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Durocher back coaching SLU men’s soccer in wake of heart attack

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POTSDAM — In many ways Friday’s opener for the St. Lawrence University men’s soccer team was just a typical game for the Saints.

The Saints, who are ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division III, cruised to a 3-0 win over Endicott College in a nonconference game at Clarkson University, outshooting the Boston-area Gulls, 17-5.

And, just like most SLU men’s soccer games, one of the prominent voices heard was that of head coach Bob Durocher, shouting instructions throughout the game, even when his team was up by three goals with less than three minutes to play.

But many Saints players were not even expecting to see their coach for the opening game after he suffered a heart attack a few weeks ago and had to have five heart stents installed.

Durocher, a Canton native who is in his 23rd season coaching the Saints, suffered a heart attack while he was driving.

Fortunately for him, he was near the home of his doctor when it happened and he was able to call for an ambulance.

“I just tried to get to a house,” Durocher said. “I knew I was having a heart attack. It happened to be my doctor’s house. I knew I couldn’t make it home.”

Durocher has experience working in cardiac rehabilitation so he was able to assist the paramedics treating him on his way to the catheterization lab.

“It was pretty funny, they kept saying, ‘How do you know so much about this?’” Durocher said.

Durocher improved his career record to 276-93-38 with Friday’s opening win.

“We didn’t even think we’d be seeing him for three weeks and on the second day (of practice) he was helping us out,” SLU senior Dan Marvin said. “It’s nice seeing him out here and it makes us want to go that much harder.”

The illness did force Durocher to miss a few practices, but he felt he gained enough strength to be with his team once the season began.

“It’s kind of what I do,” Durocher said. “It’s hard for me to sit back and just watch things happen.

“I’m very fortunate with (assistants Ben Jordan, Luke Seymour and Willi Steinrotter),” he added. “I know they are capable. At the same time, if I’m at home I am thinking ‘Are they doing this? Are they doing that?’ I feel like I’m not helping the guys.”

SLU controlled play in the first half but had no goals to show for the effort.

The Saints took a 2-0 lead in the second half when senior Sam DeMello converted on direct kicks three minutes apart in the 58th and 61st minutes. Senior Shaka Pilgrim added another goal for SLU in the 77th minute.

“We broke them in the second half,” Pilgrim said. “It was just determination and keeping positive. Once we got that first goal we took advantage of that.”

And, like his team Friday, Durocher hopes to keep building on his own recovery steps.

“Thankfully it was minor damage,” Durocher said. “As long as I don’t get tired, that’s the biggest thing. The first few practices just wiped me out. I’m getting my wind now.”

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