MINNEAPOLIS – The Gopher women’s hockey team welcomes six incoming freshmen for the 2017-18 season, including Alex Gulstene.
Gulstene, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, is a left-handed goaltender that played for Okanagan Hockey Academy. During 2016-17, Gulstene led Okanagan Hockey Academy to the CSSHL championship with a .941 save percentage and goals against average of 1.58. She also posted six shutouts on the season.
A dual citizen of the United States and Canada, Gulstene has competed as part of Team USA on multiple occasions. In 2016, she won a gold medal with the U.S. Women’s Under-18 team. In addition, she has competed at the Under-18 Canadian Nationals with Team British Columbia.
Gulstene joins Emily Brown, Olivia Knowles, Taylor Wente, and Grace Zumwinkle to make up next season’s incoming class. The sixth member of the class, Amy Potomak, will delay her arrival to the University of Minnesota while training with Canada’s National Women’s Team in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Gopher Sports: How did you start playing hockey?
Alex Gulstene: There was this guy in my second-grade class, and he had already played hockey for a year or two. He was always bragging, like, ‘I scored this many goals on the weekend.’ Listening to him, I realized I wanted to do that, too. I wanted to do that but better. After that, it took another six months of begging, and that’s how I started playing.
GS: Did you play any other sports growing up?
AG: I played basketball, field hockey, soccer, and track for a bit. GS: Other than hockey, what do you like to do in your free time? AG: I like to play video games a lot. I like to hang out with friends.
GS: What are you most looking forward to about playing for the Gophers?
AG: I think the home games. It’s one of the best programs in the U.S. and the world for hockey. Being immersed in that culture and having that atmosphere in Ridder is so cool. I can’t wait; even if I’m not playing, I just want to be in that environment.
GS: Do you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions?
AG: I’m not too crazy with pre-game rituals. I like to change it up, keep it kind-of relaxed. Still focused, but not super strict -- I don’t have anything timed out. It’s more about how I’m feeling that day. Sometimes I will go play soccer or two-touch. I’ll roll out, I’ll stretch. Usually I will do some hand-eye with racquetballs. After that, it’s getting dressed and getting loose. I’m specific with what I wear. In the past, I’ve worn my team shorts and longer spandex shorts. Then I wear the same hoodie with the same hat for each team. I always have two things I keep the same.
GS: What do you like best about playing hockey?
AG: Everything. I’d say the compete. Hockey is arguably one of the most physical team sports, especially for women. Just having that team mentality, that you’re in this together, trial by fire, sisters in arms, is probably my favorite thing. You can’t find that in a lot of other sports.
GS: How do you think having dual citizenship benefited you as a goaltender?
AG: I’ve had the opportunity to see each side of the border having its own specific brand of goaltending. I find I don’t play either one or really any region. It’s kind-of a blend. I think having that exposure helped me broaden my horizon and give me more tools for my toolbox.
GS: How did it feel to win gold with Team USA?
AG: It’s easily the best feeling in the world. To have gone through the blood, sweat, and tears to arrive at that game, especially against Canada, in that moment, winning that gold medal with my teammates, for my country and our country, it makes you feel on top of the world. It’s also very humbling.
GS: How did it feel to win the league championship with Okanagan Hockey Academy?
AG: That was a very good experience as well, especially since we had a new league. At every level, every championship means something and every game means something and has that same level of compete for that game, versus our Worlds game with the friends that I had played with forever. Being able to go through that with them, especially Knowles-y (Olivia Knowles), who has been there for a while, that was quite special.
GS: What is your favorite NHL team?
AG: I don’t have a particular home team. I’m more of a homer for the goalies. I have my favorite goalies, like Carey Price, Tuukka Rask, and (Kari) Lehtonen.