At 5 years old, Dan Fridgen already knew he was not destined to be a hockey goalkeeper.
I would always roam from my net. So, the coach put me out on defense and I never played goalie again.
Fridgen, 43, is a goalkeeper of a different sort these days. During the nine seasons hes been Rensselaers head hockey coach, he has served as mentor to some of the best college hockey players in the nation. His mentoring success has carried into the professional ranks, as well. Eleven of his players have been selected in the National Hockey League Entry Draft and nearly 30 former student athletes have gone on to play professionally. Last years team saw seven members head to the pros, including National All-Americans Matt Murley and Marc Cavosie.
As a college coach, having players move forward in their lives, whether it is in athletics or otherwise, is an important accomplishment. But, a mass exodus of talent and experience also has its setbacks, says Fridgen. The Engineers ended the 2002-2003 season with a 10-23-3 record.
We go through this every four years. We develop players who go to the next level and we have new players come in, says Fridgen. Last years strongest players were replaced by mostly freshmen. With this in mind, our best hockey is ahead of us.
Fridgens mentoring success also can be seen off the ice. The team enjoyed tremendous success in the classroom this past fall as 15 of the 26 players qualified for the Deans List (3.0 or better).
Rensselaer named Fridgen as the 10th head coach of the mens hockey program in 1994. Currently, he holds a 159-137-28 (.534) record, including four 20-win seasons. This winter, Fridgen signed a contract to extend his coaching career for three more years.
In his first season at the helm, the Engineers won the ECAC Tournament Championship and earned an NCAA Tournament bid, Rensselaers second since the Engineers captured the national title in 1985. Before becoming head coach, Fridgen spent five years as an assistant coach to head coach Buddy Powers. As the primary recruiter during that time, Fridgen helped build a program that won nearly 100 games, advanced to the ECAC post-season tournament each year, the ECAC semi-finals three times, and the championship game twice.
Fridgen is confident that the team will regain its winning status. You can learn a lot about a team and players when you are winning, but you learn a lot more when you are not. This year has been a true learning experience for everyone in the program.
|Rensselaer Magazine: March 2003|
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