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Jayson Hron: Say goodbye to one of Duluth's finest

This weekend was Mike Sertich's last behind the DECC bench for the Bulldogs, a occasion that encouraged me to take a walk down memory lane.

Sertich, 53, will be leaving UMD's hockey program after 18 years as the team's head coach, a run that included well over 300 wins and four NCAA tournament births. During his tenure he took a program that had finished higher than fifth in the WCHA only once in 17 years to a level of national contention, then national prominence.

The record of Sertich's accomplishments at UMD is a long one. In addition to the previously unprecedented number of victories, Sertich was also named WCHA Coach of the Year four times, and he's the only coach to have that honor bestowed upon him three consecutive times.

It seems hard to believe that only two seasons ago, Sertich and the Bulldogs had slain the giant dragon to the south, Minnesota, in a stunning three game WCHA playoff series. Sertich and his assistants Jim Knapp and Glen Kulyk were victims of their own success in many ways. A playoff triumph over the Gophers would have ensured job security for past UMD hockey coaches, but Sertich's staff had already proven that they could win; beating the Gophers just wasn't enough anymore. The bill came for the last two season's struggles, and, as Sertich said, "You don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

His hope was that he and his staff would be remembered for their great successes on the ice and not for their recent struggles. After three WCHA titles, four NCAA bids, three Hobey Baker Award winners and eight All-Americans, it safe to say that Sertich, Knapp and Kulyk will be remembered as winners.

Sertich, however, wasn't one to blow his own horn, which in the end may have been his undoing at UMD. He refused to sacrifice the direction he believed in or the people he cared about to save his job. He was loyal to his players, coaches, family and friends right to the end, and that will be Sertich's true legacy.

Knapp may have said it best after Tuesday's press conference. He told the story of how "Sertie" offered him the assistant coaching job when Sertich was still UMD's interim head hockey coach.

"A lot of job security there, right," said Knapp. "He came back and told me that he had worked out a three-year contract for me, and he only had a one-year."

"He was concerned about me in the beginning, and he's concerned about me now."

That old Iron Range loyalty was engrained deep in Sertich, and it won't be forgotten by Knapp, Kulyk, myself or anyone else that had the pleasure of working with Sertie over the years.

Jayson Hron is the sports editor for the Budgeteer News. He can be reached by e-mail at jayson.hron@duluth.com or by phone at723-1207.

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