Battleford native Young goes out as NCAA champion

By Nathan Kanter
April 12, 2018 - 5:00pm

It was a bit of comic relief at a really emotional time: "The guys stepped up huge tonight and played their balls off."

Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog forward and Battleford native Blake Young uttered those words in a post-game press conference, moments after winning the National Collegiate Athletics Association national championship game in front of over 18,000 people last Saturday.

Teammates Karson Kuhlman and Jared Thomas, who were up on the podium with Young, burst out laughing.

Five seconds later came the quick apology from Young: "Excuse my language," to more laughter from reporters.

"I'm not the best at live speaking as it is, so I was a little bit nervous, especially with all the reporters there," the 23-year-old Young told BattlefordsNOW in a phone interview this week. "I couldn't think of a word fast enough and luckily I didn't get in trouble...I could have said a lot worse things."

Young still doesn't quite remember what happened when the final buzzer went in that national title game.

He was on the ice for it, taking a faceoff with 2.1 seconds left in regulation. When the clock hit zero, the score showed his Bulldogs up 2-1 on the Notre Dame Irish.

It's not really a surprise that it was all a blur for the former Battlefords North Star, given it was his senior year and it made up for last year's second-place finish.

"[It was] pandmonium. I just remember yelling and cheering and throwing my helmet. I don't even know what happened," Young said. "I remember jumping into the pile and that's the last thing I can really remember with clarity." 

Last year, the Bulldogs lost 3-2 to Denver in the final. That experience helped this time around, according to Young.

"This time I felt like we were a little bit calmer going into it," he said. "There was still all the excitement but since we had the experience from last year's game, it wasn't quite as nerve wracking being in that situation and I think that kind of helped us come out on top."

Playing in St. Paul, Minn. in front of over 18,000 fans didn't hurt either.

"That was probably the most unbelievable thing I've ever been a part of," Young said. "Out of those 18,000, I bet you 17,000 of them were Bulldog fans. It was sold out. Every play, people were screaming, chanting.

"To be able to go out in your last game as champions is honestly probably one of the best feelings ever."

Young's mother made the long trip from the Battlefords down to Minnesota to see her son's final two games.

Unfortunately his father couldn't get the time off work, but Young said having his mom there meant a lot.

"It's a special feeling to be able to play well and play in a big game in front of your family and friends," he said. "To have my mom there was just amazing."

With that game now in the past, it's back to class for Young, where he's wrapping up his major in French studies. Exams he said will wrap up by the end of the month.

Not being on the ice every day is an adjustment he's still getting used to.

"Normally we'd be at the rink right now," he said. "[With] that extra time to sleep in, you wake up and you don't really have to practice or work out, it feels like you have so much free time on your hands."

With graduation on the horizon, Young plans to meet with the Bulldog coaches to go over options for his future.

The bottom line?

He wants to keep playing.

"Do [they] think I should pursue a pro career here? Do [they] think I should go over and play in Europe?" Young said. "At this point, I just want to play hockey. I'll take really anything and try it out for a year or two and if it's not for me, it's not for me. You can go back having no regrets."

Having no regrets is how he feels about choosing the NCAA path.

Which is why he fully recommends anyone who is considering it to really think long and hard.

"I came in to it not really knowing what it was about or even what kind of hockey it was, and it ended up being one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life," Young said about going the NCAA route. "I've made some lifelong friends here, I'm going to come out of this with a degree, and I've developed better as a human and as a hockey player.

"Anytime you can do schooling with hockey, it's a bonus."

 

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On Twitter: @NathanKanter11

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