BEMIDJI -- The path from Sweden to Minnesota has been trod by generations of Swedes, and Bemidji is no exception.
Hampus Sjödahl and Elias Rosén, teammates on the Bemidji State men’s hockey team, are two of the most recent to make the journey.
This season Sjödahl, a senior forward and alternate captain, has served as a mentor of sorts to his countryman Rosén, a freshman defenseman.
“He’s helped me a lot into the team with just what to expect with teammates, from coaches, and what he did his first couple years,” Rosén said. “I can take that as an experience and learn from him.”
The two are on opposite ends of their college careers, though both arrived at BSU after playing junior hockey in the U.S., so English is no obstacle.
“I barely speak Swedish at all, except for when I talk to my family,” Sjödahl said. “Elias and I don’t really talk a whole lot of Swedish either. But it’s still fun to be able to, and we’ve talked a lot. It’s fun being able to have someone from back home because of the culture change and everything.
“We’re both used to the American lifestyle by this point, but still, when we see differences here from back home, it’s fun to be able to talk about it and understand each other and what we see, compared to what Americans see out of their perspective.”
Rosén has rapidly established himself as one of the top rookie blueliners in the country. His 17 points (4g-13a) rank second among freshman defensemen nationally.
“I would peg myself more as an offensive defenseman,” said Rosén, who hails from Mora, Sweden. “I try to join the rush as much as I can and make strong plays (and) first passes. I’m trying to work on my defensive game more and trying to get stronger in that.”
Tough is a word that comes up often when head coach Tom Serratore describes Rosén.
“He’s really mentally tough,” head coach Tom Serratore said. “He doesn’t get rattled. He’s very composed, he’s got poise. … He can play in all situations. On the power play he’s got good poise. He’s good on the offensive blue line, he’s good at joining the rush. … He’s got a lot of good attributes as a defenseman.”
Sjödahl had to overcome his fair share of injuries to even reach his senior year. He played through a torn labrum in his shoulder throughout his sophomore season before injuring it further early in his junior year, an injury that was compounded by a torn bicep tendon, as well.
“I went many months just waiting to get back, just long enough to get back on the ice, and I was finally able to skate again this summer,” Sjödahl said. “It’s such a cliche, but you kind of get a new appreciation for the game. You don’t really know what you have until it’s taken from you. … It’s still unfortunate that I wasn’t able to play last season, but I think this year has made up for it. It’s been fun. It’s been good to be back.”
The Stockholm native has most recently served as the leader on a young fourth line, though he’s anchored the first and second lines at times this season. Sjödahl’s 11 points (3g-8a) are a career high for the 6-foot-3 bruiser.
“He hasn’t missed a beat,” Serratore said. “He’s strong, he can get to pucks, he can fend players off. He can forecheck hard, he can get to people, he can add a physical element.”
Together Rosén and Sjödahl have helped make BSU one of the stingiest teams in NCAA Division I. The Beavers rank fifth in scoring defense, allowing only 2.04 goals per game.
Like many Swedes who have come before them, Rosén and Sjödahl have made a home for themselves in Bemidji.
And while Sjödahl may miss his mom’s home cooking, he’s not a fan of one Scandanavian staple: lutefisk. Brace yourselves, Minnesotans.
“We won’t do that,” Sjödahl joked. “My grandparents might. But I never have, never will.”