From The Desk Of Joe Bertagna - April 2018

Joe BertagnaThe following is an excerpt from Joe Bertagna's column in Stops and Starts:

We have closed the book on another exciting college hockey season and hats off to the final crowned champion, Scott Sandelin's Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, for their triumph in St. Paul. They had all of the normal challenges and a particularly potent one in Notre Dame, their championship game opponent.

The Irish entered the April 7 final on an historic post-season run:

• Big Ten Semifinal: scored with 31 seconds left to defeat Penn State, 3-2

• Big Ten Final: defeated Ohio State, 3-2 in OT

• NCAA East Regional Semifinal: defeated Michigan Tech, 4-3 in OT

• NCAA East Regional Final: scored with 27 seconds left to defeat Providence, 2-1

• NCAA Frozen Four Semifinal: scored with five seconds left to defeat Michigan, 4-3

As the championship game wound down with UMD protecting a 2-1 lead, more than a few of the 18, 303 fans at the Xcel Energy Center were wondering if Jeff Jackson's troops had one more miracle finish left in them. But it was not to be. Congratulations are also due to the NCAA and the city of St. Paul for delivering another great event from start to finish.

One of the joys of the Frozen Four is seeing the familiar fans, and groups of "hockey buddies," who are regulars at the event each year. For me, it starts with conversations at the airport gate with people who, at one level, are strangers. I don't know them personally. But in a way, I do. They display their school logos, maybe a game jersey, maybe a hat adorned with pins from Frozen Fours past. They want to talk hockey. They are passionate.

It continues in the hotel lobby. At Tom Reid's bar. On the concourse of the arena. For the most part, the conversations are civil. They want to talk about overtime. They want to talk about Regionals sites. They may slip in a shot about officiating. But, more often than not, they just love college hockey and want to talk.

At Boston's Logan Airport, while awaiting the flight to St. Paul, I was approached by a group of guys that appeared to be about my age. One guy said to me, "You probably don't remember me but I scored a goal on you, 50 years ago, in the state championship final." I certainly remembered the goal and I did remember the guy's name. But I had not seen him since that game in 1968. I told him that I can still see the goal in my sleep and they said something about my not seeing it that day and we all had a good laugh.

There were more than a few laughs on the Friday night in St. Paul when the Division I men's hockey commissioners met up with a few AHCA names from our St. Paul past. How's this for a line-up: 1998 Jeremiah Award winner Mike Schwartz of Augsburg, 2005 Jeremiah Award winner and 2011 MacInnes Award winner Terry Skrypek of St. Thomas, and 2002 Mariucci Award winner Lou Cotroneo of St. Paul Johnson High School. It was great to see "Mr. C," still spry at 87 years young.

– Joe Bertagna

Joe's full column is available in each edition of Stops and Starts - The Official Publication of the American Hockey Coaches Association. Each AHCA Member has access to current and archived editions of Stops and Starts in our Member's Only Section and can read Joe's full column in each edition of Stops and Starts.