BEMIDJI -- After nearly four decades coaching hockey, Steve Sertich is saying goodbye.

The BSU head women’s coach announced Monday he is retiring after eight years at the helm of the Beaver women’s program.

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“I came to the realization that I think, for me and the program, it would be healthy,” Sertich said at a press conference Monday. “I’ve had a great run, and hockey’s been good to me, but they always tell you you know when it’s time to go and I did.

“I’m also excited about the program. I think a change is good. I think it will be a positive change for me and the program.”

Sertich, 61, took over as head coach of the BSU program in 2006 after 30 years coaching at the high school, college and national team levels.

Although the program was still in its relative infancy when Sertich took over before the 2006-07 season -- BSU started women’s hockey in 1999 -- Sertich helped guide the program to its most successful run. He finished with an 81-174-33; the 81 victories are the most for any of the four coaches in the program’s history.

Sertich said Monday he would have liked to bring a few more wins to the program but he was happy with where he was able to bring the program in eight short years.

“We made some progress here over the years,” he said. “It was pretty messy here at the start, but I think we’ve earned some respect from the league. I wish we could say we won a lot of games here. I wish we would have won more, and I wish we could have gotten more people in the building but nonetheless i’m proud of the progress that we’ve made here.

“I look forward to following this team in the future and I think good things are going to happen at Bemidji State.”

BSU athletic director Tracy Dill said Sertich would be a tough coach to replace but a national search for his replacement would begin as soon as possible.

“I certainly want to thank Steve for his time at BSU and the difference he’s made at the hockey program here,” Dill said. “It’s certainly time to celebrate what he’s accomplished considering when he started and now where there program’s at. He made a difference.”

Sertich said he had an inkling at the start of the season that this one would be his last but didn’t decide on anything until BSU’s season ended March 1 with an overtime loss to North Dakota in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.

“We were hoping to end up in the Final Faceoff here, it didn’t quite work out like I had it scripted but nonetheless it just came to pass,” Sertich said, referring to the WCHA semifinal and finals that were played at Bemidji’s Sanford Center on March 7-8.

“I was lucky to have some great players here, but more importantly great kids,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about coaching and teaching. It’s a joy of my life. Anybody that teaches and coaches, we're the ones that win.

“We get to spend time with great young people and maybe make a difference in their lives… and maybe not. But they’re the ones we work for and it’s a pleasure.”

He said he held a team meeting Monday afternoon to inform the players of his retirement shortly before the press conference.

Like Sertich, members of the Beaver women’s hockey team viewed it as a bittersweet moment.

“He’s done a remarkable job here,” said BSU junior forward Kristine Grenier, who transferred to BSU this season from Mercyhurst. “It’s definitely kind of bittersweet because we love his coaching style.”

“It’s kind of sad,” freshman goaltender Brittni Mowat added. “He was just an easy coach to get along with and he’s good at giving feedback.

“But at the same time, change can be a good thing so we’re also excited to see where the program goes now.”

Sertich and his wife, Sally, live in the Bemidji area and he said they planned on staying here.

“I’ve got some grandkids and kids to visit,” he said. “Sometimes when you coach you miss some things in their lives.

“We have a daughter in Florida that may need some babysitting help during the winter months... but we plan on being here for most of the year.”