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Bemidji State men's hockey: Matt Read forgoes NHL offers, will return for senior season

Bemidji State's Matt Read has elected to return to BSU for his senior season and the inaugural year for the Beavers in the WCHA. The All-American was courted by NHL teams with contract offers in recent weeks. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

As collegiate hockey teams end their seasons each year, a list develops naming the players who decided to leave school early to sign professional contracts.

This year was no exception: Jordan Schroeder from Minnesota; Marc Cheverie, Patrick Wiercioch and Joe Colborne of Denver; and Zach Dalpe of Ohio State, to name a few, gave up collegiate eligibility to sign with the pros.

For most of Bemidji State's 11-year history as a NCAA Division I program, the early departures were mainly high draft choices from the elite programs in the nation. Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan and the like routinely lost high-end players each year.

Bemidji State lost its first player to the pros last year as goalie Matt Dalton gave up his final two years of college eligibility to sign with the Boston Bruins organization. Dalton's signing, however, was the result of spectacular stretch run to end the regular season and an amazing drive to the Frozen Four.

But this year, things were different. This time around there was a local connection; a player who was on everyone's radar from Day 1 of the season.

At Bemidji State, speculation swirled around junior center Matt Read and whether he would return for his senior season. Professional scouts were in attendance at every game the Beavers played this year, evaluating Read, whom head coach Tom Serratore called the most sought-after junior year free agent in the nation.

Read, who became Bemidji State's first NCAA Division I All-American on Friday, ended all the speculation this week.

"It was the toughest decision I've ever had to make," Read said. "As of now, I'm coming back to Bemidji State to complete my degree and play my final year of college hockey. Something very monumental would have to happen for that to change.

"I turned down some good offers from National Hockey League teams. It all came down to should I play in the NHL now, or come back to BSU and get my degree. Right now, I think it's the best thing to come back."

Read had yet another sterling year for the Beavers. The College Hockey America Player of the Year, Read posted his second consecutive 40-point season on 19 goals and 22 assists.

Read has played in 110 consecutive games for the Beavers and has 108 career points. He has participated in NHL Development Camps in each of the previous two summers with Boston and Tampa Bay.

When the 2009-10 season ended for the Beavers with a 5-1 loss to Michigan at the NCAA Midwest Regional, Read said he came back to the BSU campus with the idea of "exploring his options."

"After the season ended and we got back from Fort Wayne, I talked with my family advisor," Read said. "I wasn't prepared for the response; my phone didn't stop ringing - it was all a bit unreal."

Imagine Read's situation: growing up in hockey-crazed Canada, Read advanced through the youth leagues with one major dream - someday playing in the NHL. Year after year with all the practices, all the workouts and all the games with THE dream always in the background. Work hard, play smart, be committed, battle through the adversity and someday, maybe someday, if you're very fortunate you'll get the call.

And then, suddenly, that day arrives.

"It still all seems a bit unreal," Read said with a tinge of awe in his voice. "I was on the phone, talking to the general manager one of my favorite teams. Then the team's captain called. It was unbelievable.

"I had offers from some NHL teams who said they would fly me out the next day and I'd be playing for them that night. I talked to a lot of very interesting people from the hockey world. I learned a lot. If it happens again next year I'll know better how to handle it."

It was decision time. The NHL teams were putting on the full-court press. Read said it was hard to think of anything else.

He turned to a trusted source for advice.

"I really have to thank my family advisor, Neil Sheehy, for all the guidance he provided me through the process," Read said. "He put everything into realistic terms for me. He walked me through the various stages, told me to take my time and sleep on things before making a decision. He helped me so much."

On one side, Read had the dream of playing in the NHL being fulfilled. On the other, he could return to BSU for this senior year, finish his college degree and be a huge part of a historic year for the Beavers - the opening of a new arena and the inaugural year of playing in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

"It was the toughest decision of my life," Read said. "I felt delaying my professional career for a year was the best choice; that way I could come back and earn my degree, which is extremely valuable.

"When I first decided to come to BSU and was playing in juniors, Coach Serratore told me there was a good chance this could happen - building a new arena and joining the WCHA. It has happened and I want to be a part of it - I love Bemidji State and the Bemidji community. It's an exciting time to be here."

Serratore said that being named an ACHA All-American was a huge honor, showing what kind of respect Read has among the coaches across the country and the impact he's had on the BSU program.

"Read was a big reason behind the success we had in advancing to the Frozen Four in 2009 and getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament this year," Serratore said. "Players like that don't come around very often. He makes everyone around him better and is a joy to coach.

"His skill level as a player is beyond question, but he's such a strong competitor - so mentally and physically tough. He's tenacious and won't be denied. That's why he'll be playing in the NHL. He has a great mentality for the game and is so reliable - that's the type of player you have to be to play at the next level."