It’s mid-March and it’s tourney time, the time of year when I find myself thinking back to my college hockey playing days.
I was a goalie for Mankato State (now known as Minnesota State University, Mankato), where our team made four consecutive trips to the NCAA Division II National Tournament. You can see Coach Carroll playing in the national championship game in this video.
The most memorable experience at the NCAA’s happened during my junior year. About a month after the U.S. shocked the world and won gold at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, our team headed to New York in search of our own miracle.
In the NCAA semifinals, we stunned the defending champions from Lowell University 8-1. That put us into the championship game against Elmira College, the school was hosting the tournament.
There was about 5,000 fans at the championship game and it seemed like all but a couple dozen MSU parents, and fans were cheering for the Soaring Eagles. The game was recorded and televised on a new sports TV network called ESPN. The game was shown multiple times on the cable on a taped-delayed basis.
While the final buzzer sounded, the Mavericks skated away with the upset victory, defeating Elmira 5-2 on their home ice — giving the Mavericks a Miracle in Mankato.
It was a remarkable feeling to win the national title and I still have vivid memories from that night in New York.
During my four years at MSU, we finished third in the country during my freshman year, second as sophomores, first as a junior and third as a senior). It was an awesome run! Great memories!
Every year at this time, the memories of playing in the Minnesota state high school hockey tournament come flooding back. I had the opportunity to play goalie in the eight-team state hockey tournament during my senior year at Edina-East High School in 1977.
The 33rd annual tournament was played at the St. Paul Civic Center, the historic old arena that featured the clear dasher boards. (Game program cost .75 cents).
The talented tournament field included Rochester John Marshall (22-2), Mounds View (23-1), Hill-Murray (22-2), South St. Paul (18-1-5), Minneapolis Southwest (15-7-2), Edina-East (22-1), Grand Rapids (19-3-1) and Roseau (23-0). The record for all the tournament qualifiers was an impressive 164-17-8.
In the opening round, we played the late game on Thursday night against Neal Broten, his brother Aaron and Busty Erickson from Roseau. The Rams were ranked number one in the state, we were second. We came into the game with only one loss on the season. I remember the ice was soft, the lights were bright and it was hot in the Civic Center.
From what I recall, there was some sort of mix-up before the game which led to both teams wearing their green uniforms for warm-ups. That issue was resolved before the start of the game as we took the ice in our white uniforms. For our game., there was a standing room only crowd of 17,409, which, at that time, was the largest crowd to ever watch a hockey game in Minnesota.
To be honest, a majority of the fans in the building were pulling for the northern Minnesota school, except for a couple of sections in the corner where the Hornet faithful were seated.
I was so excited to be there – achieving a goal I had been dreaming about since I first strapped on the pads as a peewee.
But I was also nervous, playing on such a big stage, in front of a record crowd and with thousands more throughout Minnesota watching the game on WTCN-TV with announcers Joe Boyle and Lou Nanne calling the game. Watch the highlights of this game.
Once the puck dropped, I couldn’t wait to make my first save. After that, I was able to settle down and focus on the task at hand.
It was a back and forth contest with both teams exchanging excellent scoring chances.
Teammate Bret Bjerken broke the scoreless tie a couple minutes into the third period. Another Hornet tally by John Donnelly a few minutes later sealed the 2-0 victory.
That set-up a semifinal showdown against the two-time defending state champions from Grand Rapids. Their team featured a number of future Division I hockey players including former University of Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia.
This game turned out to be a shootout from the opening face-off. Grand Rapids built up a 4-2 lead in the second period before the Hornets came storming back with four straight goals to take the lead in the third. Grand Rapids added one late but we hung on to win it in electrifying fashion 6-5. Current University of Michigan Head Coach Mel Pearson scored two goals in that game for the Hornets.
With the win, we advanced to the finals to face Rochester John Marshall, a team we did not know a whole lot about. But what we did know was the squad from southern Minnesota could put the puck in the net and had one of the best goalies in the state in sophomore Paul Butters who would go on to play at the University of Minnesota.
