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College men's hockey: Hawks' Olson set for hometown finale

North Dakota senior and Duluth native Trevor Olson practices with his team at Amsoil Arena on Thursday. North Dakota plays Minnesota Duluth tonight and Saturday, Jan. 20. Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service1 / 2
North Dakota senior and Duluth native Trevor Olson. Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service2 / 2

DULUTH, Minn.—With friends and family in the Amsoil Arena stands, North Dakota senior forward Trevor Olson expects an emotional weekend back in his hometown.

Pending a monumental shift in the NCHC standings, today's 8:08 p.m. game and the Saturday, Jan. 20, 7:07 p.m. rematch with the University of Minnesota Duluth likely will be his final college games in Duluth.

They're big games for Olson and his Hawks, who are chasing a third NCHC title in four years, but it's doubtful either night will come close to what Olson experienced as a junior at Duluth East High School during a 2011 Section 7AA final against Grand Rapids at Amsoil Arena.

"Obviously Minnesota high school hockey is pretty big here, and I happened to score an overtime winner to bring us to the state tournament," said Olson, who scored 26 seconds into overtime to send the Greyhounds to the 2011 Class AA tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. "That's probably one of my fonder memories."

Olson could use some Amsoil Arena magic this weekend against the Bulldogs after an up-and-down first half. With an assistant captain's letter on his chest after a fiery finish to his junior year, Olson placed high expectations on himself for his senior season at the University of North Dakota.

Coach Brad Berry also was expecting big things from his right wing this year after he posted four goals and five assists in the Fighting Hawks' final seven games of 2016-17.

Among those late-season goals was a shorthanded game-winner against Miami; an overtime game-winner against St. Cloud State University, Minn., to clinch a berth in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff; and what, at the time, was a late game-tying 5-on-3 power-play goal against the UMD Bulldogs in the NCHC postseason championship game (Joey Anderson erased that with a game-winner for UMD in the final minute).

The end result was a career-high six goals and 10 assists as a junior. Olson's numbers have taken a dive this year, however, right back to where they were during his freshman and sophomore seasons when his name was a rarity on the scoresheet. He had just three goals and four assists those two years combined.

"I like to push myself. With the success I had late there, I wanted to re-enact that," Olson said of this year's expectations. "The stats haven't showed up on the scoresheet, but I've done a lot of good things this year defensively and on the penalty kill. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at."

Injuries have played a big part in derailing the offensive success Olson hoped to have this year. He missed 10 games between Nov. 3 and Dec. 2 due to a separated shoulder. He then missed a team-high 11th game due to injury last Saturday after taking a weird hit in the neutral zone at Bemidji State.

The numbers say Olson's absence has minimal effect on the Fighting Hawks (the team has gone 6-2-3 without him) but Berry says otherwise. Olson is a player that's not only missed on the ice, but in the locker room.

"If he doesn't provide offense statistically, he provides it momentum-wise," said Berry, who has been playing Olson alongside sophomore forward Cole Smith and senior forward Johnny Simonson. "That line possesses a lot of pucks. They play in the offensive zone. Statistically, goals and assists, it's not evident but it sure is zone time. That's big for our team."

Olson will graduate this spring with a degree in communications, but he wants to continue playing hockey at the professional level. It's something he's working on with Berry, who spent two seasons as an assistant in the American Hockey League with the Manitoba Moose and two seasons as an NHL assistant with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Berry's a big fan of Olson, often using him as an example in film sessions as the player doing all the right things on the ice.

It's not by chance that Olson has had success in hockey, Berry said, but because of his work ethic and will.

"He's matured over his last four years. He came in as a role player early on, but quickly developed into a player you can count on on a nightly basis," Berry said. "Whatever role you put him in, he's very versatile. You can't say enough about a player for that."

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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