They Said It
Final Thoughts Before the National Semis
CHN Staff Report
CHN Staff Report
WASHINGTON, D.C. Comments from the participants on Frozen Four Wednesday, a day where teams get their final practice in before Thursday's national semifinals, and meet the media.
Coach Enrico Blasi: “I think in our locker room right now and in our culture we expect to play in big games. We take every game and every day and the process that we go through very seriously. I think the expectation in our locker room and in our program that you play the season to get yourself in a position to play for a national championship, so when you have seniors and juniors that have been there three and four straight years it really lends itself to the freshman and sophomore class.” (on how the team was able to overcome the notion that this was a rebuilding year)
Blasi: “The fact that he is a fellow Italian helps. There are not a lot of us out there.” (on being friends with BSU coach Tom Serratore. They were also both assistants in the WCHA for a time, Blasi at Denver and Serratore at St. Cloud State)
Defenseman Vincent LoVerde: “We take each and every team the same way and we know that Bemidji is a great team. It’s going to be a battle tomorrow and we’re excited for it.”
Senior forward Justin Mercier: “I think that last year we could almost taste it, making it all the way to overtime (in the Regional final). Also, losing to Boston College each of those three years makes it tough, but for the exception of our freshman everyone has remembered that feeling and I think that it’s fueled us to get here to the Frozen Four.”
Mercier: “Our coaches do a very good job at getting prepared to play our opponent. Being on a penalty kill you start to notice some of your opponent’s tendencies as the game goes on. We have a ferocious penalty kill. It is a very in your face and a pressure penalty kill. We make teams make plays. We make them have to decide on the spot and I think that can catch a lot of teams by surprise. We just try to do what we’re good at and hope that in the end it works out.”
Forward Brian Kauffman: “It’s been really impressive. They were kind of thrown into the fire in the beginning and we really didn’t know what to expect, especially with two freshmen in goal and four defensemen. It’s almost like we don’t have any freshmen anymore."
Blasi: (On the team's aggressive penalty kill) "We have been doing it for about five or six years. Most of the guys you see out there have done it for a while. If you have about an hour I can explain it to you, but frankly I don’t know if I understand it. Coach Bergeron and coach Brekke do an unbelievable job preparing the PK. Our guys understand the schemes that we are trying to execute and the bottom line is you have to execute. You have to have goaltending, you have to block shots, you have to do a lot of things that our program stands for."
Dean Strong: “This has been one of the slowest weeks I’ve had in my four years at school. Getting on the ice today and seeing the “V-Cat” around the building; it’s something special.”
Coach Kevin Sneddon: "I think the experience at the regionals is big for us. To go through the same routine that we’re going through this week it’s certainly more intense in terms of the media attention, all the excitement in the community. But I think going through the regional and having success with that format, the distractions if you will, our team is very well prepared and used to this kind of situation."
Sneddon: “I guess the one thing I learned early, from my days at Union and the advice I received from guys like Bill Cleary, my coach at Harvard, and my fellow colleagues was stick with your beliefs and be yourself. Taking over the program here I was feeling fortunate to have such a great foundation left behind from Mike Gilligan and guys like Jim Cross. I think I questioned myself when I started my tenure [at the University of Vermont] if I was doing the right thing but we stuck with it."
Sneddon: "We had a sendoff at the University of Vermont, some students, staff, faculty stood out in the pouring rain cheering the Catamounts on as we got on the bus to the airport. We get to the Sheraton [hotel] to have a lunch and we were greeted by at least 19 former players ranging from the 1970’s all the way up to more recently who live in the area. That was a special moment for not only our student-athletes but also for them to re-connect with their team, it’s their team. We drive two miles further and passed a school and every kid from that school was standing outside. We get to the airport and the air traffic control has a “Go Cats Go!” banner hanging from it. I think they’re enjoying the moment."
Sneddon: “I guess nerves will be a part of it, I’ll have nerves as well, you wouldn’t be a real coach or player if you didn’t get
nerves for these games. We try to approach it as just another game as we prepare, but that’s easier said than done. We have enough clowns in the locker room to lighten the mood at times. I’ll try to be cool, calm, collected as much as possible."
