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Former Bismarck goalie Hunter Shepard (39) is one of seven former Bobcats on teams that are in the NCAA college hockey tournament.

Coaching has its rewards, the most obvious of which register with financial institutions and sports statisticians.

 Bismarck Bobcats general manager and coach Layne Sedevie says some of the greatest rewards can't be quantified, however.

 Sedevie says the ability to make a real, positive impact on a player's life ranks right up there with the top rewards in coaching.

 "When you get a text message thanking you for everything you've done ... it makes all the wins, losses and championships irrelevant compared to the knowledge that you've done something for somebody and helped them achieve their goals," Sedevie said.

 For that reason alone, Sedevie's focus will be on the outcome of the NCAA hockey playoffs in the coming fortnight. The 16 surviving Division I teams include seven former Bobcats.

The seven include three -- forward Evan Giesler, defenseman Joe Tyran and goalie Will Ulrich -- at Air Force.  Forward Jared Spooner and goalie Aaron Nelson are with Minnesota State-Mankato. Goalie Hunter Shepard plays for Minnesota-Duluth, and forward Jared Resseguie is at Denver University.

 The greatest Bobcat influence will be exerted at the West Regional at Sioux Falls, S.D., where Air Force, Mankato, UMD and St.Cloud State will vie for a spot in the Frozen Four.

 Air Force, 22-14-5, faces St. Cloud State, 25-8-6, in the first semifinal at 4 p.m. Friday. Mankato, 29-9-1, and Duluth, 21-16-3 will tangle in the other semifinal at 7:30. The regional championship game is scheduled for 9 p.m. on Saturday.

 Denver, 22-9-8, will play in the Midwest Regional at Allentown, Pa. The Pioneers face Penn State, 18-14-5, in a 7 p.m. semifinal on Saturday.

 Giesler, a junior, has 11 goals and 11 assists in 40 games for Air Force. Tyran, a sophomore, has registered two goals and one assist in 21 games for the Falcons. Ulrich is a redshirt freshman.

Spooner, a freshman, has tallied four goals and 15 assists for Mankato. Nelson, a senior, has no decisions as a goaltender.

 Shepard, a sophomore, has been an iron man in the net for Minnesota-Duluth, going 21-14-1 in the Bulldogs' 40 games. He has a 1.98 goals-against average to go with a .924 save percentage.

 Resseguie, who left the Bobcats on Dec. 20 of this season to enroll at Denver, is a redshirt freshman.

 It's no coincidence that three of the seven former Bobcat players at NCAA-I playoff schools are goalies.

 "We've had a pretty good run of goaltenders. ... Our last 13 goaltenders have gone Division I. ... We've had years where we've had multiple goalies go Division I," said Sedevie, himself a standout high school, junior and college netminder. "A lot of the credit for that goes to the scouts."

 Sedevie believes hockey goalies play a position that is almost unique in all of sports.

 "It's a position I played, and it's a position I understand. ... There's a lot of value in having a goalie coach the whole year at junior hockey. ... It's tough mentally. The position is so unique. It's a very hands-on position, and it's something I feel very comfortable with working with those guys. ... It's nice to have (assistant Bobcats coach Garrett Roth) to help out with the forwards, which gives me that freedom."

 Sedevie said the thrust of the North American Hockey League has been to develop players who can move on to benefit college hockey programs. He subscribes to that philosophy without hesitation.

 "That 100 percent is what we do," he observed. "... The No. 1 thing we obviously do is give kids an opportunity. When they get the opportunity, it's what they do with it, even if it's at Division III."

 When players go on to high-profile hockey schools and achieve like Shepard and, before him, Ryan Faragher at St. Cloud State, the Bobcats gain credibility, both with players and colleges.

 "At the end of the day, that's probably our biggest recruiting tool. Look at what Ryan Faragher has done. ... He's one step down from the NHL right now," Sedevie noted.

 The Bobcats have sent multiple players to Air Force, American International University and Northern Michigan. Sedevie said Air Force has always been willing to hear him out.

 "We've had a really good relationship with them and with sending players there. ... They've been really good to us. (Head coach Frank Serratore) is awesome and his whole staff has been great to us," Sedevie said.

 "(American International) is another program where trust has been built up over the years ... or they really like our players," Sedevie continued. "I think they trust us now. ... Players have to go there and have success, and they've been able to do that. It takes a long time to build that rapport as a junior hockey coach."

 To have the Bobcats so well represented in the Division I playoffs flied in the face of the odds, according to Sedevie.

 "It's crazy when you think about it. Less than one percent of hockey players in the world play Division I," he observed.

"These young men were great players for us," he added. "... it's what you do with the opportunity once you get it."

 Sedevie said the 16 teams remaining have the opportunity to achieve something that most players won't attain in a lifetime.

 "Having a championship at that level is not the Stanley Cup," he mused. "But it's close."


Sports Reporter