Standout forward has taken a winding path to finding a home with Austin Bruins
Damon Furuseth hasn't exactly taken a traditional path through his hockey career. But the North Dakota native has settled in and is a big reason why the Austin Bruins are division champs.
AUSTIN, Minn. — Damon Furuseth was at home on his couch last April, a helpless feeling washing over him as he watched his Austin Bruins teammates suffer an agonizingly early exit from the NAHL playoffs.
A shoulder injury sidelined the Fargo native for the final month of the season, including the Bruins’ best 3-out-of-5 NAHL Central Division semifinal series against the Aberdeen (S.D.) Wings. The Wings won a pair of close games in Austin to open the series, then closed out a series sweep on their home ice a week later.
“(The end of) last year sucked. I was already home by playoff time, watching on TV,” Furuseth said. “I was almost immobile, sitting on the couch, couldn’t move my arm. I felt really bad for the guys who were here.”
Like many of his teammates, Furuseth spent the offseason stewing on the way the 2021-22 season ended. He and the Bruins entered this season with a new-found determination to have the 2022-23 season end differently.
The Bruins have checked the first couple of boxes on their list of goals for this season: clinch a playoff spot and win the regular-season division championship. They accomplished the latter last Saturday with a 3-2 win against the St. Cloud Norsemen at Riverside Arena.
That means the Bruins (33-13-8 overall) — who still have six regular-season games remaining, including Friday at St. Cloud and Saturday at home against St. Cloud — will have home-ice advantage throughout the Central Division playoffs for the first time since 2015, which also happens to be the last time the team reached the Robertson Cup national tournament.
#NAHL @BauerHockey Central Division Star of the Week for November 7-13, 2022: Damon Furuseth, Forward, @theaustinbruins https://t.co/9DuMsRxlNZ pic.twitter.com/BZcnKZEnvD— NAHL (@NAHLHockey) November 14, 2022
“I’m just excited to play in a playoff game. I didn’t even get to do that last year,” said Furuseth, a 6-foot, 180-pound forward who has seven goals and 24 points this season. “Home-ice advantage is so nice. To get to play here in front of our fans, we don’t have to go on the road right away … it’s so nice.”
Furuseth has been itching to play in a postseason game for two years.
The last time he did, it was perhaps the most memorable game of his hockey career. Furuseth had three assists to help Gentry Academy to an 8-1 win against Dodge County in the 2021 Class A Minnesota high school state championship game at the Xcel Energy Center. He was the leading scorer for that Gentry team, which went 19-0-0 in a season shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a weird year, weird with not that many people in the stands,” he said, “but it was still so cool to be there and to win it. You hear about it your whole life from your family, parents, older players.”
Furuseth was born in Grand Forks and his family lived approximately 75 miles south, in Fargo, until Damon was about 10 years old. He started his youth hockey career there, before his family moved to hockey-mad Roseau, Minnesota. He played Bantam hockey in Rosemount, where his family moved prior to his freshman year. He then enrolled at Gentry as a sophomore, where he led the Stars in scoring in all three seasons he played for them. He finished his high school career with 77 goals and 171 points in three seasons.
Furuseth was drafted by the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, but was one of the team’s last cuts prior to last season. That’s how he landed in Austin, where he has shown his versatility — Furuseth has been excellent on the power play and penalty kill, in addition to playing a second-line role at even-strength. He has 14 goals and 40 points in 94 career games with Austin.
“I think everyone here … there are no guys in that locker room who are here just to be here,” Furuseth said. “We just don’t quit. Everyone wants to be here and everyone wants to win.”
NAHL Central Division standings
|North Iowa Bulls||29-22-3||61|
|St. Cloud Norsemen||26-20-8||60|
x — clinched NAHL Central Division playoff spot
y — clinched NAHL Central Division championship