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NCAA PRO-file with Scott Clemmensen

by Bob Snow
When Boston College heads to the 2010 Frozen Four for the ninth time in 13 seasons on April 8, Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen will be an interested fan.

Clemmensen led the Eagles to the first Frozen Four, beginning in 1998, and capped a stellar career by winning the national championship in 2001. It's been nine years since the Eagles' historic 3-2 overtime win against North Dakota in nearby Providence, R.I. A few weeks later, a pensive Clemmensen deliberated a future of unknowns after becoming one of the best-known goaltenders in NCAA history.  

"I'm sitting there my senior year, weeks from graduation, in a finance class," Clemmensen said after a recent Panthers practice, and with his alma mater having locked up that ninth invitation to postseason play. "The professor says, 'So in a couple of months from now when you are working for your company in your cubicle finding the equation for whatever, you can tell them this is the equation.'

"I'm thinking, 'Wow, I have to sit in a cubicle with a desk and crunch numbers all day. Maybe that's the case down the road, but hopefully I can prolong that as long as possible. Maybe I can play professionally for a couple years and put that off.'"

Since 1997, Clemmensen's office continues to be a 24 square-foot cubicle. And while he does spend more time sitting in a backup role -- first with Martin Brodeur in New Jersey, now with Tomas Vokoun in Florida -- there is no doubt about how tall he stood for the Boston College Eagles from 1997-2001. Or the simple numbers associated with a simple equation for the success of his 13-year run in the NCAA and NHL.

"You need to understand the role you're put in," said Clemmensen, who holds many BC and NCAA records, as well as the distinction of the most wins in a season by a Devils goalie not named Brodeur, when he went 25-13-1 last season.
Clemmensen was awarded the New Jersey Devils' Unsung Hero Award last season by his teammates for that performance.

BC coach Jerry York and Penguins defenseman Brook Orpik offer a lot about the Iowa native's personality and unsung roles at BC.

"Scott was a great character guy around the locker room from freshman to senior year," said York who seeks a fourth overall title in this year's Frozen Four. "What he brought to the team was what a lot of people don't see -- a lot of support and stability that all teams need when they look back at their goaltender. He achieved an awful lot of outstanding things at Boston College."

The most outstanding being the 2001 defeat of North Dakota after losing the 2000 title game -- also against UND -- 4-2. It was BC's second title, but first since 1949.

Orpik played in both of BC's title games, along with Brian Gionta, Bobby Allen, Rob Scuderi and Chuck Kobasew, who assisted on Krys Kolanos' game-winner in 2001.

"His biggest attribute is he's a real humble guy," Orpik said of Clemmensen. "He's exactly the same off the ice as on. He's about as low-key as it gets. Nothing rattles him. As a goalie, that's huge. I think he likes to fly under the radar."

Clemmensen came to Boston from Iowa in the fall of 1997 -- the first native of that state to eventually play in the NHL. With Marty Reasoner and Mike Mottau leading the way, and a recruiting class led by Gionta and Allen, "under the radar" was a perfect fit for Clemmensen.

"I joined BC early in the recruiting process," he said. "The USCHL team I played for was a feeder league into the U.S. college system. To me, BC was a total package. The No. 1 thing is the starting job was up for grabs right away. BC was up and coming with all their blue-chip recruits."

Clemmensen grabbed the starting job right away, and along with those blue-chippers, the Eagles established one of a few consistent total-package powerhouses in Division 1 through today.

Clemmensen's four-year run included 99 wins. One loss, however, stings the most.

"The biggest win was the (2001) championship game," he said. "Not my best game, but obviously the biggest. The one that eats at me the most would be my freshman year in Boston. If we won that (1998 championship) game, that means that everyone I played with at BC would have won a national title by our senior year. That would be pretty neat to say."

The Eagles lost that game, 3-2 in overtime, to a Michigan team led by Marty Turco.

Ask Clemmensen to summarize his NCAA and NHL runs, and the commentary is filled with humility -- and delivered with deference. 

"I didn't have to be great for us to win. The BC teams were so good. Brian Gionta was our best player hands down -- our MVP pretty much every season. My class was eight of us, and we all graduated on time. Those guys are among my best friends to this day.

"Honestly, I did not have an NHL expectation even when I was drafted (No. 215 by New Jersey in 1997)," said Clemmensen. "I never dreamed that until maybe my senior year of college. The catch-22 was I learned so much from Marty, but also was not going to play much. The jump back and forth in the minors allowed me to develop more and be prepared to play in the NHL. The biggest things I learned from him were his philosophies about why he did things, why you want to turn your feet a certain way or hold your stick with your hands this way. How you moved around the crease. I didn't learn how to stop the puck from him -- everybody has their own style of that. And nobody does that better than him in reading shots. He is in his own league.

"It's difficult not playing, but love being a part of this Florida team (Clemmensen signed with the Panthers this past summer.) You support them no matter what. I'm a big fan of Tomas Vokoun, he's playing great. It's not my personality to pout or complain or be a distraction. It's all about being ready and your mental state. The quickest way to having a job you like is to take pride in what you do no matter what it is."

What is Clemmensen's next cubicle when his called-upon duties in the 24 square feet are over?

"It will be something in the business field," he said. "Hopefully something in the Saratoga (N.Y.) area in marketing the horse racing at the track that's big there. I'll probably stay away from the hockey field. It's just tough on you and your family moving around all the time. Each day that goes by, that cubicle comes closer and closer."

What is Clemmensen's equation for NHL longevity?

"Being in the NHL, you're expected to be a finished product, regardless of position. If you're not playing a lot and are older, you do have that experience to go lengths of time, and it's easier to play well when you get the opportunity. Your game is pretty much established and set."

"He's quietly accomplished almost an eight to 10-year NHL career," said York. "There is no reason why it can't be 12-14 years."

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