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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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THE REACTION

From her seat in section 119, University of St. Thomas Director of Public Relations Vineeta Sawkar, could not suppress her smile even if she wanted to as she tried to put into words what the historic night meant to her.

St Thomas goaltender Peter Thome gives St. Cloud State’s Kevin Fitzgerald nothing to shoot at in the Tommies’ 2-0 loss to the Huskies on Oct. 3, 2021 at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

“This is super exciting to see these guys out there playing so hard,” Sawkar said. “It’s a huge jump from D-III to D-I, but we’re so proud of this team and what Rico Blasi is building here at St. Thomas. It’s a tradition, it’s a culture, and it’ll take some time but, boy, it’s great to see these guys playing so hard against the No. 2 team in the country.”

Also in the audience, a few rows behind the Tommie bench, sat former St. Thomas goaltender and long-time hockey analyst for Bally’s Sports North (formerly Fox Sports North), Kevin Gorg, who said it was a proud and exciting moment for him and all St. Thomas alumni.

“I don’t think any of us could have envisioned back in the 90s, or late 80s when we were playing there, that someday they’d be on this big of a stage giving the No. 2 team in the country a game,” Gorg said.

Gorg, the first-ever head coach of the St. Thomas women’s hockey team, led the Tommies to a 143-75-13 (.647) record and two MIAC championships in nine seasons (1998-2007) so he knows a thing or two about getting a program off the ground. He believes Blasi is the perfect hire and says it won’t take him long to build a competitive program, especially if a new arena can be built in fairly short order.

“I don’t think it’s going to be hard for Rico with his credentials, and with this school, to get people interested in St Thomas in this great community,” Gorg said. “So I think that’s going to happen and I’d say in three to four years they’ll be ready to roll.”

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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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