Fort Erie coach leads U.S. university to title

By Ray Spiteri, Niagara Falls Review

Fort Erie native Matt Desrosiers is a co-head coach of the NCAA Women’s Hockey Division 1 Champion Clarkson University.
(Submitted Photo)

Fort Erie native Matt Desrosiers is a co-head coach of the NCAA Women’s Hockey Division 1 Champion Clarkson University. (Submitted Photo)

Clarkson University’s historic NCAA Women’s Hockey Division 1 National Championship had a distinct Canadian — and Fort Erie — presence.

Nineteen of the 21 players who recently upset Minnesota in the final are from Canada.

And one of the coaches, Matt Desrosiers, is from Fort Erie.

The Garrison Rd. Public and Fort Erie Secondary School graduate, along with his co-head coach wife Shannon, of British Columbia, helped lead the Potsdam, N.Y. private school to a fairy tale victory.

The Golden Knights represent about 3,500 students at a university located in New York State’s Adirondack North Country region, near the Canadian border.

Minnesota was the two-time defending national champions.

With its 5-4 triumph, Clarkson became the first team from outside the western association to win the Frozen Four title.

“It’s a huge deal for Clarkson — for all of the eastern teams in college hockey,” said Desrosiers. “All the previous winners came from the western league. It was history in the making.

“It gives that glimmer of hope that small schools can prevail over the larger schools. Minnesota is a fantastic team, but our girls didn’t look at it as an upset. We only lost one game in our second semester.”

Desrosiers started his coaching career at Clarkson in 2006 as an assistant coach. His wife had been with Clarkson’s Division 1 program since its first season in 2003, serving as an assistant coach for the first five years.

In 2008, the two were promoted to lead the team as co-head coaches. They were the first husband-and-wife coaching tandem in college hockey, according to Clarkson’s website.

Desrosiers was born and raised in Fort Erie and played minor hockey in Niagara, including three years with the junior B Fort Erie Meteors.

“I had great coaches and teammates. We had some good teams,” he said of his hockey-playing days in Niagara.

Desrosiers attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., where he met his wife.

The couple have one child and are expecting a second in June.

Desrosiers was a standout on defence at St. Lawrence. He helped his team reach the Frozen Four as a junior and gained Eastern College Athletic Conference and All-America honours as a senior. He was also named an ECAC Robbins Scholar Athlete of the Year.

He also played professionally for five years after graduating from St. Lawrence in 2001. He played in two East Coast Hockey League all-star games and played two seasons in the Central Hockey League, helping lead the Colorado Eagles to the 2005 President’s Cup Championship.

Desrosiers is strongly involved with recruiting at Clarkson, balancing that with visiting family who still live in Fort Erie and Hamilton.

Clarkson’s reputation helps in recruiting students. It’s a highly-regarded school in the U.S. and its business program is ranked in the top 20, he said.

While Clarkson probably has one of the larger Canadian-based rosters, there are many Canadians scattered across the NCAA hockey circuit, said Desrosiers.

“They pop up on rosters all over the place.”

He said women’s hockey continues to improve and grow in popularity.

“When I first started (coaching), there were maybe one or two kids on the team that stood out. Now you see good, complete lines and solid (defence) pairings and goaltenders.

“There’s more parity with the womens game now.”

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