Rochester scored on a breakaway 36 seconds into the title game and added another seven minutes later. But we battled back on goals from Dave Terwilliger and Tom Kelly to tie the game at 2-2 after two. But that was a close as we got. JM added two in the third to win it 4-2.
Even though our team lost in the championship game – playing in the state tournament was a wonderful experience and something I’ll never forget.
And if I ever need a trip down memory lane, I can pop in a DVD and watch the games from that memorable weekend in March.
Fourteen players on the 1976-77 Hornets team
would go on to play college hockey.
John Anderson Gustavus Adolphus College
Bret Bjerken Michigan Tech
Steve Carroll Mankato State
John Donnelly Dartmouth
Mark Gagnon Cornell
Paul Gagnon Notre Dame
Gordie Hampson Michigan
Scott Hampson Colorado College
Tom Kelly Colorado College
Mike Lauen Michigan Tech
Mel Pearson Michigan Tech
Steve Pepper Minnesota
Bill Peterson Hamline
Dave Terwilliger Minnesota
The Minneapolis-based Carroll Goalie School (CGS) continues to grow and evolve as it enters its 25th season of providing skill development programs for boys and girls, ages 6-15.
“I’m proud of the reputation we’ve earned for developing quality, fundamentally-sound goaltenders,” said Steve Carroll, an Edina, Minn., native, who is lead instructor at the popular weekend camps offered in the summer and fall.
“Our talented and personable team of instructors are passionate about goaltending and do an excellent job of explaining, demonstrating, and reinforcing the essential techniques used in today’s game,” Carroll said. “Goalies who train with us work hard, improve their skills and have fun!”
Carroll uses his extensive coaching experience to teach goalies what it takes to be successful. He shares his wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for the position with the goalies who attend his camps.
In 2018, goalies from around Minnesota and 10 other states trained at CGS. Outstate participants came from Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
“We help goalies of all abilities take their game to new levels by building individual skills, techniques, athleticism, consistency and self-confidence,” Carroll said.
Goalie parents like the variety of CGS programs (Intro to goaltending, Intermediate Skills, Advanced Skills and Tryout Tune-up) that are offered and realize that training under the watchful eye of Coach Carroll and his staff can make a significant impact on the skill development of their kids.
“I am a long-time hockey coach and also a goalie dad,” said Greg Smith, from Omaha, Nebraska. “I thought this was a great camp for my son. I recorded some of the drills and plan to incorporate them into my practices. I thought they did a great job with skill development while keeping it fun for the goalies. We will definitely make the trip back from Omaha next summer (and probably bring a few more goalies with us).”
“After attending the introductory session, my daughter could not wait to go again,” said Courtney Brod, Woodbury, Minn. “We signed her up for the Intermediate session just weeks later and she had another great experience. We are sure to continue with Carroll Goalie Schools for years to come.”
“My daughter learned a lot from these clinics and had a lot of fun doing so,” said Ashley Jovan, Buffalo, Minn. “She’ll be back again! Thank you CGS!”
Michael Shroat, from Minneapolis said, “My son thinks that the tryout tune-up camp is the best camp that he goes to. He thinks it’s a great balance of skating and drills to get him ready for the beginning of his association season. He started it as a mite and will continue until he’s a Bantam. Thanks for the great weekend and the encouragement the kids get from you and your staff!”
“This was Jonathan’s first formal goaltending clinic and he enjoyed every minute of it. The mix of skating, hand-eye drills, and shooting stations kept him constantly engaged and learning,” said Tim Froemke, Alexandria, Virginia.
“CGS does a great job working with the goalies on all aspects of the game. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed her time at camp,” said Troy Iverson, Farmington, Minn.
COACH CARROLL’S BACKGROUND
Carroll is a USA Hockey Level 4 certified coach who trains goalies at the youth and high school levels. He also is the goalie coach for the nationally-ranked Gustavus Adolphus College women’s team.
As a goalie, Carroll won a State Peewee “A” title with Edina and participated in the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament where he helped the Hornets to a second-place finish.
