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Bergmann started playing lacrosse at 5-years old because all his friends were playing it along with hockey. His choice of picking up a lacrosse stick boiled down to peer pressure, and like most young players, Bergmann started playing on offense.
After a couple of years, Bergmann’s dad, who played at Westminster School (Conn.) bought Otto his first goalie stick.
“I played my first two years, then I learned my father was a goalie and that my uncle was a four-year starter at Harvard. My uncle currently has the second-most saves in Harvard history,” Bergmann said. “Those first two years were rough,” Bergmann said. “I started doing a bunch of goalie clinics in the Buffalo [New York] area and eventually progressed.
There’s a history of goaltenders in Bergmann’s family. His father played at Westminster School (Conn.). His uncle played, and his sister plays.
Bergmann’s uncle is Mike Bergmann who graduated from Harvard in 1988 with 784 career saves. That is second only to Chris Miller, who took over for Bergmann in 1989 and finished his career with 847.
“To have somebody in my family a record that is that prestigious is pretty cool,” Bergmann said. “But I want to try and eventually surpass his record. I don’t want somebody in my family to be better than me.”
The goaltender talent did not stop with Otto either. His sister, Annelies, is 13 and plays on the boys’ hockey team with Belle Tire in Michigan.
“Sometimes I feel like she’s better than I am,” Bergmann said. “This past weekend we won against DeSales (Ohio), and simultaneously she won a state championship.”
It Will Take You Places
Bergmann will head back to Buffalo after his senior season to play lacrosse at Canisius College where he intends to major in business.
But Buffalo is only one of a few places lacrosse has taken him.
Bergmann is a dual-citizen, and that citizenship earned him tryouts on the German U19 team.
“We contacted the German Federation of Lacrosse, and they said I could come to try out,” Bergmann said. “The last one and a half years I’ve been heading out to Germany and trying out for the team.”
His dreams of playing in national games for Germany were dashed after they instituted a residency policy, but the experience he gained was worth it.
“It was incredible. I made a lot of great friends,” Bergmann said. “It’s great to see the game growing. They play with International rules, and we play with standard college rules, so the shots were from closer up, but the level of lacrosse is pretty even.”
The senior also had the chance to practice with The Hill Academy (Canada) and see what it was like for one of the elite teams in North America.
“That was an amazing experience. The coaching was awesome. It opened my eyes to what I need to get better at,” Bergmann said. “All the practices were super intense. They were almost harder than games. It shows that if you practice how you play, you’ll get results.”
“The pure commitment to be part of the team was a huge thing over there,” Bergmann added. “It was a team over yourself.”
He's Playing Here, Right?
Before Bergmann ever played a game at Chagrin Falls (Ohio), he managed to catch the eye of Head Coach Paul Corto.
Corto was on campus during the summer, working with some new coaches when a car pulled into the parking lot.
“Out of the corner of my eye I see this huge kid with equipment,” Corto said. “His mom asks if we're getting a workout in. They said they just moved into the neighbors from Buffalo. Now, you have to understand Otto's just huge. He's a presence.”
“I said he's coming to school here, right,” Corto added. “She said hockey's his first sport. It's his first love. We're sending him to boarding school at Westminster.”
But by December, Bergmann was back in Ohio with his family and was able to start for Chagrin Falls after never having started a game before.
“He never started a game until he started for us,” Corto said. “You could see the raw potential. He got better-and-better-and-better.”
It could have been a difficult adjustment for the team. Having a player come in at the last minute and taking a starting spot could have caused tension.
“It could have been difficult with an incumbent goalie, but he made it easy because he's such a great teammate,” Corto said. “Otto was the difference between being great and being elite. He's a great teammate.”
Bergmann helped the Tigers to a 16-2 record and a state semifinal appearance. As a junior, he made 157 saves at a 64 percent clip.
For his efforts, he was rewarded with All-State and All American honors.
After the season, Bergmann committed to play lacrosse for Canisius in September 2018.
“It was hard giving up hockey, but looking at what I wanted to accomplish in life, this was the best route,” Bergmann said. “I really did like lacrosse more.”
And with his focus on lacrosse and passion, it appears as though his improvement will continue.
“He's improved with his hand speed, which is changing the ways in the saves he's making. He's staying home more,” Corto said. “He's forcing guys to shoot around him and becoming a better all-around goalie.”
Chagrin Falls has gotten off to a 3-0 start with wins over Western Reserve Academy (Ohio) and St. Francis DeSales (Ohio).
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