The Northstar Christian Academy U18 hockey team is looking to continue its success from its first two seasons. This time around, the Knights will have help from one of the Alexandria boys hockey team’s top goal scorers.
Joe Westlund finished last year with 14 goals and 17 assists in his junior campaign, but after some offseason soul searching, he will wear the baby blue and black jersey for the first time.
“I played in a scrimmage with the guys after the (Alexandria) Blizzard season was over, and I really liked the way they played,” Westlund said. “They all played really hard, and it was really competitive. I like coach (John Olver), and I think he coaches the way I like to play.”
While meshing with the Knights in the offseason sealed the fate for Westlund’s transfer status, it’s a decision he’s pondered over the last year. In the summer of 2019, he played on a Minnesota Fellowship of Christian Athletes team in the Chowder Cup in Boston. There, he decided that playing hockey while connecting with his faith is an essential part of his game.
“That Boston trip really changed me,” Westlund said. “I wanted to become a better person, and I believe that if a team focuses on faith along with hockey, the team will be better as a whole.”
The Knights are building another competitive roster that is looking to send more kids to the junior hockey level in its third season. Hockey director Rick Randazzo said Westlund sought out the Knights on his own, and the NCA staff welcomed him with open arms when they saw he was interested.
“When Joe came to Boston with us, he developed deep friendships with some of our players,” Randazzo said. “Joe pursued us to have a hockey and spiritual connection with our program. He’s a talented hockey player. He has a lot of tools that we can work with to make him better on the ice and maximize his game. For us, the most exciting part was Joe taking the initiative for the spiritual piece that we bring.”
While Westlund is excited about his new opportunity, it’s a bitter-sweet feeling for him leaving the Cardinals for his senior season.
“It was a hard decision with Josh (Meyers) as the new head coach,” Westlund said. “He coached me in my youth, so it’s hard. I’m excited that the process is over now. It was stressful, and there were a lot of tough phone calls I had to make.”
By the time he’s finished at Northstar, Westlund wants to make a North American Hockey League roster and hopefully be on the right track to earning a Division I scholarship. He will look back at the fun memories he has of playing for Alexandria, wherever he ends up.
“I’m going to miss all my buddies that I’ve played with throughout the years,” Westlund said. “I’m going to miss the fun atmosphere in that building with all the fans. The locker room was always fun. I’m probably going to miss that the most.”
Knights ink three U16 Alex transfers
Northstar is putting a U16 prep team on the ice for the first time this fall, and three Alexandria hockey players will be on the roster. Like Westlund, Brayden Berg, Luke Russell and Beck Liden also pursued an opportunity to play for the Knights.
Berg, a forward, was one of the top players in his age group over the last few seasons at the youth hockey levels. The Northstar staff is excited to see his play grow.
“We are going to have six or seven players born in 2005 on this team, and Brayden is one of those players,” Randazzo said. “We feel that he is really talented with a high ceiling. He can score and play defense while playing smart. He’s going to get the chance to play with some of the best ‘05 players from around the country to elevate his game.”
Russell is looking to get minutes as a defenseman for the Knights this coming season. The coaching staff was impressed with how he was able to make an impact at the bantam level.
“He’s a big kid with a high hockey IQ,” Randazzo said. “He thinks the game really well. He’s similar to the players we brought in two years ago, where we saw something in them that we could work with. We are excited to develop his skating and his shot, and watch him become a complete player.”
Holding up the back end of the ice is Liden, a goalie. He’s spent time with the Northstar goalie coach, Jack O’Halloran, over the last few years to improve his game. Now he’s getting the chance to play for the Knights.
“He’s very technically sound with good athleticism,” Randazzo said. “We’ve had him at our FCA camps the last couple of summers, and he fits our culture. He’s got a great personality, and he’s going to fit in with what the Knights are doing.”