At Minnesota State University, Mankato, Carroll led the Mavericks to a NCAA Division II National Championship. He played in 119 games, made 3,570 saves, posted a career mark of 81-32-2 and still holds several of the school’s all-time goaltending records.
Steve was also a two-time All-American and top-10 finalist for the inaugural Hobey Baker Award, presented to the best player in men’s college hockey. He also earned a free-agent tryout with the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars. Carroll has been inducted in Edina High School and Minnesota State athletic halls of fame.
We were just finishing up a team meeting following my senior year at Mankato State in 1981, when coach informed me that I had been named as a Top 10 finalist for a new award being given the best player in men’s college hockey.
It was called the Hobey Baker Award, in honor of a standout athlete from Princeton University.
While things went well for me in Mankato, I had a hard time believing the selection committee would consider me, a NCAA Division II goalie, as one of the 10 best players in all of men’s college hockey. It was an unexpected and humbling honor to even be considered for this prestigious award.
When you look at the list of finalists at the bottom of this page, it was clear from the beginning who would be winning the award. And no one couldn’t argue with the choice. Neal Broten was named the winner of the first annual Hobey Baker Award. The Roseau, Minnesota native was a star at the University of Minnesota who already had an Olympic gold medal and a NCAA championship on his impressive hockey resume.
I was invited to attend the award banquet, which was held at the old Decathalon Club in Bloomington. The guest speaker was Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe.
At the banquet, I got to meet Neal Broten. I had played against him when my Edina-East team defeated his team in the quarterfinals of the state high school hockey tournament. We talked about that game for a bit, but not for very long.
It was huge thrill for me to meet Broten, who continued on to have a magnificent NHL career.
Being named a Top 10 finalist for the first-ever Hobey Baker Award means more and more to me with each passing year.
Top 10 finalists for 1981 Hobey Baker Award Pos. — Name — School — Hometown
G – Steve Carroll, Mankato State University, Edina, Minnesota
G – Bill Provencher, Bowdoin College, Lewiston, Maine
G – Rick Strack, Plattsburgh State University, Lake Placid, New York
D – Ed Small, Clarkson College, Ottawa, Ontario
C – Steve Bozek, Northern Michigan University, Castlegar, British Columbia
C – Neal Broten, University of Minnesota, Roseau, Minnesota
C – Mark Hentges, St. Thomas University, New Hope, Minnesota
C – Tom Lawler, Merrimack College, Andover Massachusetts
LW – Sandy Beadle, Northeastern University, Regina Saskatchewan
LW – Steve Ulseth, University of Minnesota, Roseville, Minnesota
By the way, did you know that 1980 Olympian and Richfield, Minn., native Steve Christoff served as the model for the the Hobey Baker Trophy?
This will be a different Winter Olympic Games for me to watch because I personally know some people who will be participating.
First off, there is U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney, who is from Andover, Minnesota. She is one of three goalies on the U.S. squad. I have interviewed her a couple of times in the last few months and even recorded a podcast with her.
Following one of our conservations, Maddie mentioned how she remembered going to the Carroll Goalie School when she was younger. That was cool to hear.
The head coach for Team USA is former University of Minnesota goalie Robb Stauber, who owns a goalie training center in Edina. We are both in the goalie development business and have been on the ice together at the same goalie camp.
Another player I know is Marissa Brandt. She played for the Gustavus Adolphus College women’s hockey team from 2011-2015. That’s the team I am the goalie coach for. Marissa played both forward and defense for the Gusties. She is a member of the Korean Olympic hockey team.
Her sister Hannah is a member of the U.S. Women’s Olympic team. The former Gopher star would often come down to St. Peter watch her sister play and would join her Marissa and their parents at our end of the year banquets.
I also know is Noora Raty, the former University of Minnesota stand-out who is the starting goalie for Finland Olympic team. Raty and I have been on the ice together at the same goalie camp.
Another person I know that’s connected to the Winter Games is goalie coach Rebecca Baker. She used to coach at Bethel University and now is the goalie coach for the Korean Olympic team. Baker and I have been on the ice together at the same goalie camp.
