Leading Spring Lake Park to its first boys’ hockey state tournament and winning Class 1A coach of the year honors were not enough for Tom Benson to keep his job.

Benson was notified last week his contract would not be renewed, ending his 22-year tenure with the Panthers.

“It floored me,” Benson said. “For 22 years I put my heart and soul into the program and it got pulled out from underneath me in a day.”

Not enough offseason involvement with the youth program “seemed to be the reason” for the nonrenewal, Benson said, adding he “didn’t sense it was parent-complaint driven.”

“Before this year, I coached the Bantam or Peewee teams for three years,” Benson said. “I don’t know what I could’ve done differently.”

Panthers activities director Matt St. Martin said in an e-mail, “I want to thank Tom Benson for his years of service and dedication to the SLPHS boys’ hockey program, and wish him well in his future coaching endeavors.”

Benson, 50, remains a physical education teacher in the district at Westwood Middle School and Park Terrace Elementary. His son, Zach, was a junior defenseman for the Panthers last season.

Spring Lake Park joined the Northwest Suburban Conference for the 2014-15 school year. The boys’ hockey program moves up to Class 2A for the next two seasons.

“I felt I earned a shot to move the program forward,” Benson said. “I still feel that I have a lot to give back to the game. Where will that be? Who knows.”


Bergeland steps down

Family dynamics and the maturation of his coaching staff told Centennial wrestling coach John Bergeland the time had come to leave the mat.

In 12 seasons at Centennial, Bergeland built a 278-130 record and won seven section titles. He directed 64 state entrants, 19 state place-winners and two state champions. More than numbers, Bergeland sought to build “young people of integrity,’’ he said. “I wanted to have wrestling success, but that’s not why I coached.”

Bergeland’s oldest son, Jack, will compete at UW-LaCrosse next year, and father wanted the chance to see son wrestle. Son Jake, who will be a junior at Centennial next fall, could “benefit from not having Dad as coach,” Bergeland said.

Assistant coach Steve Peterson will take over as head coach pending school board approval.

“I’m at great peace,” Bergeland said. “Steve and the other coaches are ready and they are going to do a great job.”


Shining on the diamond

Kati Thunborg, a senior first-baseman at Spring Lake Park, fueled the Panthers’ 3-0 start to the softball season by going 8-for-11 from the plate with three RBI and three runs scored.

Anoka pitcher Alex Glick tossed a complete-game shutout with seven strikeouts in the baseball season opener last week against Park Center. The performance marked his fifth complete-game shutout in his past eight starts dating back to last season. Glick went 8-1 with a 1.03 ERA as a junior last spring.