Jurgensen continues to change Marquette hockey

Trib File Photo
Trib File Photo

Will Jurgensen was in Omaha, Neb., working for Hockey Stick Putters, Inc. While he liked his job, he felt like he was called to be doing something else. After attending a Marquette Hockey alumni event, he knew he wanted to be the new head coach of the club hockey team. Seven months later, he was behind the bench for Marquette, coaching his first game against Iowa.

Jurgensen, who grew up in Omaha, Neb., began his love for hockey at three years old after he joined a team with his father’s friend’s son. Jurgensen would take daily trips with his father to the rink to shoot the puck around, and with his father’s commitment to his son’s passion, Jurgensen began to play better on the rink and bring his father into the sport.

“He can talk hockey with anyone today because he’s seen so much hockey, but before I started playing he knew nothing,” Jurgensen said.  “It’s kind of been a funny transition together.”

After playing through high school and traveling teams, Jurgensen knew he wanted to play competitive hockey in college.

He credits two stories for his choosing Marquette. The first was a college trip his sister took when he was in seventh grade. Up to that point, he attended Jesuit elementary schools and was set to attend a Jesuit high school in Omaha. Conscious of his preference for attending Jesuit schools, she had an unexplained feeling he would eventually end up at Marquette.

The vision was cemented when Jurgensen took a weekend trip to Wisconsin his junior year of high school. Two of his three college preferences were Wisconsin-Madison and Marquette, as he could play hockey at both. He visited Madison on a Friday night and Marquette the following night, watching the Marquette-Wisconsin men’s basketball game during the 2008-09 season.

“I came into that atmosphere at the Bradley Center and it was unbelievable,” Jurgensen said.

Marquette stormed back in the second half, hitting clutch shots down the stretch, and winning 61-58 in front of a packed house. After the game, he knew once he received his letter, he was going to Marquette.

When he started his freshman season at Marquette, Jurgensen realized there was a culture change that needed to happen for the underachieving program. The problem was that club hockey was an afterthought for some, an organization that members just did not put two feet into.

In his sophomore year, he was voted captain and with the help of five other players in his class, decided to restructure the program. The group began by forming a professional program, with a president, vice president, treasurer and Marquette board to have a structured way to collect funds and find a new head coach.

After hiring their first coach in the new system, Joe Cocking, the accountability changes soon followed, including required attendance at practice and accepting players that wanted to commit to the bevy of weekend games.

Looking back, Jurgensen believes his most memorable moment was playing at Nationals his senior year. The high level of competition pitted Marquette against teams fully funded by their universities, which had players on recruitment offer-packages and coaching staffs on high five-figure salaries to coach club sports.

“Easily the highlight of my Marquette career and my hockey career in general was when we went to Nationals my senior year,” he said. “We were out of our league in program development, but we weren’t out of skill-set.”

The transition of taking a mediocre team and turning it into a national power and professional organization was the legacy that Jurgensen and his classmates left the program.

After graduating, he started his job at Hockey Stick Putters. The company sells hockey stick themed golf accessories like putters, golf bags, and driver covers with NHL licensing. But as much as he enjoyed the job, the “winter blues” of not having hockey began to creep in. The need for competitive hockey drew him to an assistant coaching role with Creighton in 2013, and his first competitive coaching experience.

After his first season behind the boards, Jurgensen returned for the annual Marquette alumni weekend in April. Aware that coach Cocking would not be returning, he mentioned his interest in taking over as head coach to a few players. After two months and two phone interviews, he got a call from Tyler Schwichenberg explaining he got the job.

In an agreement with his boss, Jurgensen still works for Hockey Stick Putters from his home in Milwaukee so that he is able to coach the team.

His first season behind the boards is building off the success of his playing days. The team is 3-1 through his first four games as head coach. As for program interest, the organization itself has received major interest from players who want to commit to Marquette Hockey, with potential members sending recruitment emails, recruitment stats and coaches even calling. The whirlwind of success and experiences gave Jurgensen an appreciation and new perspective on the game.

“It’s a completely different game behind the bench as a coach,” he said. “I’m still trying to adapt to that aspect of not just watching individual guys, but watching the team as a whole, quickly forgetting about the good things you do and trying to spend more time remembering the bad things you did to take into next week’s practice.”

“As a player, you just show up but as a coach, you have to prepare and plan for the next game,” Jurgensen said. “I would like to be at Marquette as long as I can continue to make the program better.”