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January 24, 2014 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Swede and Sour

Olofsson Brings WJC Experience to Struggling Colorado College

by Avash Kalra/Senior Writer

Gustav Olofsson — whose journey as a 19-year old has already taken him from his hometown of Boras, Sweden, to Vienna, then to San Jose, back to Sweden and eventually to Colorado — spent the early days of 2014 playing for his home country at the World Junior championships, tallying five points in seven games and helping Team Sweden earn a silver medal.

“It sent shivers down my spine the first time I walked out for warm-ups,” he said, of playing in his home country.

Olofsson was the only NCAA player on the Swedish team –– and he’s since returned to Colorado Springs, where he’s a freshman defenseman for Colorado College — and where his experience as a Tiger this season has been in stark contrast to the success he enjoyed overseas with Team Sweden this winter.

The Tigers have won just twice in their first 22 games this season and are currently struggling through an eight-game winless stretch that now puts this 2013-14 campaign on par with an abysmal 1987-88 season that saw CC finish 4-33-1.

“Since I got back, I’ve tried to bring a positive atmosphere and contribute as much as I can off the ice as well as on the ice,” said the 6-foot-4 defenseman. “But it’s been tough. It’s not easy winning just two games in the first half of the year and still struggling.

“But we’re trying to keep it positive and turn it around here soon.”

The Tigers’ offense has averaged just 1.77 goals per game this season, second-worst in the country and ahead of only Alabama-Huntsville (0.96). As a result, the margin of error is small for the defense, led by Olofsson, junior Peter Stoykewych and freshman Jaccob Slavin – who himself experienced the World Juniors as a member of Team USA.

Though Olofsson first was introduced to hockey in Vienna, where the abundance of outdoor rinks allowed he and his younger brother to explore the game, an early childhood role model was Swedish superstar and eventual Hall of Famer Mats Sundin, who wore No. 13 through most of his career.

Olofsson, as a result, wears No. 13 as well – “I’ve always thought 13 to be my lucky number,” he says – and although the 2013-14 season has been unlucky in many ways for the CC Tigers, it turns out that Tiger fans may be the lucky ones, at least for now.

After the World Junior tournament, Olofsson was given an offer to not return to Colorado College at all. The rookie blueliner confirmed that the Minnesota Wild encouraged him to leave CC and play instead for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.

Olofsson, now 19 years old, was drafted 46th overall by the Wild in 2013.

“I feel comfortable where I am and with the guys I’m around at CC,” said Olofsson. “I don’t want to do anything before I’m ready — there’s no rush to push the envelope for anything like that. I want to continue to develop at CC and leave when I’m ready.”

For Olofsson, it appears, the goal is to use the positive memories of a “surreal” experience in Sweden to help renew a winning attitude with Colorado College. After all, he won more games with the Swedish junior team in two weeks than he has with the Tigers in two dozen games.

“That semifinal game,” says Olofsson, recalling the World Juniors again, “toward the end, feeling the nerves, and keeping that 2-1 lead vs. Russia — that’s one thing I’ll always remember and take with me.

“But there’s a ton to take personally, off-ice stuff, the way we practiced, little things I take with me back home.”

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©2014 Avash Kalra. All Rights Reserved.