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BSU men's hockey: Dalton goes pro, says 'I just felt it was time'

Bemidji State goalie Matt Dalton (1) makes a kick save during the Frozen Four semifinal April 9 against Miami of Ohio in Washington, D.C. The BSU sophomore recently signed a professional contract with the National Hockey League's Boston Bruins. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

Just days after completing an historic run to the 2009 Frozen Four, the Bemidji State men's hockey team experienced another first - losing an underclassmen to the professional ranks.

Sophomore goaltender Matt Dalton signed a National Hockey League entry level contract with the Boston Bruins organization Thursday. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Dalton becomes the first Bemidji State player during the program's NCAA Division I era to sign a professional contract while still having eligibility remaining.

Dalton said he knew NHL teams were watching him during the regular season, but didn't know many details at the time.

"A day after the Frozen Four my advisor called and told me the teams that were interested," Dalton reported. "After some lengthy discussion we decided Boston was the best fit - because of the way the organization treats its players and also their goalie depth. No matter where you go at the professional level, there are going to be good goalies, but I believe Boston afforded me the best opportunity."

Dalton said he would be assigned to Boston's AHL affiliate in Providence, Rhode Island at the start of the next season. His immediate plans are to finish out the school year at Bemidji State, then return to his home in Ontario for a few weeks. He'll return to Bemidji after a brief break where he'll concentrate on training for his first professional season.

Making the decision to leave the Bemidji State program was not easy, Dalton reported, especially considering the dream season the team just completed. "It was an unbelievable roller coaster-type year," he said, "kind of like my career at BSU. After sitting on the bench most of my freshman year I was given the opportunity this season and ran with it.

"Winning the Midwest Regional and advancing to the Frozen Four; it's going to be tough to top that. It was the best season I've ever experienced - who knows, it could be the best time I ever experience in hockey. I felt I had a really good year and as a result received an offer I just couldn't turn down."

Even though Dalton has two years of eligibility remaining, he will have completed three years of university schooling when the current semester is over in a few weeks. "With only one year left for me to graduate, it won't be that hard to come back and complete my degree," he said. "If I would have had two years of school left, my decision probably would have been different.

"I just felt it was time."

Dalton reported the toughest thing about moving on will be leaving behind the relationships he has developed. "The hardest part will be backing away from the relationships and friendships that have been made here," he said.

"I'll never forget my time at Bemidji State or the people I've come to know here."

Dalton was the anchor in the Beavers' incredible run through the postseason this year. In five games, including the College Hockey America tournament and the NCAA tournament, Dalton posted a record of 4-1 with a topnotch 1.60 goals against average and incredible .948 save percentage.

In the NCAA Midwest Regional, Dalton bested the statistically top goalie in the nation Notre Dame's Jordan Pearce and another premier goaltender in Cornell's Ben Scrivens.

Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said while it will be difficult to see Dalton leave the program he understands the situation. "It's always tough to lose a great player," Serratore reported. "Teams are typically only as good as their top players. At the same time Dalton's signing an NHL contract shows recruits that if they have the ability they can get noticed by NHL scouts while playing for Bemidji State.

"Having our last two goalies (Dalton and 2008 BSU grad Matt Climie) sign NHL contracts tells recruits we have the ability to develop players to the highest professional level."

Dalton finishes his BSU career with a 2.27 goals against average which is tops all-time at BSU for goaltenders with at least 1,500 minutes played, surpassing BSU great Blane Comstock (1967-71) after allowing just two goals in the Midwest Regional. The mark is also a standard among all Division I-era goaltenders at BSU.

In 2008-09 Dalton paced the CHA in goals against average (1.94), minutes played (1,018:38) and backstopped a BSU team that was tops in the league in defensive scoring (2.11) and penalty-kill (86.2) before being named as the league's Second Team All-CHA goalie.

In over 50 years of hockey at BSU, only 10 goaltenders have recorded seasons of 15 or more wins. Dalton ended the 2008-09 season with a record of 17-11-1 to become part of that elite group and is the first of the Beavers' Division I-era. The last BSU player to net at least 15 victories in a season was Robin Cook (1992-96) who posted 20 wins in 1994-95.