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WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Former Beaver goalie Jim Scanlan returns to coach BSU women’s team

New Bemidji State head women’s hockey coach Jim Scanlan addresses the crowd at a press conference announcing his hiring Tuesday afternoon at BSU. Scanlan takes over for Steve Sertich, who retired in May after eight years as head coach. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Jim Scanlan’s Bemidji State connections run deep. Familial, even.

Scanlan, 54, played goaltender for the Beaver hockey team from 1978-1982. His Beaver teams won the NAIA national championship twice and Scanlan was named an All-American twice playing for head coach R.H. “Bob” Peters.

He met his wife Cyndy while they were students at BSU, and two of his three children attended BSU.

So it only makes sense that Scanlan, who for the past 18 years has been a coach and administrator at East Grand Forks High School, would choose Bemidji State as the place to get back into coaching at the collegiate level.

The school announced Tuesday that Scanlan would take control of the BSU women’s hockey team as the fifth head coach in program history.

“As all of you know it’s an incredible place and had a big impact on my life,” Scanlan said Tuesday at a press conference announcing his hiring. “To have the opportunity to come back here to Bemidji State University and work here to help the young ladies on the hockey team reach their dreams, achieve their goals and become the best they can be is too great an opportunity to pass up.”

Scanlan takes over for Steve Sertich, who retired at the end of the 2013-14 season.

BSU athletic director Tracy Dill called Scanlan the “right choice for BSU” — and not just because of his Bemidji connections.

“All four candidates were great candidates,” he said. “But he’ll represent BSU with extreme integrity. He cares deeply about student-athletes, and most importantly has immense pride and passion for BSU.”

At Tuesday’s press conference it was clear that Scanlan never forgot his Bemidji roots. His family sat in the front row — most of them wearing green — but it seemed that Scanlan also knew just about everybody in the room, running down and thanking a long list of people associated with the school, the program and also East Grand Forks during the press conference.

He even apologized for keeping people inside on what he called a “gorgeous day… what I would call just another day in Bemidji.”

Scanlan’s long list of accolades at the high school level — his teams have twice been Class A runners-up and he was named Class A coach of the year in 2014 after leading the East Grand Forks girls to the title game — wouldn’t have been possible without the influence of Peters.

“Coach Peters started out his coaching career at East Grand Forks Senior High School in 1960-61,” he said. “I followed coach Peters there and it is my privilege to follow him here. If I could have even 1/13th of the success he‘s had as head coach at BSU, I’ll be happy.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here today without his guidance, his influence, his mentorship.”

Scanlan also credited his high school teams with restoring his passion for the game.

“I want to single out the girls on the hockey team, particularly this last year,” he said. “Their passion and dedication really brought my passion and dedication back. I know I wouldn’t be sitting here without what they did for me.”

Although Scanlan has coached at the collegiate level — he was a graduate assistant at Northern Michigan in 1984-85, an assistant at Western Michigan from 1985-89 and coached at North Dakota from 1989-96 — he doesn’t have any experience coaching college women. However, he thinks his experience coaching high school girls will prepare him for the head job at BSU.

“I don’t think the hockey changes... hockey’s hockey,” he said. “It’s going to be the same at whatever level you’re playing at. I think when the girls all realize that your relationship with them is based on who they are as people and not what they’re doing on the ice, that’s a big breakthrough. When you get a whole team feeling that way you can make some special things happen.”

Dill said he thought Scanlan would do a great job on the ice and also with recruiting players to come to Bemidji.

“I think he will be really good in the house,” he said. “When he meets with recruits, I think he’ll be good at selling people to Bemidji State, and have a nice presence.

“Steve did a wonderful job to stabilize the program and got them moving in the right direction, and that’s what we want to do: continue to build upon what was created by the staff.”

Scanlan plans on playing with a lot of puck pressure and high-tempo.

“My background is playing here,” he said. “The opportunity I had with coach Peters is what set me going in coaching in the first place. That template I got here from coach is the key.

“I’ve always liked to play a game where we pressure the puck all the time, moving at high tempo. And it all starts with playing good solid D and being tough to play against.”

Assistant coaches Amber Fryklund and Shane Veenker will return next season, to give the program some continuity. But don’t expect an upheaval — Scanlan made sure to note the “Beaver Hockey” mindset is still of utmost importance.

“You talk ‘Beaver Hockey,’ and it’s not just those championships or anything but how you go about playing,” he said. “It’s that culture created in the locker room. How you play for the guy or gal sitting next to you. Playing for something better than yourselves. That’s Beaver Hockey. We want to play an exciting style of hockey and that’s what we’re going to attempt to do.”

That makes Stephanie Anderson happy.

The redshirt junior was on hand to watch the press conference and introduce herself to her new head coach. She liked the direction Scanlan planned on taking while still retaining the old Beaver Hockey fundamentals.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “He seems like a great guy, and he’s coming back here to where he went to school. All of us are really excited when we found out it was him.

“We’re excited for a maybe new coaching strategy and we’re curious to see how he’s going to coach the game for us.”

Anderson said she and the rest of the team haven’t gotten the chance to talk with Scanlan extensively — they found out Tuesday morning — but look forward to getting to know him. And Scanlan said being on the same page with the current team is his No. 1 priority.

“I guess you could say I need to recruit our current players, because that’s going to be extremely important,” he said. “Establishing a relationship. That’s what coaching is all about: building relationships. I want to get to know all these girls because together we can raise the bar for Bemidji State women’s hockey.”

The Beavers finished 11-21-4 overall last year and were 8-17-3 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association — an improvement from the previous year, for sure, but not quite where the program would like to be.

Scanlan thinks he can bring it to the top and be successful in the WCHA, but it will take work to create that kind of culture.

“The girls here, coach Sertich and Amber and Shane have done a great job, and the foundation is here,” he said. “Now it’s just getting everybody going in the same direction. We’re going to raise the bar.”

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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