a year in college hockey purgatory, goaltender Bobby Goepfert
resurfaces at St. Cloud State
Goepfert was never meant to be a footnote. Not after claiming
back-to-back USHL Goaltender of the Year awards and certainly
not after carrying Team USA to respectability at the 2003
World Junior Championship. Yet, as a new season begins, Goepfert
is very much a footnote to the WCHA’s prodigious crop
of newcomers after being derailed on the track to stardom
at Providence College two seasons ago.
Now at St. Cloud
State, Goepfert is hoping to become a headliner again after
a bewildering departure from Hockey East and one very long
season without game competition in the Midwest.
kind of an unknown,” said SCSU head coach Bob Motzko.
“But you can see he’s a pretty darn good goalie.”
His former opponents
agree. Ryan Geris, a former Minnesota Duluth standout, ranked
him among the best he’s ever encountered.
against him several times when I was with Sioux City and I
skated with him in the 2002 All-Star Game, so I saw my fair
share of what he can do,” said Geris. “He was
the best goalie I ever faced in the USHL.”
Posting a better
save percentage (.937) than Marc-Andre Fleury and Kari Lehtonen
at the aforementioned World Junior Championship only elevated
Goepfert’s status. But, at Providence, he was struggling
off the ice.
“I was really
rattled,” he said. “I couldn’t put a finger
on what it was. I’d find myself sitting in my dorm room
questioning whether that was where I really wanted to be.”
York native, Goepfert only made one official visit prior to
choosing Providence. It seemed right at the time. The Friars’
coaching staff was the first to contact him and they called
often. He believed in them. In retrospect, he wouldn’t
call that belief a mistake but he regrets not taking more
time – and more visits elsewhere – before making
to my mother. They talked to my girlfriend at the time. It
really made me feel like they cared and that they were concerned
about what was best for me,” he said.
things began to sour. He slumped emotionally and began skipping
class. His 1090 SAT score couldn’t carry him through
missed study sessions and the Friar coaches were losing patience.
5-10 • 170
Kings Park, N.Y.
Selected by Pittsburgh in Round 6 of the 2002 NHL
USHL Player of the Year and Goalie of the Year
was just a situation where one thing led to another,”
said Goepfert. “I wasn’t happy on the ice, then
it leads to your schoolwork and then your social life and
all of the sudden it becomes this big mess – like this
big ball of Christmas lights and you don’t know where
to start to unravel it.”
The situation turned
dramatically worse when Goepfert was accused of plagiarism
late in his sophomore year.
story really hasn’t changed,” he said. “If
you take the sense of the word plagiarism and what it actually
is, you know, I did it. But did I do it intentionally? No.
I didn’t go in there writing that paper saying, ‘I’m
going to take this guy’s work and pass it off as my
“If you look
at the paper, it was like 14 pages and maybe four or five
were excerpts from other things that I thought made my paper
a better piece. I didn’t have a bibliography. I made
a mistake there. But do you think I tried passing off all
these facts like I knew them? It’s like, yeah, I did
some research in Mexico on immigrants and I called the Mexican
capital and got all these numbers. It’s obvious it wasn’t
me. And then I sent it via e-mail because I needed an extension.
I said in the e-mail, ‘If you need anything else, please
let me know. I’m back at home now and I’ll be
glad to get you anything else you need.’
later I wake up, and get an e-mail that said, ‘Dear
Bobby, this is clearly plagiarism. I told you how serious
of an offense plagiarism is.’ All of a sudden my cell
phone rings and it’s Coach (Paul) Pooley telling me
I’m gone. I was trying to explain it to him. It was
such a terrible day – a terrible day on a mistake that
wasn’t made with bad intentions.”
of his intentions, he was no longer welcome as a member of
the Friar hockey program. But what came next was even more
was a legal thing, an NCAA rule, that stated they could release
me to where ever they want,” he said. “I had to
submit a list of schools and they got to approve them. I got
called back and was told that the athletic department would
let me go anywhere but Hockey East. They told me that I had
the right to appeal, so I appealed, but the committee ruled
for them. I guess there’s some kind of rule that states,
by signing the piece of paper that said I was going there,
they own me and they can tell me to where I can and can’t
transfer. How can you mess with my life just because I might
play you three times a year? The way they made me out to be
there, it was like I was this terrible person. That was frustrating.
I felt like I was the scapegoat. I’m not a dumb jock.
It was an innocent mistake.”
Pooley, now an
assistant coach at Notre Dame called the athletic department’s
decision a fairly standard one, noting that the situation
arose more frequently in football and basketball.
in the department was involved,” he said. “Now,
the big thing from our perspective is that we wish him nothing
in his first season at St. Cloud State, Bobby Goepfert
has played on the Huskies' home rink before – he
visited the National Hockey Center with Providence in
options near his family, Goepfert turned to the Midwest in
search of a second chance. St. Cloud State proved to be the
best fit so he packed his bags and his wallet. A full year
of school without the rush of game action, and the accompanying
tuition bill, was his penance.
matured so much over the last year, having to deal with all
this,” said Goepfert. “And I think a lot of guys
probably have to go through something like that to change
their ways a bit. As tough as it was, I think it was one of
the best things for me as a hockey player and as a person.”
No one was more
excited for the academic calendar to turn. Now Goepfert is
back in contention for a starting job with the Huskies and
loving every minute of life as a college hockey player.
“A lot of
what happened at Providence was the result of me not being
happy. It snowballed. It’s such a nice fit here at St.
Cloud. I feel so fortunate to have had options and to have
received a second chance at a Division I program. I can’t
thank (former head coach) Craig Dahl, (assistant) Freddie
(Harbinson) and all the coaches enough. I want to pay them
back by doing well.”
In the Huskies’
exhibition opener against the University of Alberta, Goepfert
took the first steps toward that payback by turning aside
every shot he faced during his one period of action. His first
regular season playing time in more than a year could come
this weekend when St. Cloud State travels to Northern Michigan,
a trip during which Goepfert expects to feel some jitters.
definitely excited but at the same time, I’m a little
nervous,” he said. “I’ve never gone through
this before and I don’t know a lot of other goalies
that have. I think my skills are still there but the mental
side of game situations – playing with a lead, playing
down – it’s going to be different. I skated in
a four-on-four league down in the Twin Cities over the summer
and it was an hour of sweating in the car because I was so
nervous. But I miss playing, that’s for sure. And I
can’t wait to get into the game. It’s been a while.”
As for the pundits
shoveling dirt over St. Cloud State before the season’s
as a team, we can surprise some people,” said Goepfert.
“All of us saw the polls and none of us feel like we’re
a ninth-place or tenth-place team. We’re all committed
to leaving it all out there and playing for each other. Who
knows? A bounce here, a bounce there, and we could do something.
You never know.”
could make a world of difference. Hot like when Goepfert calmly
stymied opponents during the 2001-02 Clark Cup Playoffs. Motzko
was there, at the time scouting for the University of Minnesota.
“He was unbeatable,”
nothing less than a return to form.