League coaches have championship credentials

by Legacy Hockey

Scott Oliver, left, guided Roseau to a state Class 2A championship in 2007. Mark Manney, right, led Andover to the 2022 state Class 2A title. Photos by Loren Nelson, LegacyHockeyPhotography.com

The addition of Mark Manney this season gives the Upper Midwest High School Elite League two coaches who have reached the pinnacle of their profession at the high school level and another whose team scripted one of the state’s great Cinderella stories.

Manney, who led Andover to the 2022 state Class 2A championship, is serving as an assistant coach for The Base’s Grant Clafton, who guided tiny Greenway to an improbable appearance in the 2019 Class 1A title game. Sanford Power coach Scott Oliver was head coach of Roseau’s 2007 Class 2A title-winning squad then won two more championships as an assistant coach with East Grand Forks in Class 1A in 2014 and 2015.

All that success manifests itself in myriad ways on the bench and in the locker room as Elite League coaches try to both showcase their players’ abilities for college and NHL scouts and prepare them for the upcoming high school season. 

Those state championship rings no doubt make an impression.

“I think from the kids’ angle, it gives you credibility,” said Manney, who coached one of the state’s all-time great forward lines in former Elite Leaguers Gavyn Thoreson, Cooper Conway and Cayden Casey. “They might be more apt to listen to you because of that credibility.”

“Because it is such a short season, only two months, my feeling is you have to get buy-in from your players in those first two to three weeks,” said Oliver, whose championship Roseau team was led by former Elite Leaguer and 2008 Mr. Hockey winner Aaron Ness. “I can talk about winning in 2007. I can talk about winning as an assistant. It helps get the buy-in.”

Oliver, in his 15th season coaching in the Elite League, said he’s thrilled Manney has joined the league’s lineup of coaches. 

“Mark is very much respected within the fraternity of high school hockey coaches,” OIiver said. “The more good people we can get involved, good for the game of hockey from the coaching standpoint, that really bodes well for the league.”

Manney said he’s been impressed with the level of energy Elite League players bring to every game, even those on Sunday at the end of a three-game weekend. 

“They always show up excited and ready to play,” Manney said.

Manney, who has guided Andover to each of the last four state tournaments, said his goal with Elite League players is, “to get these kids to present themselves in the best possible light they can to the scouts in the stands. And if they happen to win while doing that, that’s great.”

Oliver takes a linear approach to three-game weekends, challenging his players to win as many of the team’s nine periods as possible. He compares Elite League weekends to the challenge of the high school season in winning three straight section playoff games and then three more at the state tournament.

“There is some really good carryover with things that I have experienced being down to the (state tournament at the) Xcel Energy Center,” Oliver said. “I tell my players all the time, ask yourself how you are being perceived by the coaching staff, by your teammates. Because that is also going to be reflected on people up on the stands who are watching.”