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Minnesota Crookston hockey set for return this weekend

Jacob Shames
Crookston Times
In this file photo from 2008, Golden Eagle goalie Bryan Dalbec makes a save. The 2008-09 season was Minnesota Crookston's final season of NCAA Division II hockey.

College hockey is back in Crookston.

The Minnesota Crookston hockey team will begin its 2021 season this weekend in Jamestown, N.D., with games Saturday and Sunday against the University of Jamestown.

The Golden Eagles, a competitive club program run out of the UMC athletic department, are members of the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II. This is UMC's first season of hockey at any level since 2012.

Minnesota Crookston sponsored hockey as a junior college, and then at the NCAA Division II level, until 2009, when the program was disbanded and replaced with a short-lived ACHA team. But after the university dropped football in December 2019, it announced the return of hockey to campus in January 2020.

The announcement of the new program also came with an announcement of the team's head coach: Steve Johnson, one of the top junior hockey coaches of all time. Johnson, 53, is a two-time Clark Cup winner with the USHL's Lincoln Stars and four-time USHL Coach of the Year, and the Grand Forks native helped lead North Dakota to a national championship as a player in 1987.

UMC has 15 players on its roster for 2021, several whom will be familiar to local fans. Three Golden Eagles played for Crookston High School: Ben Trostad, Brandon Boetcher and Ty Hamre. Trostad (Jr., D) tallied five goals and 39 assists for the Pirates between 2015 and 2018. Boetcher (So., F) cored 10 goals and three assists in his Crookston career. Hamre (Fr., D/F) recorded four goals and 12 assists for the Pirates from 2017-2020.

The roster also includes East Grand Forks natives Casey Kallock (Jr., D) and Josh Nelson (Fr., D), Grand Forks products Cam Olstad (So., F), Tyler Zahradka (Fr., F), Parker Adair (Fr., F) and Zach Larson (Fr., F), and Thief River Falls' Austin Ryba (Fr., F). Freshman defenseman Gunnar Ferrier is from Baudette, and junior forward Sam McGregor is from Hastings.

Brian Bekkala, a senior forward, is from Livonia, Mich. Jake Sumner, a freshman goaltender, is from Alta Loma, Calif. Tristan Morneault, a freshman forward, is from Dieppe, New Brunswick, Canada.

Three UMC players played junior hockey: Kallock with the NAHL's Minot Minotauros, Adair with the SIJHL's Thief River Falls Norskies and Sumner with the Willmar WarHawks and Breezy Point North Stars of the NA3HL. In addition, Olstad played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and with DIII Wisconsin-Stout.

Four players compete for the Golden Eagles in other sports. Bekkala and Trostad are both on the men's golf team, Morneault runs cross country, and McGregor is a member of the trap team.

Saturday's game will start at 7 p.m., while Sunday's game is scheduled at 4 p.m. Both games are streaming, with links on the Golden Eagle Sports website.

The Jimmies, who compete in ACHA DII, are 4-10-1 on the season.

Minnesota Crookston's home debut is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 16, against Minnesota State Moorhead. Puck drop at the Crookston Sports Center is set for 3 p.m.

The Golden Eagles are scheduled to play 17 games this season, 10 of which are at home. Their season concludes March 12-13 at home against Jamestown.

The Times welcomes your feedback. You can send any comments or questions to our office at (218) 281-2730 or sports editor Jacob Shames at jshames@crookstontimes.com.

Follow along on Twitter @crookstonsports and @Jacob_Shames for all the latest stories and live game updates.