Married coaches a winning team
When the clock expired Sunday and the Clarkson women's hockey team had won the school's first NCAA national title in any sport, Shannon Desrosiers decided to test her vertical leap.
Never mind that she's six months pregnant. Desrosiers joyfully leaped into the waiting arms of her co-head coach and husband, Matt Desrosiers.
"I got about 24 inches off the ground," said Shannon, referring to the moment her team upset top-ranked and two-time defending champion Minnesota 5-4 in the Frozen Four final in Hamden, Conn.
"Matt said, 'Imagine what you could have done if you weren't [pregnant].'"
Matt, 34, and Shannon, 32, are believed to be the first husband-wife co-head coaches in NCAA hockey history. They're definitely the first to win a national title.
"It's the coolest experience to win a national championship with your husband," Shannon said. "We will have this memory forever."
Shannon and Matt met while they were playing college hockey at St. Lawrence University in New York.
As a forward, Shannon finished her career as the fourth-leading scorer in school history. She's still an active athlete -- finishing ninth among women at the 2010 Ironman Canada and regularly competing as an elite marathoner.
"The first thing that attracted me to her was watching her play hockey," Matt said. "I still say she is the best athlete I know."
Matt, a defenseman, played five years of professional minor league hockey, making the East Coast Hockey League all-star games in 2002 and 2003.
After college, Shannon began her coaching career at Clarkson as an assistant under Rick Seeley in 2003, the program's inaugural season. Clarkson, a small, private school in Potsdam, N.Y., is Division I in men's and women's hockey and Division III in other sports.
"I got to know Matt over that time," said Seeley, now the coach at Quinnipiac. "When we needed [an assistant] on the defensive side and his playing career was coming to an end, it seemed like a natural."
Matt officially joined the Clarkson staff as an assistant in 2006.
After Seeley left for Quinnipiac, Matt and Shannon were named Clarkson's co-coaches on April 8, 2008.
The hockey program was a quick success under Matt and Shannon, reaching the NCAA final eight in 2010 and 2013.
Shannon handles the forwards and a lot of public relations. Assistant coach Matt Kelly coaches the defensemen. And Matt Desrosiers prepares scouting reports and gives the players many of the between-period speeches.
As for discipline, there wasn't much need for it this season because of the team's success and excellent work ethic.
"It's been a lot of good cop/good cop," Shannon said.
Seeley said he was inspired by what his former assistants accomplished this season.
"There was never a doubt in my mind that they were great coaches and -- given a chance -- could do what they just accomplished," he said. "It wasn't lucky by any stretch."
In fact, Shannon said, working as a couple gives the Desrosiers some advantages. Recruiting, for instance, is easier because parents understand their daughters will have a sense of family at Clarkson, she said.
Speaking of family, Matt and Shannon agree that they are fortunate to have been able to so skillfully juggle their jobs, their relationship and the responsibility of raising their 2-year-old daughter, Brynlee Matison.
"Having our daughter has helped keep us grounded," Matt said. "When you get home, you don't want to have little spats about stuff that doesn't really matter."
Both sets of grandparents are among the network of babysitters who look after Brynlee while her mom and dad are coaching.
"But it's getting tougher as she gets older and sees us packing," Matt said. "She is starting to realize that when we have road trips that we will leave on a Thursday and not see her again until Sunday."
Shannon, who said she plans to coach again next season after delivering her son, is going to ask each of her players for three or four baby-name suggestions. Among the possibilities are something to do with the Quinnipiac campus where they won the national title -- Hamden or Quinn.
"A lot of people say they could never be around their spouse that much," Shannon said. "But it's been easy for us.
"When you get home, you just separate work stuff from the house. And when you get to the rink, everything is business."