The weather outside the home rink of Gunnar Neilsen’s current hockey team varies a bit from Flin Flon.
The former Bombers goalie is in his first season playing and studying at the University of Alabama. The Tuscaloosa-based school team plays its American Collegiate Hockey Association games in nearby Pelham.
“It’s still too warm to wear pants here, and I got chirped all the time for wearing shorts and slides in the snow, so I can’t complain,” Neilsen said in an early October interview.
As of Oct. 29, Neilsen had a 2.41 goals against average and .931 save percentage for Bama. He has impressed head coach Kyle Richards with his demeanor.
“He is extremely confident in his game and it shows on the ice in practice and games,” the coach said. “Not one bit of cockiness to him, just supreme confidence.
“He has already transformed himself into a leader on our team and he is an absolute joy to coach both on and off the ice. We are thrilled to have Gunnar represent the University of Alabama hockey program for the next four years.”
Neilsen has embraced the student athlete lifestyle at the University of Alabama.
“The best part about being a student athlete is how easy it is to fill your schedule,” he said. “There is always something productive to do whether that be working out, doing homework, or playing hockey. It makes the day fly by and builds really good time management skills.”
A Maple Ridge, BC product, Neilsen spent time in the BC Hockey League, Junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League, the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Kindersley Klippers before joining the Bombers in the 2016-2017 season. Neilsen helped the Bombers, as a third goalie behind Zac Robidoux and Brenden Newton, make it to the SJHL finals.
“My favourite part about playing in Flin Flon had to be the atmosphere in the Whitney. Just from looking around you can see all the history that’s taken place in the building and the energy from the fans is unmatched,” said Neilsen, who capped his junior career last winter with Abbotsford of the PJHL.