For the first time since 1998, when women’s hockey became an Olympic sport, there’s a goalie from Minnesota on Team USA.
Her name is Maddie Rooney who grew up playing hockey in Andover. She was officially named to the U.S. Olympic team on Jan. 1.
“I’m excited and honored to be on this team and to be playing with this amazing group of women,” Rooney said recently. “I’m really looking forward to this experience.”
At 20 years old, Rooney is the youngest player on the U.S. roster. “I always watched the Olympics growing up and I always had a dream to play on this team,” said Rooney.
Even though she participated in several USA Hockey Development Camps and was on the U.S. National team in 2017, Rooney didn’t think she would have an opportunity to play in the Olympics until after she finished her career at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
“It didn’t really cross my mind that I would have a chance until last winter when I made the winter camp for the Nationals,” Rooney said. “Then I made the World’s roster and everything happened fast.”
And a few short months later, she was one of three goalies selected to represent the U.S. at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. And she can hardly wait.
Her teammates who have competed in previous Winter Games are helping her get a sense of what the experience of playing on the Olympic stage will be all about.
“Having those conversations and hearing all their excitement has really got me excited,” Rooney said.
Team USA plays their first game in the preliminary round of the Olympics on Sunday, Feb. 11 against Finland, after that they take on the Olympic Athletes from Russia, Feb. 13; and Canada Feb. 15. Then it’s on to the quarterfinals, and then perhaps, a much-anticipated medal round showdown with Canada.
“Whenever the U.S. plays Canada you can expect each team to bring their best,” Rooney said. “We bring out the best in each other, everyone plays 100 percent, very physical, intense environment game.”
Rooney started playing hockey when she was five and switched to being a goalie during her second year of squirts after finally convincing her dad to let her put the pads on.
“I begged him for two years,” Rooney recalled with a chuckle. “He would shoot on me out on the driveway in my street hockey goalie pads and he never thought I was good enough to play. We always laugh about that now.”
After making the switch to full-time goalie, Rooney played boys hockey through bantams. She then joined the Andover High School girls’ team for two seasons where she led her team to its first state tournament appearance. Rooney decided to finish her prep career with the Huskies boys’ team.
“I made the decision after I already committed to Duluth,” Rooney said. “Just wanted the ultimate challenge and I knew guys high school hockey would give me that.”
And it was also one last chance to be on a team with the guys she played with during his youth hockey days.
“It was basically the same team,” she said. “So that was really cool. I was pretty close with all those guys, they challenged my to be better every day, and I thought I really developed that year.”
And she continues to improve her game by working hard every day in practice to become a better goaltender.
“I like how you are in on every play, the competiveness of it,” she said. “I also like how you can steal a game. I like having that pressure on me. I feel like it’s a good motivator to have.”
And you know Rooney will be ready to go when the puck drops at the Olympic Games.
NOTE: Maddie told me after a recent conversation how she remembered going to the Carroll Goalie School in her early days as a goaltender.
Here is a link to an article I wrote about coaching today’s goalies. It’s designed to help coaches understand how to help the kids who play the most important position on the team. Because too often, youth hockey coaches forget about their goalies and hope they somehow magically improve through the season.
Just posted my latest episode of Ice Insights, a podcast I have been recording periodically for the past couple of years. During the podcasts, I talk about goaltending and other hockey topics with people involved in all aspects of the game.
This episode, I visit with goaltender Hunter Miska, a Stacy, Minnesota native who is in his first year of professional hockey. Hunter was the recipient of the 2015-16 USA Hockey Dave Peterson Goalie of the Year Award, which is presented annually to a top U.S. goaltender at the international, professional, collegiate or junior level.
After five years of Jr. hockey, Hunter played one season at the University of Minnesota Duluth where he led the Bulldogs to the 2017 NCAA National Championship game, where they lost a 3-2 heartbreaker to Denver.
Hunter discusss how his game has changed since turning pro and what it was like when he got called up the the NHL earlier this season. He also talks about his dad who is well-known for designing and painting goalie helmets.