Gophers goaltender Olivia King unsure about what her hockey future might look like
Olivia King has been scratched from the lineup. She’s played forward. She’s been the No. 3 goalie. Whatever the role, King has accepted it and has prepared herself to help her team.
MINNEAPOLIS — First and most importantly, Olivia King has no regrets.
It’s the No. 1 question the senior goalie for the University of Minnesota Gophers gets asked and she understands why.
The former Brainerd/Little Falls Warriors goalie took the state by storm when she helped her team to the Class 2A State Finals Feb. 21-23 during the 2018-19 season.
She remembers those days fondly and those memories came rushing back last season when Brainerd/Little Falls returned to the state tournament for the first time since King’s heroics.
“Breya (Sawyer) was my backup goalie when she was in eighth grade so it’s so funny to see that she’s still playing,” King said. “I’ve almost graduated college and she’s still playing varsity.
“I was so excited for the team last year. It was so nice to see. I feel like our program has come such a long way. To see them continuing that on after all these years have gone by is so nice to see. I feel like those games I played in were so fun and it was such a special team to be a part of. It was a special thing to be a part of. So much of our town came together and supported us through that. Those memories are just ingrained in me. It makes me want to be a part of Warrior sports. That’s why I continue to watch them.”
... I never came to the University of Minnesota with the expectation to be a starter. That was always something that I hoped for, wished for, trained for, but it was never something that I expected.
A trip down memory lane recalls King stopping all 12 shots she faced in BLF’s 4-0 quarterfinal victory over White Bear Lake. Another current Warriors hockey player Lucy Peterson had an assist in that game. Peterson scored a goal in the big semifinal matchup with Andover.
The game went into overtime with the Warriors winning 3-2. King finished with 38 saves to advance her team into the program’s first-ever state finals against Edina.
Again the game went into overtime. This time Edina pulled off the 4-3 win, but King finished with 51 saves.
King finished the state tournament with 101 saves and a .944 save percentage.
“The Warrior program has definitely come a long way,” King said. “I just remember something that was so important to me was our culture and making sure everyone was just bought in. That’s so easy to do in such a smaller town. The girls have known each other since they were kids and it’s almost like you’re family. You really, genuinely love those girls. All you do is hang out with them. In the summer you train. Then in the winter, you’re in season the whole year. If you play another sport there’s a good chance you’re playing with them in that sport, too. It was just such a huge thing to always be with them and have that community around you and know that you could always trust them on and off the ice.”
King found that community and environment in college. It’s why she has no regrets despite not seeing the ice she grew accustomed to in high school.
She said college has been a learning experience in being humble, understanding one’s role and becoming a true teammate.
She’s been scratched from the lineup. She’s played forward. She’s been the No. 3 goalie. Whatever the role, King has accepted it and has prepared herself to help her team.
“People always ask me if I would ever leave or transfer, especially my first few years,” King said. “People always asked, ‘don’t you want to play?’ Always my answer to that was I never came to the University of Minnesota with the expectation to be a starter. That was always something that I hoped for, wished for, trained for, but it was never something that I expected."
King plays behind sophomore Skylar Vetter (17-3-2, 1.67 goals against average) and senior Makayla Pahl (3-0-0, 1.56).
“I came here for the culture and to be a part of a great group, not because it’s the winningest program or anything like that," King said. "I toured here and met the girls and I saw how much work they put into the game and I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to come here and push myself in a great program to be the best goalie that I could become because I knew that was here. Even if I wasn’t playing a ton. I knew the practices and the training and the girls that are around us, I knew that culture would be there.”
As a junior, King earned WCHA All-Academic Team and Academic All-Big Ten. She made her Ridder Arena debut in a 10-0 win over Rochester Institute of Technology. She finished with eight saves in 32 minutes. She also played forward in an 8-2 win over St. Thomas.
Her first college game came at Bemidji State. She finished with four saves in 20 minutes during a 9-1 victory.
According to her career stats, King has played in nine games. She’s collected 18 total saves and allowed one goal for a .947 save percentage.
We're back for the third with 1:51 left on the power play.@oliviaking01 makes her season debut as she takes over in goal! pic.twitter.com/dsndMTc8mS— Minnesota Women's Hockey (@GopherWHockey) January 20, 2023
“I just got in my first time for the season last weekend so it was super, super fun,” King said. “I’m usually third goalie, which to be honest, you’re always trying to work and grow through hockey, but I’m happy to just be on the team and grow my game and help everyone else grow their game as well. I’m always continuing to work, but trying to play my role and do the best I can as well.”
When asked how much better she is now compared to her high school career, King laughed and laughed some more.
“I think it’s actually crazy just thinking about how much better I’ve become since high school,” King said. “It’s actually funny. The first few months when I came to campus I told myself, ‘I’ll be OK. It won’t be a big deal.” I remember after my first practice I came back to the dorms and I was questioning whether I could do this or not. I had trained that whole summer up to that moment and I thought I was so ready for it and it was just such a learning curve. Right away I knew this is different. This is very different.
“Now, I go into practice, I have no thought about that or anything like that. But those first two months were a huge learning curve for me.”
She mentioned the speed and strength of the players, but also the hockey intelligence and the ability to have more than one shot in their repertoire. She said in high school a girl might have a favorite spot to shoot and try to hit that spot regardless of the goalie. She said with scouting and video, college players have more options to find the back of the net.
King is prepared to graduate with a major in marking and a minor in business law this spring. She hopes to attend law school within the next few years and she does have a fifth and sixth year of hockey eligibility if she chooses to continue to play.
She coaches in the summer and says she finds joy in giving back to the sport. For now, she’s happy to be on a 20-3-2 team that has won 10 straight.
The No. 3-ranked Gophers are in the middle of a weekend tilt at the No. 6-ranked University of Minnesota Duluth. While she might not see the ice Saturday, there is no place King would rather be.
“It’s great. It’s so awesome to be part of a great group at an amazing school,” King said. “It’s something in high school that I never thought I would get the opportunity to do. If I’m having a tough day or practice, it’s good to remind myself that this opportunity isn’t given to everybody. I might not be in the spot that I necessarily want to be in, but I worked for this just the same as everybody else did. I deserve to be here just like everybody else does. It’s just amazing and I’m truly so thankful to the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to be at Minnesota and to play with the girls. It’s been an amazing experience.”