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MEN’S HOCKEY: Serratore reflects on being away from Beavers, watching at home

Tom Serratore is back to the Bemidji State men’s hockey team. He’s free of COVID-19 symptoms and will return to the bench for this weekend’s matchup with Michigan Tech.

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Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore watches the replay of a hit from defenseman Kyle Looft after Looft was ejected in the third period against Minnesota State on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI – Tom Serratore is back to the Bemidji State men’s hockey team. He’s free of COVID-19 symptoms and will return to the bench for this weekend’s matchup with Michigan Tech.

Last weekend against Ferris State, he wasn’t so lucky. BSU’s head coach quarantined at home with his wife, Cindy, while afflicted with the illness. He watched the livestream online much like other Beaver fans.

“It was not fun,” Serratore said. “It was weird. It was really weird. There's a lot of talking to yourself. There's excitement, there's frustration. There's just a lot of different emotions when you're watching because you have no control over anything. You got no control over the next line change. You got no control what you're going to say between periods.”

Not only did Serratore lose the ability to adjust strategy in real time, he was also unable to insert himself into midgame conversations with his players.

“You can't control what you're going to say to a player once they get off the ice,” Serratore said. “There's just a lot of different things that are out of your control. So that was something that was very different for me.”

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Fifth-year forward Ethan Somoza had never played with another head coach on the Bemidji State bench.

“It was a little bit weird,” Somoza said. “In my five years, this was my first time with him not on the bench. So definitely a little bit of a change.”

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Bemidji State senior Ethan Somoza (9) takes control of the puck in the first period against Ferris State on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Cindy listened to the radio feed upstairs, while Tom streamed the game below her. The radio was well ahead of the video stream, so when Cindy descended to Tom’s location, he knew something was up.

“She'd be coming downstairs, and I knew that either we were going to score or they were scoring,” Tom said.

Despite being unable to participate in coaching during the game, Tom made sure his time at home didn’t go to waste. He took extensive notes during Friday night’s contest, a 2-1 Bemidji State loss, and shared them with the team through conduits on the coaching staff.

“You pass them on,” he said. “We had our (coaches) meeting for sure. We went over certain things, and there's certain things that I saw live.”

He wasn’t sure how much difference it made on Saturday, as the Beavers fell down 5-0 before losing 5-2.

But Serratore is back at the rink this week and determined to make the most of this week’s crucial series with the Huskies.

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“We don't want repeat performances,” Serratore said. “And I had to let them know exactly what my concerns were. What I saw, what some of my frustrations were. But also to let them know how good of hockey they can play. And we showed them, we had a lot of clips of how we want to play.”

Despite returning to the tape, Serratore hasn’t lost confidence in his players. In fact, a big reason for showing them their past success was reminding them how good they can be.

“They've won a lot of hockey games,” he said. "They've had a lot of success. And when they get after it, and they attack and they compete and they're hard to play against, we can be a fun hockey team. We have a good hockey team, and I just wanted to make sure we reinforced that to the guys.”

BSU takes on Michigan Tech at 6:07 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 28, and 5:07 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29, in Houghton, Mich.

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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