The Ohio State University is not for everybody.
Last November, goalkeeper Collin Olson made news after he decided to leave OSU for the United States Hockey League. Over the last few months, he’s been in headlines again — only this time, it’s for what he’s been doing on the ice.
Olson, a sixth-round draft pick in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, was a star recruit who came to OSU during the 2012-2013 campaign after playing in the USHL with the U.S. National Team Development Program for two seasons.
After only playing in nine contests (seven starts) during his freshman year because then-senior All-American goalkeeper Brady Hjelle was a strong player, Olson expected to see an increase in playing time during his sophomore campaign.
Yet after struggling in the season opener against Miami (Ohio) Oct. 11 and allowing two goals on three shots against Robert Morris in his second start Oct. 25, the Apple Valley, Minn., native lost his playing time to freshman Matt Tomkins and subsequently decided to leave the school.
“Collin feels he hasn’t played the number of games he’s needed over the last few years,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said in a November press release. “He has decided leaving our program to find somewhere he will play more games will be best for his future. He is a good kid and a good student and we wish him nothing but the best.”
Olson, who finished his career at OSU with a 2-4-1 record, 3.70 goals against average and an .885 save percentage, did not want to talk about why he left, simply saying that the decision he made was for the best.
“It was what was right for me in the situation,” Olson said in a Feb. 10 phone interview. “I don’t want to get into specific reasons why. It was just going to work out better for me to come back (to the USHL) and find a different path.”
Olson was originally a futures pick for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in 2010, who held onto his rights when he went to play for USA and kept him on their college-protected list when he came to Columbus. However, wanting to make room for their other young goaltenders, the Riders traded him to the Sioux City Musketeers for three draft picks in early November.
Olson, however, returned to the U.S. National Team Development program until late December because of an NCAA rule that prevented him from playing in any outside activities because he was still enrolled at OSU.
“Since I finished out first semester, I was not allowed to play in any outside activities because technically I was still on the team,” Olson said. “The only way around that was unless it was Olympic-sponsored, which the U.S. team I played at before I went to Ohio State was, so I was able to play there without being penalized.”
Olson ended up playing in three games for the U.S. National Junior Team and the decision paid dividends as he shined between the pipes, posting a shutout in his first game against the Green Bay Gamblers Nov. 16.
Still, when Olson finally made it up to Sioux City, Iowa, to play in the USHL for the Musketeers he found himself in a backup role once again, this time sitting behind Kyle Hayton, one of the USHL’s top netminders.
But Olson said the Musketeers are in good shape because they now have two goalies who can help out in different situations.
“Me and Kyle play different styles,” Olson said. “He is a lot smaller than I am, so he tends to rely on a lot of different things, but it’s great because now we have something for every situation.”
However, after Hayton was forced to sit out because of a concussion he suffered New Year’s Eve, Olson got his chance to start and ran with it.
Taking home USHL Goaltender of the Week honors for his play from Dec. 30 to Jan. 5, Olson recorded his first shutout with the Musketeers in a game against the Muskegon Lumberjacks Jan. 3 and followed it up by stopping 31 shots the next night in a 4-2 win over the same Muskegon squad.
Overall, Olson is 5-2-0 with Sioux City, posting a goals allowed average of 1.72 and save percentage of .939, something he said is because of the atmosphere that has surrounded him in the Sioux City organization.
“It’s been great. I’ve had a lot of fun,” Olson said. “It’s nice to stay at the rink a long time and work … it’s been nice to come to Sioux City which has some of the best facilities in the USHL … I feel very lucky to play here.”
Still, just because things did not work out with the Buckeyes, that doesn’t mean Olson’s collegiate career is finished.
Olson said he plans to go back to college during the 2015-16 campaign and that he is just trying to find the right fit.
“Because of NCAA rules, I have to sit out next year so I will come back to the USHL,” Olson said. “I’m talking to a few schools … I’m definitely going to go back to school, I just haven’t decided where yet.”