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From Tigers to Tommies

Matthew Gleason and Noah Prokop transferred from Coloardo College to St. Thomas.

From Colorado College to St. Thomas, Matthew Gleason and Noah Prokop share a friendship and ice time. (MHM Photo / Ryan Stieg)

It’s sometimes difficult for transfers to fit into a new system right away, but St. Thomas forwards Noah Prokop and Matthew Gleason make it look easy.  

The tandem played two years together at Colorado College before coming to the Twin Cities this year and played a key part of the Tommies’ strong first half. Even though they’ve been on the same team for a while, their connection didn’t start on the ice.  

“We actually joke about it that we had one shift together in our two years at Colorado College,” Gleason said with a laugh. “We actually had a scoring chance there. But I think the thing with us is that we’ve lived with each other for two years now, and we can work off each other and we can communicate really well with each other, which I think that’s one of the biggest things about being on the line with guys.

“He can yell at me when I’m doing something wrong, and I can yell at him if he’s doing something wrong. But at the end of the day, it’s just for the better of the team and to perform better. I think that’s the biggest thing is just the relationship we have off the ice.” 

Noah Prokop (No. 21, center) scored three goals and six assists in two seasons with Colorado College before transferring to St. Thomas this season. (Photo courtesy of University of St. Thomas)

The two are really close friends and on the same wavelength about things, Prokop said. 

“It took a while, but we understand each other front and back and when we need to push and when we need to go relax and just not talk to each other for a day,” Prokop said. “It’s a fun dynamic.” 

They barely were on the ice together with the Tigers, but that changed once they joined the Tommies’ roster as they’ve been on the same line quite a few times. St. Thomas assistant coach Leon Hayward isn’t surprised, since he coached Gleason at CC and was familiar with Prokop.  

“I didn’t coach Noah, but I knew his game from juniors, and we (UST) really needed some help down the middle,” Hayward said. “So, he was always just an excellent faceoff guy, a 200-foot player, probably with a little bit of offensive potential that he didn’t probably really fulfill in the NCHC. So, Noah was just kind of a no-brainer for us in terms of going to be a fifth-year kid with tons of experience and room to grow. I think his game-winning goal against (Minnesota State) Mankato, that put him over his career mark for points in a season. So, we’ve been really excited about him and what he’s done.  

Matthew Gleason skates for Colorado College in a game against Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 5, 2022. He scored 10 goals and 16 assists in the last two seasons with CC. (Photo courtesy of University of St. Thomas)

“And then Gleason was a kid that I recruited all the way back when he was at Cretin (Derham Hall). I’d been watching him for years. I had a really good relationship with his family, but I honestly was surprised when he popped in the transfer portal. He’s just a kid that works his butt off and has a ton of skill and really kind of how we want to play at St. Thomas. I knew he would be a kid that (UST head coach) Rico (Blasi) would appreciate in terms of what he brings to the table on a nightly basis. So, that was a big reason for those two.” 

Moving to UST, sharing the ice together
Gleason was motivated to come to the Tommies primarily due to his family history with the school and being a Twin Cities native, but Prokop came for a different reason.
 

“I think the first time around the portal, I talked to Rico a little bit and he just didn’t really have the resources to bring me in the first time around back in 2021,” Prokop said. “So, I talked to him a little bit and then when I went into the portal in the second time for my fifth year, it was great conversations, and I think the biggest thing was just being a part of something that was going to be special down the line in the future and helping build that foundation and that culture. Also, Rico is just a phenomenal coach, and he’s the best, personable coach I’ve ever met.

“He really cares about how you’re doing as a human and not just a hockey player. I think from the beginning it was a big focus for me and just building and earning each other’s trust, and I think we’ve done a nice job of that. He was the first phone call that happened, and I just knew that it felt right. It felt like it was a good fit with him at the helm and helping me out to try reaching the next level and the goals that I have in mind, but also me trying to help him out with the goals he has in mind.” 

