Riley Hengen recently finished his first season of college hockey at Minot State University.
The goaltender from Estevan served as a backup for the Beavers, who are a Division 1 team in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, which is a step below the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Hengen appeared in 14 games, posting a record of 12-2 with a .920 save percentage and 2.49 goals-against average.
“It was a little faster-paced game, different playing against some guys on the ice that are 24, 25 years old,” said Hengen, “just adjusting to playing against bigger, stronger, faster guys, having to deal with school at the same time and not just focusing on hockey.”
He was backing up Wyatt Waselenchuk, who spent some time with the Nipawin Hawks in 2009-10.
Hengen, who is studying business management at MSU and has three years left, played for both the Estevan Bruins and Weyburn Red Wings during his SJHL career.
He appeared in 15 games with the Bruins over three seasons from 2006-10, and played in 18 games with the Red Wings last season.
He said that although the ACHA isn’t at the same calibre as NCAA Division 1, it was still an adjustment coming from the SJHL.
“It’s definitely a lot different than the SJ. It’s kind of been compared to mid-to-lower end Division 3 NCAA teams,” he said.
The Beavers are independent and posted a record of 27-6-1-1 in 35 games played against various teams around the country.
Hengen said he enjoyed the trips to some different regions of the United States that he had never seen before.
“Driving to Oklahoma, St. Louis, Iowa, even Cleveland for the nationals, we went all over the country and had some pretty long bus rides, but it was fun just getting to see different areas of the country,” said Hengen.
“I’ve lived away from home the last couple of years playing hockey, but living in the States is a bit of an adjustment. I’ve enjoyed it so far.”
Minot State was ranked seventh in the country entering the Division 1 national tournament. They beat 10th-seeded Robert Morris 6-3 in their first game, then lost 7-4 to second-ranked Lindenwood in the quarter-finals.
“It was a pretty good season team-wise and personally, I played pretty good also,” Hengen said.
“It was pretty exciting to go down and put on a good show there. It’s intense competition every game that you play. There are no games you can take for granted like some of the games we had in the regular season.”