Checking in with former Pirate, current Golden Eagle Ben Trostad

Jacob Shames
Crookston Times
Ben Trostad in a game against the University of Jamestown in March of this year.

People used to ask Ben Trostad what his favorite sport was between football, golf and hockey. His response, every time: "all of them." 

If he answered any other way, favoring one of them over another, he'd have felt guilty.

Maybe it's fitting, then, that the kid from Crookston who grew up playing whatever was in season would end up representing his hometown university in not just one sport, but two.

After finishing a standout three-sport career at Crookston High School, Trostad signed with the University of Minnesota Crookston to play golf, quickly becoming one of the team's top players. When hockey returned to campus in the form of a competitive club team, he slipped his skates back on and helped lead the Golden Eagles during their first season in nearly a decade.

The Times caught up with Trostad to chat with him about his athletic journey.

CT: How did you get your start in hockey?

BT: I was put on skates within weeks of me turning three years old. I instantly fell in love with the game.

It was odd because neither of my parents were really big into hockey. The only connection to hockey that our family had was through my great-uncles who played for Mount St. Benedict back in the day. Regardless, I figured I would pave my own path, and I did. 

I would spend endless hours skating at the old Civic Center with the same core group of kids. We were either practicing, playing or watching. When us kids weren’t at the rink, we were pretending to be, with the infinite games of mini hockey in the Andringa basement. It was a good thing we were burning calories, because I think our diet consisted of frozen pizzas and Gatorade.

Unfortunately, those days had to come to an end. 

With Minnesota high school hockey approaching, I knew I needed to step up my game and expand my hockey sense. I was fortunate enough to get asked to play some spring hockey. I played endless amounts of tournaments for the Izzy’s Ice Fisherman, a AAA spring hockey team coached by two former UND hockey legends, Izzy Marvin and Rick Myers. We would travel anywhere from Edina to Winnipeg and play against some of the top players in the Midwest. This really helped me prepare for the rollercoaster ride of high school hockey in Minnesota. 

I was fortunate enough to play with the groups that I did, and I will forever be grateful for the coaches that I had, along with the lessons that they have taught me. Those guys were not only my hockey coaches, but life coaches as well. 

Ben Trostad in action for the Crookston boys' hockey team during the 2017-18 season.

How did you get into football?

My dad, Chris, was the head football coach at Crookston High School for quite some time. One of his first years coaching, he needed some help on the sidelines, so one day he asked “Hey! Wanna come be a football manager?” I almost immediately responded with “Heck yeah!” but before I could, I realized that this would take quite a toll on my busy schedule as an eight-year-old. So I asked, “What are you willing to offer?”, and if I remember correctly, came to the conclusion that 15 cents a week was fair, so we shook on it. I have yet to see my first paycheck, but that’s okay, because I had to “earn my keep” as my dad would say. 

There was something so special about being under the lights at Ed Widseth Field, being put on the shoulders of the gigantic linebackers and carried around the locker room, having to make sure guys sit in their ice baths long enough, absolutely trucking the practice dummies at the high school fields (at least I thought I was trucking them), and most importantly, seeing something that my dad was so passionate about.

I couldn’t help but to fall in love with that sport, even though I was pushed to the maximum at times by my dad. But it was coming from a good place, and it helped me in the long run not only in football, but in life as well.

I was fortunate to play alongside the brothers that I did. I will never forget how tight-knit our group was. We all had a desire to win. Every Friday night was a “business trip."

What about golf?

I didn’t start golfing until I was around the age of nine or 10. I was originally introduced to the game by my grandparents, Royal and Karen Murphy, but I grew a passion for it alongside a lifelong brother, Brock Heppner and his family.

Brock introduced me to Rickie Fowler, who, for a while, had the best apparel on the PGA Tour. As soon as we saw the flat-brim Puma hats that Rickie wore, it was game over. Every week we’d have a new color Puma hat. We actually sent Rickie fan mail and he sent us both back a signed Rickie Fowler PGA Tour card.

The amount of times that I slept in the den of the Heppner household is incredible. Brocky and I would set our alarm clocks for right around 6:00 a.m. every night with the intention of beating the older guys to the first tee box. Some days it was so cold we would show up with snow pants and winter jackets on. Jan Leach would have a cup of hot chocolate waiting for us in the clubhouse when we got up there.