Now that they’re playing together during games, both players have noticed how their specific styles of play have expanded since arriving at UST with Gleason describing Prokop as becoming more of a playmaker.  

“In years prior, he was kind of just a PK guy and hard-nosed guy,” Gleason said. “But this year, he’s kind of shown that he’s got more to his game than just that and that he’s just a crucial player to have out there, especially in high-intense moments. He’ll win faceoffs for you, and he’ll kill penalties, but he’s also just a sturdy guy to have in the lineup. He can play in any situation.” 

Prokop, on the other hand, said Gleason is really showcasing his ability to be an offensive threat and outwork opponents.  

Gleason and Prokop helped the Tommies reach second place in the conference standings at the holiday break. (MHM Photo / Ryan Stieg)

“You’d like to sit there and think that he’s kind of pesky and just always working hard and in your face kind of water bug that’s all over the place,” Prokop said. “But at the end of the day, he is a skilled player. He can make plays and he can score goals. I think he’s an all-around good player and that his work ethic is absolutely off the charts, and it goes to show in games and in practice that guys are nervous going up against him and they know they’re going to get his best all the time.

“His work ethic is top notch, and I think his hockey IQ is unbelievable as well. So, it kind of makes for a perfect combination of being a good player.” 

Tommies near the top at the break
The Tommies were in second place at the holiday break, just one point behind Bemidji State in the CCHA standings. They’ve defeated St. Cloud State on the road, forced overtime with Minnesota, went on a five-game winning streak and most recently, rallied to defeat Minnesota State at home with Gleason blocking a Mavericks shot in the closing seconds to preserve the victory.
 

Some people might be surprised that UST has come so far after just joining Division I two years ago, but that doesn’t come as a shock to either player.  

“I think the belief has always been there,” Gleason said. “At the start of the year, we had a team meeting with just the guys and just talking about goals and stuff we had for this season. You can kind of tell when guys are giving cliché answers and thinking of the easiest things to say. But it felt like in that room that a lot of guys meant what they were saying. That this year is not about winning a couple games here and there, or necessarily getting the program ready for the future. 

“We’re all here now to win and to perform.” 

Added Prokop: “I think early and often we knew what kind of team that we had and the style of play that we had, and I think every guy in that room just knows we’ve got the confidence in the team we have and the kind of players that we have. We can get it done any night against anybody.

“It was no surprise when we started to have success with results. But one of my favorite sayings is ‘You’re only as good as your next’ and that’s a big focus in our group is ‘Yeah, we’ve had success in the first half of the season, but we’ve also dropped a couple games which we’d love to have back and shouldn’t have, but we’re only as good as our next.’ At the end of the day, no one really cares unless you win the last game of the season.” 

With the second half of the season approaching soon, the twosome is enjoying their time this year and are glad they get to continue to play together.  

“The thing that makes it (college hockey) the best is just the people and the experiences you have,” Gleason said. “The friendships and the brotherhood that you have is something that not a lot of people get to experience. And just to do it every night playing hockey is unreal. 

“So, I’m definitely grateful for the opportunity to continue to play. We (he and Prokop) definitely bicker at each other back and forth here and there, but it’s awesome. To create that friendship and to battle with him every Friday and Saturday night is special.” 

Ryan started to enjoy hockey as a kid when he started playing roller hockey with his friends in their respective driveways. However, his enthusiasm started to grow more when the Minnesota Wild had their inaugural season in 2000 and fully blossomed when he was at the University of North Dakota and he started attending Fighting Sioux (now Fighting Hawks) games on a regular basis. He's a former sports writer for three previous newspapers, most recently with the Mining Journal in Marquette, Michigan, where he covered Northern Michigan hockey for seven years. He currently does freelance work as a sports reporter, operates his own hockey blog, www.thetripledeke.com, and is on a college hockey podcast called MNCAA. He also continues to watch and follow the Wild, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings and college hockey. You can follow him on Twitter/X @ryanstieg.

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