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Bertagna: Pucks, Politics and Cheeseburg Clubs


In an unconventional style, reminiscent of Tony Esposito, Harvard junior Joe Bertagna, leading goalie in the Ivy League, drops to his knees in an attempt to stop a flying puck from going into the net.

"People criticize me because I flop a lot, and when you flop, you leave a lot of area to shoot from above," Bertagna said. "But the trick is to know when to go down. Timing is extremely important," he explained.

"The object is to keep the puck out of the net. The coach keeps saying 'don't fall down.' But any coach, if the puck does not go in, will be happy," Bertagna said.

The coach seems happy enough. "He's having a great year," Billy Cleary said. "A lot of people did not know what to expect, but I'm not really surprised at his outstanding performance. He works hard and has improved in every game," he added.

"I did not know what it was going to be like this year," Bertagna said. "Freshman year we won 20 games. Our team was really strong, so I did not have to make many saves," he said.

Then last year, as backup to goalie Bruce Durno, Bertagna saw little action.

In the Ivy League opener against Penn this season, Bertagna excelled in the nets as he stopped 25 Quaker shots. And thereafter, the Crimson goalie has been excellent, building a 2.44 goals against average in the Ivy League.

A graduate of Arlington High, Bertagna has been playing the position of goalie for a relatively short while. He switched from defenseman in the tenth grade because the school team needed a goalie.

"You do have to be kind of nutty to be the goalie," Bertagna reflected. "When you think about it, I just stand there, and the object is to get hit. Most people move out of the way when something comes flying towards them: I have to be in the way. That's got to be nutty," he said.

"At practice, these guys shoot the puck at you when you're not looking. Sometimes there are two or three pucks coming at the same time," Bertagna complained. "Nobody understands goaltenders," he added.

"He always sounds sorry for himself," Mark Noonan, sophomore defenseman, teased.

"He's different because he has long hair," Billy Corkery of the local line contributed.

"We call him 'meatball' and 'spaghetti bender,' " Noonan and Corkery said.

"There are a lot of jokers on the team," Bertagna explained. "The coach wishes we were more serious, but he doesn't restrain us because he's kind of a nut himself," he said.

"Our kind of humor is making fun of the other. Nobody's going to get a swelled head in the locker room," Bertagna said.

Bertagna started skating as a nine-year-old on the pond next to his home in Arlington. "I grew up in a town where it's hockey, hockey, hockey. Everybody played. My older brother played on the hockey team. He got me started," Bertagna recalled.

But there is more than just hockey hockey hockey to the goaltender from Arlington.

"I'm running for Town Meeting," Bertagna admits. "The Town Meeting votes on new laws, and any money spent on the town has to go through it. The elections are on March 4. I have to do some campaigning," he added.

"I'm conscious of being different, and I enjoy being different. Some of these guys are acting a hockey-player role. They drink a few beers after a game, come back and raise hell," Bertagna said.

"The goalie is a loner, and that's the way I am. Not only in the game, but socially too. Rather than celebrate with the crowd, I go to Elsie's and get some food," Bertagna said.

"Happiness," he said, "is a cheeseburg club after a victory."

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