Trust me, every once in a while, we got some funny looks. Can you imagine two 10-year olds with snow pants and flat-brim Puma golf hats at the first tee? We looked like Harry and Lloyd from "Dumb and Dumber," except even dumber.

Brocky and I would play endless amounts of holes, and when I say endless, that might be an understatement. That’s what we did, all summer long. Our schedule consisted of 4 things: golf, pizzas at “the Kwa”, Xbox (only after sunset) and sleep.

As we grew a bit older, Ethan Magsam would come out with us and we would all compete against each other with the intention of making one another better. When high school came around, it was even more competitive as we now had to compete with one another against other teams. 

Ben Trostad practices putting in the CHS hallways with his friend, Brock Heppner, before the 2018 season.

When did you start to think you would be able to play golf collegiately?

I knew I was a decent golfer when I was around 12 to 13 years old. I wouldn’t say I was spectacular, but I knew I had some potential.

The biggest eye-opener for me was sections my freshman year of high school. I hate to admit this, but I had no clue what sections even was. I didn’t realize that the point of sections was state or end of season. I thought it was just another tournament. I remember that to this day. I shot 78 that round, in which my score counted for our overall team score that brought us to state. That really got my attention. State was a big deal.

While I was at the state tournament, I told myself that I had more potential in this sport and I was going to do whatever it takes to play it at the next level. 

While Trostad didn't make it back to state during his high school career, he finished eighth at the Section 8AA meet during his senior season and got himself on Minnesota Crookston's radar.

On the ice, Trostad, who was the Pirates' Defensive Player of the Year in 2017-18 and scored five goals and 39 assists during his high school career, had an opportunity to play junior hockey in Canada and thus, a crucial decision to make.

What made you choose UMC?

UMC was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I wasn’t really sure what route I wanted to take after high school. I had to decide between leaving for Winnipeg to play hockey in the Major Junior Hockey League, or go to school and play golf. When it came down to making a decision, I ultimately decided that it was best that I go to school and play golf. 

I’ve always loved UMC. When I was young, I would oftentimes end up on campus for one reason or another, and I never wanted to leave. I loved every aspect of UMC — the buildings, athletes, staff, facilities, etc. 

Even though the campus is small, the impact that UMC will have on the rest of my life is astronomical. Every time I step foot on that campus, I love it even more. 

What were the biggest differences for you between high school and college golf? How did you adjust to them?

Distance. There were very few times in high school where I hit driver, iron, wedge. The approach shots in college are much longer than they were in high school. The tee boxes are a lot farther back, some of the greens are like putting on cement.

I know my coaches from high school, Steve Kofoed and Wes Hanson, might kill me for saying this, but some of the weather conditions have been much worse. I played in 50-plus mph wind gusts in Las Vegas my freshman year. I remember another guy in my group hit his approach shot to like three feet from the flagstick, and once we got up there he was walking towards his ball and a huge gust of wind came and blew his ball off the green 30-plus feet away from where it originally was.

But this was comparable to playing at Giants Ridge my sophomore year of high school, where we saw temperatures below 25 degrees with 30-40 mph wind gusts, rain, sleet, snow and sunshine, all within a matter of an hour or two. Brock Heppner and I were in the last group on the golf course with two other players from Superior, Wisc. and we played our last hole in the dark. Coach Kofoed had to hold a flashlight on his phone while we hit our tee shots. 

Trostad was third on the Golden Eagles in scoring average in 2018-19. His sophomore season, averaged 78.29 strokes over 18 holes, which ranked for second on the team behind Connor Humble.

You had one of the top three scoring averages on the team your freshman season. Did you expect to be able to compete for one of the top spots right away?

I always have high expectations for myself, in athletics and in general. When I first signed to play for UMC, I knew that I wasn’t necessarily going to be guaranteed a spot on the travel squad. But I knew that if I put in the work, my game would reward me for it.

So I put in a ton of work that summer after my senior year, and it worked out. Although I played well right away, I never told myself that I was guaranteed to play in the upcoming tournaments. With that in mind, I would battle every day at practice and compete as best I could to earn my spot for each tournament. I still have that mindset to this day and I hope that mindset is infectious towards my teammates.

What were the biggest differences for you between your freshman and sophomore seasons?

I knew my role my freshman year. That was to produce scores that would benefit my team. 

