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Tommies Take Center Stage

Excitement abounds as St. Thomas embarks into uncharted territory

St. Thomas coach Rico Blasi gives instructions to his players on the ice during the Tommies' game against St. Cloud State on Oct. 3, 2021 at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)
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A FRESH START

SAINT PAUL — There’s an age-old adage that says “success breeds success” and, while that may be true, it also has a way of breeding nearly as much contempt. The University of St. Thomas experienced both sides of that coin over the course of several decades of athletic dominance at the Division III level.

But a new era has dawned for St. Thomas, which now faces the reality of playing the role of David in a world of Goliaths at the Division I level beginning with the 2021-22 sports season. With the puck having already dropped on both the Tommies men’s and women’s hockey seasons, it’s a role the school, the players and its fans have already embraced.

Both teams went from the frying pan and into the fire in their respective opening weekends.

The women opened on the road against Ohio State, the NCAA’s current No. 3-ranked team, and were swept by the Buckeyes. The Tommies bounced back the following weekend at home against Bemidji State, winning the second game of the series 2-1 on Luci Bianchi’s third-period goal for its first Division I win and a series split.

The men, meanwhile, faced second-ranked St. Cloud State in a home-and-home series culminating with the Tommies hosting the Huskies at Xcel Energy Center. The Tommies got themselves in penalty trouble in St. Cloud, falling 12-2 thanks in no small part to seven Husky power-play goals. The following night was a different story as St. Thomas played a more disciplined game and hung in there with St. Cloud State before falling by a 2-0 margin in front of 4,261 mostly Tommie fans. 

St. Thomas coach Rico Blasi, who led Miami (Ohio) University to 10 NCAA tournament and two Frozen Four appearances, including one championship game, took note of the fan support and even singled out the student section. 

“I’m super excited for our program, I’m super excited for our university,” Blasi said. “All the people have been working extremely hard for this transition and to have that kind of support is really going to show you what St. Thomas is going to be all about.”

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Minnesota Hockey Magazine Executive Editor Brian Halverson is a former member of the Minnesota Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. His work has been published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Miami Herald, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Hartford Courant, Dallas Morning News and ESPN.com.

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