Junior Dan Bertram has become one of the leaders on his Boston College team this season, often making contributions that are crucial to the team’s success that come with little fanfare. Earlier this year, he helped guide Canada to their second consecutive gold medal at the 2007 WJC in Sweden and hopes to add a National Championship trophy to it on Saturday.
Dan Bertram spoke with Hockey’s Future after practice on Wednesday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
HF: How does it feel to be here again?
DB: It’s pretty exciting. I think that we’re all a little more excited just because we know what to expect and what kind of tournament this is. We’ve come here with one goal in mind and hopefully we’ll succeed in getting that.
HF: Do you feel that you guys have some unfinished business to take care of after going down to Wisconsin last year and that perhaps this might be the year?
DB: You know, I think every year we hope it to be the year. We know that there are four teams here and one team is going to win it. We’d really like that to be us. We’re just going to go out, play our game and hopefully get a good result.
HF: Of course you guys get North Dakota again this year. What is the mindset of the team going into the game on Thursday knowing that they’re going to be looking for some payback since you guys had beaten them last year?
DB: We know that they have a great team over there and they’re well coached. They’ve got the offensive talent and the defensive talent. For us, it’s just about playing our kind of hockey game. It’s been successful for us in the last little run here and carried us into this tournament and hopefully it’ll get us a win on Thursday.
HF: You’re going to be playing against one of your Team Canada teammates in Jon Toews on Thursday. What is that going to be like for you?
DB: Oh, I have nothing but respect for Jon. I lived with him for about a month and a half there and he’s a good friend of mine but with that we’re both going out to try and win a hockey game. I know that we’ll be friends before the game and after the game but during the game will be competing for sure.
HF: Do you think that maybe your line will be going up against his line?
DB: At this point I’m not really sure Coach (York) hasn’t sat us down with anyone. We know that Greenie’s (Matt Greene) line has been playing very well and have been shutting down the other teams’ top lines. I think they’ll go with that match-up at first and that’ll kind of allow my line and the Gerbe-Bradford line to get a little more penetration and some scoring chances. But at the end of the day you never know how the game works out, so I’m sure that I’ll get matched up with him a few times.
HF: This year you’ve been playing with Rooney and Ferriero, and the three of you just play so well together. What do you feel have been some of the keys to the line’s success?
DB: We’re lucky now because we’ve got a bit of everything. We’ve got Rooney there that’s just a high-flying player who is probably the best skater on our team. With Ferriero there, he’s the guy that can do everything. He can score goals, kill penalties and can get you the puck. I just try and keep up with the two (laughs) and they’ve helped me out a lot. At the end of the day, I think that it has been good for our team because things have balanced out. We’ve had Gerbe, Bradford and Smitty (Ben Smith) who have jumped in there and played very well. Then there’s our line. Greenie’s line has been very good shutting down the other teams’ top lines and then there’s (Andrew) Orpik’s line with (Matt) Lombardi. They’ve been playing unbelievably. We got two goals out of them last weekend. We’re firing on all cylinders right now and hopefully we can keep it up.
HF: Well you guys come in as the hottest team in the country with a 12-game winning streak. There were people who were saying that you guys were out of it early. Yet, you’re playing your best hockey right now. So do you feel that you have sort of silenced your critics as far as showing up and playing at your best right now?
DB: You know if you look at the last five years, there are very similar teams who always make it into the Frozen Four. They’ll have their doubters at the beginning of the year because it’s a process. You’re not going to come out and play your best hockey in the first game. I guarantee you if you do, you won’t make it too far. It’s a gradual building process. When you look at programs like BC and even North Dakota, there were critics who were saying the same thing about them. They have the talent there too. It’s just a matter of finding the right chemistry. We’ve found it and North Dakota has found it too. It’s nice to be on kind of a roll right now and it’s the best time to be playing your best hockey. We can’t say enough about that.
