Myers: Key goal on Saturday came from unlikely, well-traveled source
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MINNEAPOLIS - For some kids, "military school" is a threat parents use to snap them into line. For Tom Serratore, going to a military school would've meant more time with his parents.
Instead, Serratore has returned to his family's roots in Minnesota, and scored the Gophers' most important goal of the weekend on Saturday. Taking a pass from Erik Haula as he charged into the Wisconsin zone, Serratore used a Badgers defenseman as a screen and ripped a knee-shot into the back of the net, as the Gophers salvaged three of four points on the weekend, winning 3-1.
The son of Air Force hockey coach Frank Serratore, Tom lists Colorado Springs as his hometown, but has Minnesota deep in his blood. His uncle, and namesake, coaches Bemidji State. His father played for the Beavers, and coached the minor league Minnesota Moose - St. Paul's post-North Stars, pre-Wild pro hockey team. Dad is from Coleraine. Mom is from St. Paul.
Still, all things being equal, Tom would've joined his younger sister (a senior there) and father at the Air Force Academy - five year commitment to the military and all - if he had produced the grades to meet the military school's ultra-high admission standards.
Instead, he emulated his father's nomadic hockey life to get back to Minnesota. Tom was born in Omaha, and lived in Denver, the Twin Cities, Winnipeg and Colorado Springs. After high school, he played three seasons in the USHL - two in Sioux City, Iowa, and one in Youngstown, Pa. - before making his way to Dinkytown.
Serratore is not a goal scorer. His game-winner on Saturday was just the seventh goal he's scored in two-plus seasons of college hockey. He's a physical player. But with the Badgers playing frustrating defense and the Gophers struggling to find their offensive mojo, they were happy to take a goal of any kind, from anyone.
"I was just fortunate enough to get around the guy and throw it on net and it went in," Serratore said, in a shy, 'aw-shucks' style of one not used to being in the spotlight. "That's pretty much it."
The more important sign for the Gophers, who are now 7-2-2, was finding some of the "secondary scoring" that coach Don Lucia had so desperately sought. Usual suspects like Nick Bjugstad and Haula also scored, but it was the offense from an unexpected source that made the difference.
"He had one goal on the year, and he scored. That's a big goal," Lucia said of Serratore. "I kind of said that before the game with the coaches that we needed someone who doesn't score all the time to score a goal."
Beyond that, there was the typical frustration brought about when facing the stifling defense for which Mike Eaves' Wisconsin teams are so well known. It's a system that requires physical play and extra hard work to overcome. Those traits, not goals, are what Serratore usually brings to the Gophers lineup. On this night, he brought everything.
"You watch him the whole game, he's a tough player, he's gritty and he does all the little things right," Bjugstad said. "Eventually it's going to pay off."
In other words, nobody needed to threaten Serratore with a stint in military school to get him to produce.