ST. PETER, Minn. – At 6’4″ and 225 pounds, Mason City Toros defenseman Brendan Sloth cuts an imposing figure. His size and smarts on the ice make him the sort of player that coaches never want to see on the opposing blue line, while his leadership makes him just the man coaches want in their own locker rooms.
It’s why the Gustavus Adolphus College coaching staff is glad to have him in their locker room come next season.
The Toros are excited to announce that Sloth has committed to continue his hockey career at the NCAA Division III level with the Golden Gusties after a sensational two-year run in the River City. He becomes the eighth player in Mason City Tier III hockey history to commit to Gustavus Adolphus, and the first in Mason City Toros history. He also becomes the Toros’ second college commitment, after forward Derek Humphreys announced Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin as his college home last month.
“We are thrilled for Brendan with his commitment to Gustavus,” said Mason City head coach Nick Bruneteau. “He was one of the league’s best players, and an even better leader. He will be greatly missed in Mason City, but we know he has much bigger things ahead of him in college. We thank him for all he accomplished during his time in Mason City and wish him nothing but the best going forward.”
Sloth’s story in junior hockey began up north in Cloquet, Minnesota, with the North American Hockey League’s Minnesota Wilderness in 2019-20. After an impressive 32-point total in three years patrolling the blue line for the Anoka High School Tornadoes, the Anoka, Minnesota native twirled a solid first season in the NAHL, notching six points before the worldwide onset of COVID shut down the NAHL in March of 2020.
His return to the Wilderness the following fall was brief, with Sloth playing just a couple of games before coming to Mason City to play for head coach and general manager Todd Sanden, a neighbor in the Twin Cities suburb of Anoka. He added six points for the North Iowa Bulls, then in the NA3HL, in 24 appearances during the 2020-21 regular season. One of those, his first junior goal, was a pivotal go-ahead power play goal against Granite City in a late-season contest as part of a division title race that came down to the very last weekend of the regular season. He picked up five more points in the postseason, appearing in all 10 games on the way to the fourth Fraser Cup championship in Bulls history.
When he returned to Mason City in the fall, he was wearing a new logo on his jersey, and a new letter, earning the captain’s “C” at the start of the season. All he did in his final junior campaign was rack up 44 points in 40 games, ranking fourth on the team, and lead the Toros to within a win of returning to the Fraser Cup tournament. That performance locked up a spot on the NA3HL’s All-West Division list, and the number-eight spot among defensemen on the Mason City Tier III all-time scoring list with 50 career points.
It also locked up a spot on a collegiate roster, playing for Gustavus Adolphus head coach Brett Petersen, who has more than 250 Golden Gusties wins to his name in a 21-year coaching career with the Golden Gusties.
“The coaches are great guys,” said Sloth. “They are very personable and relatable, just genuinely good guys. There is always room to get better, and they take that to heart, which is good for my development on the ice, in the classroom and the real world. They had room for one more right-handed defenseman, and I was a good fit for them – they like how I use my big frame in the defensive zone, and my passing abilities along with my hockey IQ.”
It also helps that he’ll have a few familiar teammates – this past season, eight former North Iowa Bulls were on Petersen’s roster, including three who transferred from other schools to play at Gustavus. Seniors Nick Klishko and Connor Clemons both became Golden Gusties after playing at NCAA Division III schools in Wisconsin – Klishko finished with 20 points to lead the team, while Clemons’s 13 points tied for second. As former teammates led Sloth around the campus during a recent visit to the school, it was simply a matter of getting the band back together.
“After I met with the coaches for a while, I was lucky enough to have some previous Bulls teammates – Nick Mohs-Messerli, Kyle Heffron and Lucas Jorgenson, who are going to school there currently – take me around campus. As we made our way around this beautiful school, it seemed like they knew everybody. People that weren’t even on the hockey team talked to them as if they’d known them their whole lives.”
Sloth was fortunate enough to escape the injury bug for the most part as a member of the Bulls and Toros. Still, you’d often find him in the trainer’s room, which may be part of helping to choose a major once he gets settled in at Gustavus.
“I’m not quite sure what I’ll be studying while I’m there, but I’m leaning toward Exercise Physiology at the moment, with maybe a minor in coaching,” said Sloth. “I was really fortunate to have some awesome trainers throughout my junior hockey career, in Austin Kessler with the Bulls and Jarrett Byrnes from the Minnesota Wilderness. Both were great people, and most of the time I didn’t have anything wrong with me – I just wanted to shoot the breeze and relax before practice or a game. They knew exactly how to take care of me, and they did it so well, and I think that was what sparked my interest in that sort of field – you could tell that they loved their job. At Gustavus, you get such a good education, and they have a lot of majors that interest me.”
Fortunately, Sloth will be right at home with the Golden Gusties – St. Peter sits just an hour-and-a-half from his hometown, which will make it easy for Sloth’s family members to make it to his games. A lot of the road games won’t be much of a challenge, either – three of the Gusties’ MIAC opponents are located in the Twin Cities.
“At the end of the day, I just feel peace about my decision and going to school there, and that’s the biggest part in attending any college,” said Sloth. “It will be different putting on a black-and-gold sweater, but I think it will feel pretty close to home.”