HF: This year you’ve been playing at center and I know that you played on right wing last year. How has the adjustment been for you?
DB: I like it either way, whether it’s at right wing or at center. Ferriero plays at center too and we kind of talked about it. I think he’s been playing real well on the wing. It just kind of gives us a little more dimension and speed on the outside. I like taking faceoffs too. Trying to win some faceoffs is something that’s been a big key for us. I’ve been working on that a lot so I think that’s why coach (York) threw me in the middle there.
HF: In playing with Joe and Benn, it just seems like you have three very distinct styles that just compliment one another. Do you feel that perhaps you’re kind of the ‘role player’ on the line?
DB: No, I wouldn’t say that. We’re a line where everyone has their roles. If my job is to muck it up a little bit and win some battles and get to the net, then I’m willing to do that. I think that’s just kind of the style of game that you play. I think our coaches do a good job of putting the right players together. As a line, we want to be high energy but we also want to be a scoring line. We’re not out there looking to check the other teams’ lines. We want to be the line that’s initiating the play and controlling the puck for sure.
HF: In the games that I’ve watched you play, you don’t have a problem with taking the body and getting physical. Do you feel that one of your roles on your line this year is being the one that helps create or open up space for other two guys?
DB: Oh, for sure. I take pride in that. Even though the stats don’t always show it, as a line we all have our own roles. My role is to open some space up and let those guys, especially Ferriero, to get in there and score and allow Rooney to get his wheels moving. I would definitely say that for sure. I know that it’s part of the game and I don’t mind a bit having to do that one bit.
HF: You guys lost Collins, Gionta and Harrold after last season, how has that impacted your role on the team, especially coming into the Frozen Four?
DB: Well, Gionta and Collins were a part of our top line last year, so that hurt us a lot. But I think we found that we have a little more depth coming into this year. I think guys have stepped up and have started to play to their potential. I think when you look at us we’re a deeper team this year. I know that we relied a lot on Collins’ line to score last year and that effected us in that way but I think coming into this year we’re as confident as we were last year, maybe even a little more confident. We lost (Peter) Harrold, who was our captain last year but (Brian) Boyle stepped in and now he’s on defense.
HF: In addition to your depth, you also seem to have variety and that ability to be able to adapt to just about any type of situation.
DB: Yeah. I think teams have been trying to get physical with us and then they realize that we like playing the body too and that we don’t shy away from the corners by any means. Other teams try and skate with us, but we’re a pretty good skating team too. It’s nice that we have the diversity there that we can switch our game up when it needs to be. We have a lot of different guys who play a lot of different roles and that has helped us a ton.
HF: What areas of your game do you personally feel that you’ve improved the most this year?
DB: I guess just being a good two-way player. Every year I want to be the guy who can score goals. Don’t get me wrong, it’d be nice to do if I can do it every night all year long but if your team is winning, you try and succeed in other ways, like killing penalties and setting up your linemates. Being able to find other ways to help the team win is something that I feel that I’ve improved on and some of those ways may not always end up on the scoresheet.
HF: The Blackhawks are obviously keeping tabs on you. Have you spoken with the ‘Hawks this year?
DB: Oh yes. I talk to them from time to time but they’re good about giving me some space as far as understanding that I’m a busy college guy. When I go out to their prospects camp in the summer, that’s the time when they’re talking to me. Then after that they just send me on my way, tell me to have a great year and that they’d keep in touch.
HF: So you were at their prospects camp last summer?
DB: Yes. I saw guys like (Chris) Porter and (Jon) Toews there too.
HF: How was it different last summer compared to the previous summer?
DB: It’s been a pretty competitive camp both summers. You practice in the morning and scrimmage in the afternoon. Guys who go there are working hard. You get a chance to see the level of play and what it takes to be a pro. It’s a very intense camp for sure. You go there and show them your stuff.
HF: Are you planning on attending again this summer?
DB: If they invite me, I plan to go (laughs). We’ll see what happens.
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