Trevor Olson heads back home to AmsOil one last time
DULUTH, Minn. — Trevor Olson skated onto the ice at AmsOil Arena in Duluth on Thursday afternoon for an hour-long practice.
“I love the ice” he said. “It feels like home, you know?”
Well, it is home.
Olson grew up in Duluth and starred at Duluth East High School before embarking on a college hockey career at the University of North Dakota.
Now a senior, Olson will play one final weekend in his hometown as the Fighting Hawks take on his hometown Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs at 8:08 p.m. Friday night, Jan. 19, and 7:07 p.m. Saturday in AmsOil Arena.
“I’m pretty excited,” Olson said. “The guys give me crap about this being my favorite weekend of the year, but I just love coming back. I love playing in front of my family, especially with this being my last time. There’s going to be quite a few (family members), so I’m pretty excited.”
Olson tracked down 10 tickets for family and friends. More are expected to find their way into the seven-year-old arena on the banks of Lake Superior.
Olson is thankful he’ll be able to play after missing last Saturday night’s game with a lower-body injury.
So is UND. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound winger brings physicality, a presence and a bit of an offensive touch to the lineup.
“Obviously, you see what he does on the ice — he competes hard and he plays the right way every single game,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “But it’s the intangibles off the ice that a lot of people don’t see — the leadership in the locker room, the things he does on a daily basis to prepare.
“He’s made a huge impact in our program. It’s probably one name you wouldn’t have thought of early in his career — there are probably more well-known names that you’d think would make an impact or are more visible — but he’s one guy who, every day, gives it his all.
“I think when it comes down to game time, there’s a focus and he knows there’s a job that has to be done. He’s a guy who keeps everyone even-keel in the locker room. He’s just a good guy that keeps our group in check.”
Rookie Jordan Kawaguchi noticed that right away last summer when he arrived to take classes.
“At first, he didn’t talk a whole lot,” Kawaguchi said. “After the first week or so, I noticed he was a bit of a goofball and a jokester. He’s one of the funniest guys on the team, for sure. Off the ice, he’s hilarious and likes to keep it light. But he has a switch. He can turn it on. He knows when to get to work. You’ve seen him putting his body on the line every night.”
“Everyone admires him. He’s probably one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”
Olson missed 10 games earlier this season with a shoulder injury, returning just before Christmas break. He’s slowly working his way back into form while playing on a line with left winger Cole Smith and center Johnny Simonson.
During the stretch run last season, Olson was one of UND’s best players.
Olson — not NHLers Tyson Jost, Brock Boeser or Tucker Poolman — was UND’s leading scorer during the month of March with nine points in seven games.
That included his game-tying goal and assist during the National Collegiate Hockey Conference championship game in Minneapolis — the last time he played against his hometown Bulldogs.
Perhaps Berry feels an offensive breakout could be coming this season, too.
Olson, who has a goal and four points in 12 games, was used on the power play last weekend against Bemidji State.
“We talked amongst our group here this week,” Berry said. “There aren’t a lot of weekends left. If you go right to the end, there’s probably 11 weekends left of hockey here. That’s closing in on a lot of guys and Trevor’s one of them. He knows the importance of these next 11 weeks.”
UND will be without its top-line center this weekend.
Rhett Gardner, who was injured last Friday night against Bemidji State, will miss the series against Minnesota Duluth.
In his absence, Nick Jones will likely center the top line as he did against the Beavers.
Gardner is UND’s fourth-leading scorer with 15 points in 23 games. He also leads UND in faceoff wins with 293.
UND is expected to get Andrew Peski back on defense.