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Star Tribune photo by Renee Jones Schneider

Bob Motzko, men’s hockey coach at the University of Minnesota, called the high school coach of prospective recruit Carl Fish to learn more about the defenseman.

He received a glowing endorsement that went well beyond goals, assists and ice time.

“I told him, ‘He will be your captain before he’s out of there,’ ” said Steve “Moose” Younghans, longtime St. Paul Johnson head coach.

Sold. Motzko pursued Fish, who became the first Governors’ player to commit to the Gophers in more than 15 years.

“It’s surreal,” said Fish, 20, in his second season with the Bismarck Bobcats of the North American Hockey League. “Growing up, the Gophers were a big deal. I got the call this year and was told they were looking at me. It’s hard to describe. But with hard work and resiliency, anything is possible.”

Resilient best describes Fish. A broken collarbone as a freshman, knee surgeries as a sophomore and a junior and a concussion senior year shortened all four of his high school hockey seasons. But he never quit. Fish was a Star Tribune All Metro third-team selection in 2018.

Bad luck followed him to Bismarck. A puck broke his jaw in two places this season and sidelined him for nine games from late November until Jan. 10. He lost almost 20 pounds off his 6-2, 210-pound frame. But in his first game back he posted two assists.

The Gophers renewed their interest and Fish announced his verbal commitment via Twitter on Jan. 21.

The most recent Johnson players to don the maroon and gold were goaltender Dustin Smieja (2003-2004) and wing Barry Tallackson (2002-2005).

“It’s a great feeling,” said Fish, who has four goals and 16 assists in 24 games this season. “I’m glad to be a role model for the younger players in the program.”

As for the endorsement from Younghans, Fish paused and said, “That’s big coming from that man. He’s a big reason I am where I am right now.”