Taking over as head boys’ hockey coach at St. Paul Highland Park means Brandon Ferraro returns to a miracle on ice of sorts.
Back in 2008, Ferraro oversaw the first of two junior varsity-only seasons at Highland Park, small steps to relaunch a program that went away in 1987. When the Scots added a varsity team in 2010-11 to complete an improbable comeback, Ferraro stepped back to focus on his young family.
The timing feels right this time. Ferraro’s return was announced Tuesday evening. He takes over a Highland Park program that just completed its 10th varsity season since the new ice age began, thrilled with the progress.
“The coaches, Pat Auran and Mark Prokop, the committed parents and former players – the work they have done to keep the program going and to keep improving is just amazing,” Ferraro said. “They kept building, and for me, the table is set.”
Ferraro, a physical education teacher at Highland Park, said his vision includes maintaining off-ice standards of players carrying themselves well in the classroom and community as well as aiming high during the season.
“There are many ways to win as a program,” he said. “But don’t we want to play at the Xcel Energy Center in the state tournament?”
Ferraro experienced a state tournament first in 1988 as a Cretin-Derham Hall senior forward. The Raiders lost both games in their state tournament debut. Ferraro assisted on both of his team’s goals in a 3-2 consolation loss.
In 1993-94, as a senior in the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Ferraro helped the Falcons win the NCAA Division III title.
Growing up in West St. Paul, Ferraro attended Henry Sibley for one year before transferring to Cretin-Derham Hall. But he’s raised his family in the old neighborhood. Son Gianni played varsity hockey at Henry Sibley as a sophomore last season. Younger brother Nico will be a freshman at Henry Sibley in the fall. Dad said he doesn’t anticipate them leaving.
But a change is coming this season for Highland Park, which also draws players from nearby Central High School. The program is now playing an independent schedule and is no longer part of the Two Rivers Conference.