By Austin Monteith
BEMIDJI, Minn. — Nearly four years of waiting, hard work and dedication paid off for Heather Olson on Nov. 1.
The senior defenseman from Bemidji ripped a shot from the left circle that found the back of the net, giving the Bemidji State women’s hockey team a 3-2 third-period lead on No. 8 Ohio State. It also happened to mark the first collegiate goal for the former Lumberjack. Though the Buckeyes rallied to win 4-3 in overtime, that couldn’t diminish Olson’s milestone moment.
“It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” Olson said. “And I think that’s what makes it so special is it did take a long time. … That moment is something that I will really remember forever.”
Getting to witness the moment was just as memorable for head coach Jim Scanlan, who’s seen Olson rise to become the team’s alternate captain.
“Heather’s been a great story,” Scanlan said. “She walked on from Bemidji (with) nothing promised and she’s really earned her way and worked her way into a top-four defensemen spot. (She) wears a letter, which is just reflective of her as a person and what her teammates think of her.”
A two-time WCHA All-Academic Team selection, Olson has already recorded a career-high four points this season. She logged 12 goals and 35 points over five seasons with the Lumberjacks from 2011-16, so it wasn’t as if she didn’t possess a knack for scoring when she arrived at BSU.
“She was an offensive defenseman,” Scanlan said. “There’s no way in the world I thought it would take her this long to score, but obviously the opportunities maybe weren’t there earlier in her career her first couple of years in terms of consistent ice time. But she’s definitely had some chances. She’s won shootouts for us. She can put the puck in the net in practice.
“I just had a feeling that certainly she would get one at some point in time. But to have it happen when it did was huge.”
Helping with youth hockey
Besides serving as a go-ahead goal, Olson’s tally also came on Bemidji Youth Hockey Night. Young players from the program, as Olson once was, skated out with the Beavers’ starters during player introductions.
“It was really cool. One of the little girls I know, her name is Bailey, and she asked if I was in the starting lineup,” Olson said. “And that night was my first time starting here at the home rink — besides Hockey Day — and she came to me right away and she was like, ‘Are you starting Heather?’ And I was like, ‘Actually, yes I am. I do happen to be starting.’ She was so excited to skate out with me.
“It just kind of takes you back into a special moment and you kind of realize there’s a lot more than just winning or losing a game, or how good or bad you play.”
Olson transitioned to playing hockey from figure skating at age 7. Growing up in a hockey-loving family, her older sister, Hannah, and younger brother, Hunter, also played for the Lumberjacks.
Like many of her teammates, Olson has gotten involved with Little Lady Lumberjacks, a youth hockey program for girls ages 3-10 that’s coached by members of the BSU and BHS teams.
By giving back to the youth hockey programs in her hometown, perhaps Olson is lending a helping hand to the next Bemidjian to make the jump to NCAA Division I hockey.
“Anybody that I run across in Bemidji, I always tell them to just keep pushing through. You can get there if you really want it,” Olson said. “I know there are so many younger girls and other girls that I’ve coached and I always tell them, ‘You can make it to that level. Just keep working hard, keep listening to your coaches and find a support system that’s going to continue to build you up, and you can basically get anywhere that you set your mind to.’”
Beavers off this weekend
The Beavers (3-6-1, 2-4-0-0 WCHA) are off this weekend after getting swept by Ohio State, falling 4-3 in overtime Friday and 3-1 on Saturday. BSU will return to action Nov. 15-16 for a showdown with top-ranked Minnesota in Minneapolis.