Myers: Mariucci Classic means family reunion for the Serratore clan
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It's a bit of the holiday tradition for the Serratore twins, Gophers junior forward Tom and Augsburg junior forward Tim, to skate with their father's team when they're home in Colorado for the holidays.
But this year's break for Christmas was a little different.
With father Frank's team, the Air Force Academy Falcons, set to face the Gophers on Saturday night in the first game for both teams in this year's Mariucci Classic, the Serratore patriarch ordered a change from tradition for Tom.
"He wanted to skate with our guys over at the academy, and I did make him dress in the visitors' room," Frank said on Thursday after his team's practice at Mariucci. "I said, 'You can skate, but go over there. That's your home over there until Saturday night, my friend.'"
If those seem like harsh words, from a father or a coach, you clearly don't know Frank Serratore.
Renowned for his Bobby Knight-esque temper and his willingness to weave a tapestry of profanity when he's worked up, the elder Serratore is widely known as one of the more entertaining and colorful folks in college hockey.
Even when he doesn't "work blue," Frank's overtly honest and unfiltered assessments of his team are wildly entertaining, as evidenced by the 16,000-plus views his postgame rant after a 5-1 win at Penn State in November has gotten on YouTube.
Upon entering Mariucci on Thursday, with the Falcons practicing, one could hear Frank's booming voice spouting a steady stream of F-bombs, as he admonished a line for being out of place on a particular drill.
Those who have known Frank for years -- from his time as a player at Greenway High School in Coleraine, a player at Bemidji State, an assistant coach at North Dakota and head coaching stints with the junior Omaha Lancers, at the University of Denver, in St. Paul with the minor league Minnesota Moose and now at Air Force -- say that he's finally found a perfect place for his style.
Airmen who are used to drill sergeants barking orders at them seem not at all phased by a coach barking orders on the ice.
"He likes to get after it. That's how he's always been. If you know my dad, you know what he's like," said Tom, who hoped to play at Air Force for his father, but fell short of the academy's academic requirements. The "U" was his Plan B.
Gophers coach Don Lucia didn't visit the Serratore home during the recruiting process but said Frank came along to the "U" on Tom's official visit.
The elder Serratore admits he was "not that hot" on Tom's decision to come to the "U", unsure his son's hard-nosed, workmanlike style would fit in a Gophers lineup dominated by highly-skilled, flashy players that Frank calls "supermodels."
"We recruited Tom because we thought he was an element we needed in our lineup," Lucia said. "He plays the game hard, I think he plays it the right way, and he's obviously starting to score and come into his own. That's why he's been elevated and is getting more ice time."
The junior Serratore, never known primarily as a goal scorer, enters the "family reunion" game as arguably the hottest Gopher in terms of getting pucks over the goal line, having notched five goals in the Gophers' last seven games, including their last three games in a row.
If you haven't seen those goals on many highlight films, that's in keeping with Tom's style, which is to do the dirty work that pays on-ice rewards, such as digging pucks out of the corner, going hard to the front of the net and standing his ground versus hostile opposing defensemen to get the "greasy" goals that often make the difference between winning and losing.
Frank has seen them all and jokes there's no opponent he's scouted more than the Gophers, as he usually spends Sundays reviewing video of Tom's games and watching his son become a fan favorite.
"He works so hard, he cares so much, and you see that in his play," Frank said. "I think the fans in Minnesota appreciate that. He's kind of like the people's player. He's that everyday guy. ... He ain't Mick Jagger in this rock band, but if he's not out there, there's something missing."
One thing that won't be missing on Saturday are fans of the Serratore listed on either team's roster. Tom's mother is from St. Paul, and several family members are flying in from Colorado for the game, including Tom's sister Carly, who is a senior at Air Force.
Frank has coached several games against his brother, also named Tom, the head coach at Bemidji State, but said he's unsure how he'll feel when he see the No. 14 jersey with "SERRATORE" on the back skate by the Air Force bench.
Tom says father and son avoided talking hockey when he was home for Christmas, but he expects that the magnitude of his first -- and likely last -- college game against his father will hit him during warmups.
"You have to separate it, because you have a task at hand," Frank said.
Lately, keeping Tom Serratore off the score sheet is a bigger task than most of the Gophers' opponents can muster.