College hockey: Familial ties will be secondary in UMD-Omaha series

If Willie Corrin scores his first collegiate goal this weekend against Nebraska-Omaha, the Minnesota Duluth sophomore defenseman may have a special present to give Mavericks coach Dean Blais.

Dean Blais

If Willie Corrin scores his first collegiate goal this weekend against Nebraska-Omaha, the Minnesota Duluth sophomore defenseman may have a special present to give Mavericks coach Dean Blais.

"He said if I ever scored, he would go out on the ice and pick the puck out of the net," Corrin said Tuesday. "But I'm pretty sure he'd get kicked out, so I figured if I ever score against him, I'll throw the puck over the boards and have him sign it."

Blais is Corrin's uncle and both hail from International Falls. But the familial connection will be secondary this weekend as the fourth-place Bulldogs (15-13-4 overall, 10-10-2-2 NCHC) and third-place Mavericks (15-15-2, 12-8-2-1) tangle in a National Collegiate Hockey Conference

regular-season finale Friday and Saturday at Amsoil Arena.

Corrin and UMD had the edge in the last meeting last season and the first meeting this season, sweeping two games each time. That dominance fits in well with the good-natured ribbing Corrin usually gives his uncle, joking with him that the Mavericks are due to collapse at any time.


One might think with such a good rapport, Corrin would have signed on when Blais became the first coach to offer him a scholarship as an International Falls senior.

"He knew before he even offered that I would never play for him because I wanted to make it on my own," Corrin said. "That was my mindset and he understood and respected that. I had a cousin (Rusty Blais) play for him and he said it was the worst experience of his life. He said, 'He was harder on me because I'm family.'

"I knew the path was not to go with him. UMD came along and here I am."

Blais wasn't surprised.

"He knows me too well," the coach said with a laugh.

Blais, a former North Dakota coach who maintains a home on Rainy Lake in International Falls, said he knew early on that the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Corrin was talented enough to play at the Division I level.

"I saw him grow up and followed him at International Falls and Fargo (of the United States Hockey League)," Blais said. "I knew he had pretty good size, really good hands and a passion for the game."

Corrin has seven assists in 21 games this season, but is still looking for that initial goal. Perhaps it will finally come at his uncle's expense.


Harrington to speak at

UMD's Dinner of Champions

When John "Bah" Harrington watched the United States men play Finland in the recent Winter Olympics bronze-medal game, thoughts flooded back to a time 34 years earlier when the Americans and Finns played an even more important game.

The UMD alumnus was a member of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team that shocked the Soviets at Lake Placid, N.Y., and two days later beat Finland to win the gold medal.

"We knew we had to win that game if we wanted to win the gold," he said about playing Finland shortly after pulling what is generally acclaimed as the biggest upset in sports history.

This year's Team USA came under criticism for its lackluster performance in a 5-0 loss to Finland, which left them without a medal.

"It was really discouraging that they didn't win the bronze," Harrington, now a scout for the Colorado Avalanche, said Tuesday from his home in Brooklyn Park, Minn. "I know it's easy to say that they should have played harder or been more important to them, but they should have been able to get themselves up to win a medal."

Harrington likely will reminisce about his own Olympic experiences when he is the featured speaker at UMD's Dinner with Champions event April 30 at the DECC's Lake Superior Ballroom.


Not a day went by during the Olympics when Harrington wasn't reminded about the 1980 team. Unlike teammate Bob Suter, who commented he hoped the U.S. and his son, Ryan of the Minnesota Wild, would win gold in Sochi, Russia, so people would stop asking him about those days, Harrington has no such qualms.

"I don't get tired of it," he said. "I don't advertise myself as being a member of the team or lead with that in conversation, but if someone has questions I certainly don't mind talking about it.

"I'm proud and consider myself really lucky and fortunate to have been a part of that team."

Harrington, a Virginia native who originally committed to the Air Force Academy, walked-on to UMD in 1975 to play on Gus Hendrickson's first team. He scored his first collegiate goal in overtime against the 1976 U.S. Olympic team.

"I don't know if that was an omen or a portent of things to come, but it's strange looking back on that," he recalled. "Everybody in Duluth thought I was good after I did that, so I rode that through my freshman year."

Harrington and Duluth East graduate Phil Verchota were the lone holdovers from the 1980 team to play in the next Olympics as well. The U.S. failed to medal that year.

"The difference between 1980 and 1984 was really interesting," he said. "In 1980, we'd be in and out of college towns or playing minor-league teams and nobody would even know we had played. In 1984, it was like a constant circus when you came into towns."

Harrington went on to play professionally in the American Hockey League, the Central Hockey League and later in Switzerland. He served as an assistant coach at Denver University (1984-90) and St. Cloud State (1990-93) before beginning a 15-year stint as head coach of St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. The 2001 UMD Athletic Hall of Fame inductee then coached overseas, including the Slovenian national team for three years.


  • UMD will announce its Outstanding Senior Athlete Award and E.L. "Duce" Ramussen (top senior scholar-athlete) Award winners for 2013-14 at the fourth annual event. This year's recipient of the Shjon Podein Community Service Award and Chancellor's Cup (for the UMD team possessing the best grade-point average) also will be handed out.
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