When my sophomore year rolled around, I was fortunate enough to be named a co-captain alongside Connor Humble. I think we both took on bigger roles and responsibilities knowing that we were literally the only two returners. I not only wanted to produce scores, but I wanted to give my teammates that same team mindset as soon as they got to campus. I think it has worked. We have a pretty close group and I wouldn’t trade those guys for the world. 

What was your reaction when you learned UMC was bringing hockey back?

For any northern Minnesotan kid who gave up hockey after high school, especially when you had an opportunity to keep playing, I was pumped, to put it lightly. 

Ben Trostad scored six assists in 13 games for the UMC hockey team this season.

When did you decide you wanted to join the team?

When they announced that Steve Johnson was going to be coaching, I knew it was a no-brainer. I also had some buddies who I grew up playing with that were planning on playing (Cam Olstad, Casey Kallock and Brandon Boetcher). 

Trostad helped the Golden Eagles to a 6-7 record in the 2021 season. Playing defenseman, he registered six points on the season, all coming on assists.

How confident were you that you would be able to play hockey at the level of UMC's club team?

I knew I had the ability to put my hockey sense and skills to the test, but I wasn’t sure how good that level of hockey would actually be. I was questionable about the style and how the game would be played at a DII club hockey level.

After playing UMary (the No. 1-ranked ACHA team in the nation), I realized that even though it is considered “club” hockey, it is still incredibly good hockey. 

What were the biggest challenges for you in getting back on the ice?

Legs and lungs. After not skating for just about two years, I thought I was going to die after day one. I physically felt my body shutting down. But after a few days of Steve’s practices, my legs and lungs were back to normal. 

Being one of just a handful of upperclassmen on a young hockey team just starting out this season, do you feel you had any kind of different perspective?

Being one of the captains in the "comeback season” alongside Casey Kallock and Cam Olstad, I think we all agreed that our main goal this year was to put UMC hockey back on the map, and long-term bring it back to its roots. We all wanted to buy in this year and add a new asset to UMC athletics. Hockey at UMC was a huge deal for many years, and our group this year was fortunate enough to be a part of a legacy that’ll last for many years to come.

I think we could all agree that this year was tough for Steve. He had to start from scratch and had little to no time to fill a roster, especially with COVID circumstances. We just wanted to win and give UMC something to look forward to.

How did you handle balancing both of your sports? 

Thanks to COVID I was able to balance them quite easily, as I was basically an online student this year.

I think for any student athlete, it is all about managing your time wisely and staying healthy. If you have the ability to practice both sports throughout the day, as long as they don’t interfere with one another and the time you need to do your school work/studying, you’ll be alright.

I believe I was one of three dual-sport athletes on the hockey roster this year, along with Brian Bekkala and Tristan Morneault. We were all able to manage it thanks to our coaches.

Ben Trostad throws a pass for the Crookston football team during the 2017 season.

What were the highlights/biggest accomplishments of your high school career and college golf career?

Biggest accomplishment of high school: winning a team section championship my freshman year of golf.

Biggest accomplishment of college is shooting 73 in my first collegiate round at Bemidji Town and Country Club.

What was your best round of your high school career/college career, and what do you remember about those rounds?

The most ridiculous round of my high school career was at Roseau my freshman year. I shot 74 and I got up-and-down on 15 consecutive holes. If I remember correctly, I don’t believe I hit a single green in regulation.

The best round of my college career was at Antelope Hills Golf Course in Prescott, Ariz., where I shot 73. I was 5-over-par through my first five holes and battled back throughout the next 13 holes, birdieing seven of those 13.

What does it mean to you to represent UMC being from Crookston?

It means a ton. Not only to me, but to my family, friends and community. I know so many people in this town who are always staying up to date with the athletics side of things. They take it seriously, and they care. They want to see every sport succeed. I am extremely proud to be representing not only this community, but this university as well. 

When it comes to competition time, I have high expectations for myself and for my teammates. I want to ensure that my teammates and I are representing the Crookston community and the university as best we can and perform to the best of our abilities. 

P.S. I would like to thank everybody who has contributed to both the golf simulator room and the hockey locker room. I would also like to thank the Crookston community for the best support we could ask for. We student athletes at UMC are incredibly fortunate to have such great facilities, staff, coaches, and trainers. UMC athletics is headed in the right direction! Thank you. 

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.

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