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Howie: Bulldogs improved, happy for Sertie

Legendary Bulldogs men's hockey player and coach Mike Sertich was presented with the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame's Spirit of Life Award during the first intermission of Saturday's UMD-Michigan Tech men's hockey game. Howie /

Takeaways from the emotional Mike Sertich ceremony during the first intermission and the Bulldogs' 2-2 overtime tie against Michigan Tech in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game Saturday at Amsoil Arena:


Legendary Bulldogs men's hockey player and coach Mike Sertich hasn't lost his sense of humor, that's for sure. A longtime personal friend and one-time slow-pitch softball teammate who received the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame's Spirit of Life Award during the first intermission at Saturday's UMD-Michigan Tech men's hockeygame, "Sertie" chuckled when I told his daughter after the emotional on-ice ceremony that her dad should also receive an award for his many years of stellar play as an ultra-elite second baseman in the Duluth Classic Slow Pitch League, dating back to the early 1970's.

"Autograph seekers sought out you dad everywhere he went in the softball circuit, at all the league games and weekend tournaments," I said.

"Howie, you still tell the biggest fish stories," Sertie chimed out, as he put his left arm around my shoulders.

Actually, Sertie was a solid second-sacker, a stocky slugger who hit for a high average and had some good pop in his bar. He was an especially good infielder who with his strong arm could turn a double-play as any player at his position in the Classic League, including Greg Rajanen on our powerful Mr. J's team. Looking back, I estimate that Sertich probably hit nearly .900 against our teams over the years, and we could get him out.

"You always tease me about that. I couldn't field or hit, and you know it," Sertie continued.

Sertie continues to battle stage III pancreatic cancer, as Duluth News Tribune sportswriter Matt Wellens wrote here. I told Sertie as we departed, "Sert, you're one of my few heroes, and you know that I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers."

I cried for my dear friend on my way home post-game.

Now, takeaways from the 'Dog's season opener:

. As expected, the Bulldogs are stronger and deeper at forward than a year ago. They still lack an elite scorer. Ben Steeves, a sophomore forward who had a team-high 21 goals last season, will need to find ways to create more space in the offensive zone as team's seek to limit his scoring chances.

Fifth-year power forward and captain Luke Loheit, who scored his team's first goal against the Huskies, looks determined for his best season offensively. The right winger will continue to be tasked with providing more scoring on the team's top line with junior center Dominic James and fellow fifth-year left wing Quinn Olson. All three veterans were noticable in the opener.

The Bulldogs are strong and quick up the middle, led by James, freshman Matthew Perkins and sophomores Cole Spicer and Jack Smith.

Sophomore Kyle Bettens, a punishingly physical 6-foot-3, 215 pound right-hand shooter, and freshman Carter Loney are workhorse right wingers who are strong 200-foot players.

Fifth-year transfer Connor McMenamin (Penn State) and freshman Anthony Menghini are impact left wingers.

Defense is a concern, where junior Owen Gallatin was paired with freshman Aaron Pionk in the opener. Junior Luke Bast, a transfer from North Dakota, was also paired with sophomore Aiden Dubinsky, and senior Darian Gotz skated with sophomore Riley Bodnarchuk in a bottom-six pairing.

Senior Zach Stejskal and fifth-year Matthew Thiessen are battling for No. 1 goaltender.