Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last nine years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason has been with the Star Tribune since 2012.
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The Gophers weekend visit to Bemidji proved the old Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivalries can survive in the new era of Big Ten hockey.
Nearly a third of the arena was smeared in maroon and gold and Sanford Arena near capacity for the Gophers 6-3 and 5-1 victories. Fans said tickets for Saturday’s night’s finale were selling for as much as $150. Hotels were sold out around town.
Less frequent meetings of the old Minnesota WCHA rivals could create such demand. Gophers coach Don Lucia expected a WCHA-like atmosphere this weekend and that’s what fans experienced.
The crowd, however, didn’t get a Serratore storyline on the ice. It’s likely the last time Gophers forward Tom Serratore will skate against his uncle and Bemidji State coach, also Tom Serratore. In 10 career games against the Beavers, Serratore finished without a point.
The elder Tom Serratore said he’s proud of his nephew but didn’t spend extra time thinking about him over the weekend.
“There’s more to these games than Tom Serratore,” the Bemidji coach said in reference to both Toms.
Serratore was right. The Gophers likely landed the No. 1 ranking in college hockey after the sweep. The Beavers realized they still have a lot of work to do if they hope to get back to the NCAA Tournament. If they do, it might set up one final Serratore family reunion.
Full game story from Saturday night here.
Postgame video of Lucia and defenseman Mike Reilly. A look at the home of Bemidji State hockey below.
Gophers coach Don Lucia:
Gophers forward Mike Reilly:
For those that have yet to make it to the still somewhat new Sanford Arena nestled on the edge of Lake Bemidji and the headwaters of the Mississippi, here’s a look from at the inside and outside.