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Hockey Day is coming to Bemidji; 13th annual event set for winter 2019

Galen Nagle Memorial Golf Tournament brings together Bemidji State hockey eras

Former Bemidji State hockey players Joel Otto (left) and Drey Bradley react after a shot at Friday's Galen Nagle Memorial Golf Tournament at Bemidji Town & Country Club. The two played on BSU's undefeated 31-0 Division II national championship team in 1984 with Galen Nagle. Photo courtesy BSU Photo Services

The Galen Nagle Memorial Golf Tournament is a summer tradition for Bemidji State hockey.

It brings together players throughout the program's history to raise funds for a scholarship in Nagle's name and for the hockey program.

Playing golf in a group at Friday's 14th annual tournament at Bemidji Town & Country Club were some of Nagle's teammates from the 1980-84 era: Joel Otto, Robin Anderson, Drey Bradley and Mike Oliver.

"As long as I can make it I will not miss it," said Otto, who won a Stanley Cup with Calgary, has his number retired at BSU and has attended every Nagle tournament. "Our numbers were down this year but we're hoping to get more. We had a nice turnout from the young classes though and this has become a reunion."

Some players from the 2009 Frozen Four squad made it back for this year including Tyler Scofield, Matt Francis and Orlando Alamano.

Friday capped an eventful week in college hockey for BSU. Conference changes highlighted the week as five current WCHA teams decided to leave and form the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference beginning in 2013-14. There was talk of the developments at the tournament among the participants and Otto reacted to the news.

"Bemidji has worked hard to get where they are now and it's kind of disappointing to see that some teams have abandoned that," Otto said. "But Bemidji State will survive because they have some strong teams and strong rivalries they can forge ahead with now."

The tournament is a celebration of Nagle's life and memory. After a standout career at BSU, he went on to teach and coach before he died of cancer at age 34 in 1996.

Nagle, a goalie, came to Bemidji State as a walk on in 1980 and was in net when BSU won the 1984 Division II national championship. He never lost a game he played in at BSU and left school with a 22-0 record.

"He always worked hard and had a goal," said Bradley, who coaches at Eastview High School in Apple Valley. "I coach hockey now in the Twin Cities and if you want to talk about someone and how to get to a place, I would use him as an example. He wanted to be a player and he wanted to play for Bemidji State University. He took pride in that and he worked his tail off for it."

Former BSU head coach R.H. 'Bob' Peters said Nagle spent the early part of his career playing on the junior varsity team. At that time BSU had established goalies in Jim Scanlon and Mark Liska.

"He was always a positive guy," Oliver said. "I wasn't getting much ice time as a freshman and neither was he. He was always trying to pump me up. He was a workaholic and was always working on his game.

Nagle never led the team in saves in a season - those statistics went to Liska or Scanlon. But Nagle's stats are impressive. He saved 498 shots out of the 535 he faced. He owns the school's record for highest save percentage (.931) for a minimum 1,000 minutes played in goal.

"He never wanted to get beat no matter if it was in a game, in practice or after practice goofing around," Oliver said. "

Nagle held a goals against average of 1.83 in 1984, which is the third best average for a single season in the history of the program. Only Jim Robberstad in 1963-64 (1.78) and Matt Climie (1.80) in 2004-05 were better.

"We used to call him spider man because of the way he would swing his glove up high in the air when he made a save," Anderson said. "When we were playing he was never our number one goalie but it got to the point where we trusted him."

The Beavers were 31-0 and 18-0 in NCHA conference play in 1983-84. The 31 wins in an unbeaten season still stands as an all-time NCAA record.

The undefeated team stands as one of six in the history of college hockey to have an undefeated season and one of five to finish unbeaten and untied.

Peters said Nagle and Liska began the year alternating games in goal and it stayed that way throughout the season.

"By the time he got to his senior year he had established himself as a very, very solid goaltender and certainly worthy of an opportunity to play a major role with the varsity," Peters said. "Certainly Galen deserved the opportunity but Mark also played well for us. When we got to the championship game Galen was the goalie up for that day. It was his turn, he went in and played great."

The 8-1 victory over Merrimack capped the undefeated season and captured the championship for BSU. Liska played in the 6-3 win over Merrimack in the first game of the two-game, total goal series.

Nagle, Otto, Bradley, Eric Gager and Dave Jerome were named to the All-Tournament team. Otto was named the Division II Hobey Baker winner and joined Bradley in the NCHA All-Star game the week following the series.

"He (Nagle) was our best friend and we always went to him when we were in trouble - he always jumped our cars," Anderson said. "He was an overachiever and our rock. That's why we're here."

After graduation, Nagle went on to teach industrial arts at Highlands Middle School in Apple Valley. He coached at hockey programs in Rosemount, Holy Angels, Richfield, Bloomington, Wayzata and Thief River Falls. Nagle served as the chief goalie instructor in Peters' Bemidji International Hockey Camp.

"I was fortunate enough to go on and play pro hockey, but I always came back in the summers to hang out with those guys and be in the area," Otto said of his relationship with Nagle and the tournament team after graduation. "I didn't get to hang around with him toward the end when you hear about all the great stories fishing - but he was class guy and there's nobody like him. He's missed."