Olympic Profile: Will Borgen
St. Cloud Junior Ready for First Olympics
Almost every day, Will Borgen walks into the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center at St. Cloud State.
Brooks coached the Huskies for only one season — a game-changing 1986-87 campaign, the year before St. Cloud became a Division I program. That year, current head coach Bob Motzko served as a student-assistant. And of course, six years earlier, Brooks accomplished his most famous feat, leading a team of amateurs to an improbable — miraculous, even — gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
That's just part of the legendary backstory behind the name above St. Cloud's home arena. Now, Borgen, who sees Brooks' name in lights every time he plays a home game, is set to add his name to the story, too — heading to PyeongChang, South Korea, as one of four current NCAA players selected to play for Team USA at this month's Winter Olympics.
Borgen, a 2015 draft selection of the Buffalo Sabres, is the only collegiate defenseman named to this year's Olympic squad — joining Denver's Troy Terry, Boston University's Jordan Greenway, and Harvard's Ryan Donato (who was Borgen's teammate in junior hockey, with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL).
"The whole Olympic games, I'm excited for," Borgen said. "I never planned on going to the Olympics, let alone playing in it. I'm looking forward to be able to watch some of the other events, and then learning from some of the NHL veterans, the older guys on my team. It should be fun to take all of it in."
Borgen played for Team USA at the 2016 World Junior Championships, where he earned a bronze medal as part of a team that was coached by one of the most decorated American defensemen of all time, four-time Olympian Chris Chelios — an assistant coach at this year's Olympics.
Harvard's Ryan Donato
Boston University's Jordan Greenway
Denver's Troy Terry
North Dakota's Ludvig Hoff
Over St. Cloud State's winter break, Borgen found out that he would have the opportunity to wear a USA jersey one again.
"I was at home in Moorhead when [Coach Motzko] told me," said the Minnesota native. "He was with Jim Johannson with USA Hockey. They called me. It was super exciting, and it was something I wasn't expecting at all.
"I couldn't tell anyone for two weeks. I only told my family. They had a harder time trying to keep it a secret than me."
On January 21, Johannson — assistant executive director of USA Hockey and the general manager of the 2018 U.S. Olympic men's team — passed away in his sleep, at his home in Colorado Springs. His legacy will include this year's team, and Borgen is well aware.
"It's super special to be able to put on that jersey," Borgen said. "Now that the opportunity is here, it's something that I'm going to cherish."
Once the Games begin, Borgen isn't going to be expected to light up the scoresheet in South Korea. The junior defenseman has just five goals in 96 career games with the Huskies — including a power-play goal in this past Saturday's win over Nebraska-Omaha.
He is, however, expected to bring his strong defense to the Olympic squad. Known as a physical, defensive defenseman, Borgen prides himself in blocking shots. He's blocked 42 already this season, and is part of a defense that has helped lead the Huskies to the No. 2 ranking in the current Pairwise.
"I think the last couple of years at St. Cloud have helped me a lot — my freshman year, playing with older guys," Borgen said. "That helped me out a lot, and the coaching staff has helped me out a lot the last couple of years develop my game and develop my role as a defensive defenseman.
"Our entire 'D corps' — we like to be able to block shots for our team, for our goalie. I mean, that's our job. We're not supposed to let goals in. It's something we take a lot of pride in."