By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
ST PETER —
Lindsey Hjelm made sure she did her research before she arrived at Gustavus Adolphus last fall for her first year at the college.
She looked at last season’s women’s hockey roster took note that a senior had worn No. 17. “That would be great,” she thought, the number would be available when she joined the Gusties roster.
Hjelm isn’t superstitious. In fact, she wore No. 4 during her playing days at Mounds View High School. But, to her, there was something extra special about No. 17 — especially in the Gusties’ black and gold:
Her dad wore the number when he played for Gustavus nearly 30 years ago.
“It a tribute,” Lindsey said. “It’s sentimental. It feels good to wear it.”
Rick Hjelm played hockey at Gustavus from 1980 to 1983. He scored 35 goals and had 107 points in 109 games and was named All-American as a senior. During his junior year, he and the Gusties advanced to the national semifinals where they finished in third place.
Twenty-eight years later, Lindsey and her team are playing in the Frozen Four. Gustavus will play No. 1-ranked Amherst at 7 p.m. today in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament at the Don Roberts Ice Rink.
“My dad’s, really, the biggest mentor for me as far as hockey goes,” Lindsey said. “He showed me the ropes and encouraged me.”
Rick Hjelm flooded a skating rink in the backyard of the family’s North Oaks home for Lindsey and her younger brother, Sam (a junior goalie at Mounds View), and said there are still plenty of family skates that take place out there each winter.
“You know how fathers play catch with their sons?” he said. “Well, we passed the puck.”
Dad’s influence is obvious. Lindsey Hjelm leads all Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rookies and ranks 12th in the country in scoring by a freshman with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists). She is also tied for third on the Gusties’ scoring list in both goals and points.
“She’s got a chance to be a special player,” Gustavus coach Mike Carroll said. “Her ceiling for improvement is huge.”
Carroll said that Hjelm was considered to be a top recruit, but he made no promises to her when she arrived at Gustavus.
“She asked me for her dad’s number,” Carroll said, “and I said if she made the team she could have it.”
Rick Hjelm was touched by his daughter’s tribute.
“I was very excited, but that’s what she wanted,” he said. “The first chance I got to see her with it on, I was very proud.”
In 1982, the Gusties went to Lowell, Mass., and opened the final four with a 4-3 loss to Plattsburgh State and beat Merrimack 8-5 the next day.
“I remember going in all alone on the goalie, and I hit the crossbar (against Plattsburgh),” he said. “It was terrible — terrible. It’s funny what you remember.”
Lindsey Hjelm said her dad was remembered for much more than that missed shot, as she has learned from Gustavus professors as well as her dad’s old coach, Don Roberts, who often drops by the college.
“He left somewhat of a legacy here,” she said. “That’s something I admire and can look up to.”
Now it’s Lindsey’s turn, Rick said, and he hopes she enjoys the journey as much as he did.
“I think (the Gusties) are pretty confident as a team,” he said. ‘I have no idea what to expect this weekend. The bottom line is, it’s all good just getting there.”