Sneddon: (On vindication for the 1996 Vermont team) “They [the 1996 team] want it bad. They want it bad for us, not for them. We talked about the [Dan Lawson] goal [to win the East Regional] and if it wasn’t for that goal [in 1996 by Colorado College], instant replay was put in place in large part because of that missed hand pass. Kind of ironic or full circle that we advanced to the tournament because of instant replay. Sure would help ease those tough memories.”
Defenseman Brian Strait: “I think our team feels that every tournament is a new challenge for us. Over the course of the season
we have won a bunch of them and played really well, but this a new tournament with new teams in it and we need to
just figure our way through the challenges so we can get to the top."
John McCarthy: “We are getting ready to play, but it's important not to get too tight before a big game like this. We’ve experienced a lot of tournaments so far this year and I think that adds to it a little bit, but we are trying to keep things relaxed in the locker room. We’ll definitely be focused tomorrow night to play.”
Coach Jack Parker: "I think it is unusual that there is no repeat performance this year or over the last couple of years. There is nobody on my team that has played in the Frozen Four and there is no one on the other teams that has. It plays a little bit of a different situation. I think it is more unusual than different. I don’t think it matters that much. There is always the hoopla around tournaments and this is a big tournament, an important tournament to win. This almost seems like another Bean Pot. There is as much press around the Bean Pot as there is around the National Tournament. It is not like anyone has any advantage as far as they have experience handling big games. They won’t be better off because they are the favorite or the underdog."
Parker: "We get named the No. 1 team in November and then we lost three of our last four games, including two to Vermont. Three days after being named the No. 1 team we get beat by UMass 5-1. We have found out how not to handle the pressure. I think after that it settled us down. Later on, when we got high in the polls, and it took us a while, it was easier to handle. We didn’t get full of ourselves. The other thing is we got use to getting everybody else’s best game."
Parker: "They are a loose bunch right now that’s for sure. We cut practice short today. We had a couple of other things we were going to do but we liked what we saw. We liked the energy. At this stage in the game it is our job to get out of the way and let the boys play. There are not too many things you are going to talk about Vermont, about the breakout, the power play, and the rush. We practice a lot of things all year and now it is time to let them play. I think they feel comfortable. I can not make them creative, but I can take their creativity away. I can’t make my team loose, but I can make them uptight. It is our job to stand aside and let the players play."
Coach Tom Serratore: “All I know is it’s all about fairytales right now. I’ve heard Cinderella, David vs. Golaith, Miracle, things like that. ... That’s kind of our identity as a community. Everyone has their identity. Obviously it’s the nation’s capital here and you have the White House and the Capital and all the monuments. We’re noted for Paul Bunyan and Babe. They created the great waterway we have there called Lake Bemidji, the Mississippi River. We’re noted for pine trees, water and Beaver hockey. It’s just a big part of the culture of Northern Minnesota and the identity of our community and our region.”
Serratore: “Obviously we’ve applied to the WCHA. We think we’re a great fit [for the WCHA] and we also feel our resume coming into the season stood on its own two feet. We didn’t need to make it to the Frozen Four to validate our resume. We have the winningest program in the history of college hockey. We’ve had 13 national titles at the small college level. We’ve had over 20 conference championships. We like our resume. We feel we’ve done a lot for the game. ... I can’t control it and I can’t really think about it because the task at hand is more important for our program.”
Serratore: “I think timing’s important. We’re playing good hockey at the right time. We played great hockey last weekend, it’s amazing. There’s no such thing as a perfect game, that’s just an overrated term in my eyes. We played good: our execution was good, our attention to detail, our reaction, our anticipation, our special teams, we played well."
Serratore: “Sometimes I think you get the phony backslaps when you lose by a goal to some of those teams [North Dakota, Duluth]. And those backslaps were fine eight years ago, but again, we’re beyond that.”
Senior defenseman Travis Winter: “A lot of the time we don’t get the recognition we deserve in the CHA. This could be Robert Morris sitting here right now.” (BSU lost to Robert Morris in OT of the CHA title game)
Forward Tyler Scofield: "Our line has been playing great, but I think all of our lines have been playing great hockey. They may not be scoring goals, but they’re playing great defensively. It’s been a team effort over the past couple of months, from our defense to our goalie to every single line; we’ve all been playing great."
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