Experienced Cougar hockey rookie Tyson Helgesen talks journey to MRU
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
Cougar Hockey rookie Tyson Helgesen went down a different road on his way to MRU compared to his teammates, but his ideals and experience were a vital cog in his recruitment for the blue and white in his first season.
Helgesen and his Cougars made a trip to the semi-finals for the fifth straight season and once again could not get over the hump the program is looking get over — being able to beat the elite top-two conference opponents.
He reflects on his first year and says it was a success despite the new environment and the harsh end to the season.
“My first season went well. We had some ups-and-downs but it was a good season overall,” he says.
“We had games we should’ve won that we didn’t win, it was a constant battle with that. For me, it was easier to adjust compared to Junior because we only have two games in a week. You get four, five days to right your wrong in practice and move forward like that.”
The move from Juniors and being away from school bothers every recruit the same way, but adjusting to a new culture is a mentally inducing challenge on its own. Helgesen had an interest in the Cougar hockey program almost as soon as he heard about Mount MRU.
“I knew (Connor) Rankin,” says Helgesen. “I talked to him about MRU a bit but I honestly didn’t know much about USPORTS or anything that came with it.
“I knew we had a strong recruiting class heading into this year and I knew it would be an exciting time to be a part of Cougar hockey right now.
“I wasn’t too sure what to expect with balancing school and hockey. I knew it would be a change from Juniors since all I had to worry about was hockey where as of now you have to worry about rent, school all with hockey.”
Like many WHL grads, he knew the clock was ticking on his WHL scholarship and decided to take both his life and passion for the game to the university level.
After his final season with the Spokane Chiefs, Helgesen received a call and got an invite to play games for the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL and suited up four times as a pro. In spring last year, he began to look into schools and had his sights set on MRU from the beginning of his hunt.
“Some of the top players in my age group were there so it was really tough competition. It was a small gathering of where you need to get to and be on that next level.”
He chose MRU despite having other tempting offers.
Helgesen had other options on the table and had heavy talks with rival University of Calgary Dinos, UBC and East Coast powerhouse UPEI but none stood out more than MRU did.
“The whole idea that Bert (Gilling) laid out to me about developing here and getting to a next level after MRU. Another dealbreaker for me was the school itself. The smaller class sizes stood out for me,” he explains.
“It’s a nice change. Your body doesn’t get beat up as much,” he notes with a smirk.
“We took steps. There’s a lot more steps we need to take to get where we want to but overall it was a good season. We want to get to nationals and that’s everyone’s goal as it should be. It would be an honour to be the first Cougar team to make an appearance at the national championship.”