outside look at the Raiders and see “a bunch of skill guys.”
“That’s kind of been the MO, not getting into the dirty areas. Not getting greasy, rebound goals,” Fisher said. “Just trying to do everything flashy, like toe drags and stuff. So I think we’ve got a lot of guys who are willing to go to the hard areas this year, in the corners, getting greasy and stuff, some tipped goals and stuff, screening.”
Leading that charge has been Fisher, who’s committed himself to being a 200-foot player this winter. That’s the biggest difference Funk sees in the forward.
Fisher spends more time below the goal line on the defensive end and less flying out of the zone early looking for easy scoring opportunities. He’s in the gritty areas, using his body to separate opponents from the puck.
“Obviously, the offensive part of the game is great, scoring goals is great and stuff. But if you want to go places in hockey and move up levels, you’ve really got to develop both sides of the puck,” he said. “The defensive side is just as important as the offensive side. Helping your goalie out and keeping the puck out of the back of the net. I think, as you move up levels, that’s really important.”
And doing so elevates those around him. That was required this season for Cretin-Derham Hall to have success. The Raiders entered the campaign with just seven players returning from last year’s state tournament team. They lost one of those seven within the first week of the regular season.
Fisher is guiding an inexperienced team. He plays on the same line as a freshman in Max Anderson.
Funk described Fisher as a “workout machine” who’s always sitting in front during film sessions and asking coaches what else he can do.
“He’s a guy that you really want to be the model for the rest of the guys in that locker room,” Funk said.
And that’s what the senior has indeed done. Despite the roster turnover, Cretin-Derham Hall logged consecutive section titles for the first time since the program started competing with public schools in the postseason.
“He’s kind of put him under his wing and showed him how to play and how to work. Then he’s been willing to help the rest of the group – whether it be a senior that’s new to the varsity group or anywhere up and down that lineup,” Funk said. “He’s willing to be a mentor. It’s cool to see that leadership and see that growth in him.”
Now Fisher hopes to lead the Raiders on a deep run this week in St. Paul. Funk believes last year’s quarterfinal outcome – a 6-0 loss to Prior Lake in which Lakers’ forward Alex Bump potted five goals to knock off the second-seeded Raiders – only pushed Fisher forward.
“He just has that drive, (like), ‘Not only do I want to do a performance like Alex had against us, but, I want to be the guy,’” Funk said.
He has a golden opportunity to be that ‘guy’ this week, and flip the state tournament script for Cretin-Derham Hall in the process.
“There’s definitely people underestimating us. Looking at our schedule this year, we played the top teams, and people can say you lose to the top teams and stuff or you’re not built for these moments, like we showed last year,” Fisher said. “But I do think we’ve got a good group, a lot of guys that work. So this year, I think we can do something special.”
Tommy Cronin, senior forward, St. Thomas Academy: Colgate commit tallied 55 points this season for the Cadets.
Simon Houge, senior defenseman, Cretin-Derham Hall: Air Force commit tallied a gaudy 33 assists from the blue line for state-bound Raiders.
Tyler Lafferty, senior defenseman, Lakeville South: Lafferty has 31 assists this season while serving on a blue line that allowed just two postseason goals to date.
Nolan Roed, junior forward, White Bear Lake: St. Cloud State commit tallied 24 goals and 31 assists for the Bears.
Jay Svaren, senior goalie, Eastview: Consistent in net for the Lightning, Svaren stopped 91.4 percent of shots faced.
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