OLDS

Record Observer - - Clas­si­fieds -

to move to the Di­vi­sion I club his ju­nior year.

“There’s just some­thing about the game that never makes you want to stop,” Olds said.

But in Novem­ber, not even a third of the way through the sea­son, West Vir­ginia’s head coach was fired and re­placed by Sturges. For the third time in three years, Olds would play for a dif­fer­ent head coach with a dif­fer­ent phi­los­o­phy for the game.

“He’s kind of no stranger to that; inconsistency with the coach­ing, or kind of the pro­gram,” Sturges said. “There’s been a lot of changes since Nick’s been a part of it; since I’ve been a part of it even. It takes a cer­tain level of ac­cep­tance of it’s just how things are go­ing to be at times.

“We’ve worked re­ally hard to es­tab­lish some con­sis­tency since I’ve been here,” Sturges added. “And there’s al­ways go­ing to be some level of changes, but I think a lot of guys have han­dled it well, and un­der­stood that just be­cause there might be some new faces and some new peo­ple it doesn’t mean it’s not im­por­tant to make it the best ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble.”

Sturges’s play­ing ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fered from Olds’s. A de­fense­man, he played two years for the United States na­tional team, help­ing Team USA take sil­ver at the World Un­der-17 Hockey Chal­lenge in 2006, and the In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion U-18 World Cup in 2007 be­fore go­ing to play for Di­vi­sion I Michi­gan State.

Not sur­pris­ingly, he brought a more de­fen­sive­minded and cere­bral ap­proach to the game.

“He was more about the psychology of the game and us­ing that to our ad­van­tage more than any­thing,” Olds said.

But dur­ing his two sea­sons coach­ing at West Vir­ginia, Sturges has learned a player’s de­sire and ded­i­ca­tion at the club level in some ways can ri­val that of the Di­vi­sion I player.

“I think get­ting fa­mil­iar with hockey at West Vir­ginia for me taught me a lot about that mind­set, and Nick is some­one who re­ally em­bod­ies that,” Sturges said. “To have a club pro­gram like we do, it asks a lot of the play­ers, and it re­ally re­quires the kind of mind­set our guys have. And Nick is cer­tainly one of them.

“You do have to be re­ally ded­i­cated be­cause you give a lot,” Sturges con­tin­ued. “It’s a lot of time. It’s a lot of en­ergy. It’s a lot of emo­tional in­vest­ment. So our pro­gram wouldn’t be pos­si­ble without guys like Nick. They work hard ev­ery day, they bring the right at­ti­tude, and just love the game of hockey and love to play. Be­cause it would be re­ally hard to do what we do if you didn’t re­ally love the game, ‘cause our prac­tices are late, our bus trips are long. It’s a lot of time out­side the nor­mal col­lege ex­pe­ri­ence that th­ese guys have to in­vest.

“We do have our mo­ments,” Sturges said. “We do have our ri­valry games and there’s a lot of ex­cite­ment with it. But if you try to com­pare it to some other col­lege hockey ex­pe­ri­ences, of course it doesn’t add up in the same ways. But it is ab­so­lutely a spe­cial thing.”

A thing that con­sumed more time than Olds an­tic­i­pated. A thing that took away from school, and in some cases, op­por­tu­ni­ties the or­di­nary stu­dent got to ex­pe­ri­ence. But it was also the thing that Olds ad­mit­ted kept him level headed, and never lost it’s fun.

“I just mainly wanted to keep on play­ing and hav­ing fun,” Olds said. “I never saw an end game after col­lege. I just wanted to play four years of the game that I had played since I was three. I didn’t want to give it up at the mo­ment.”

As he pre­pared to head back after the hol­i­days for his fi­nal se­mes­ter in Jan­uary, Olds talked play­offs. He fin­ished the sea­son with four goals, five as­sists and was on the top penalty-killing unit that had a 93 per­cent suc­cess rate, as the Moun­taineers went 14-19 and qual­i­fied for a third con­sec­u­tive post­sea­son berth this sea­son, where they lost in the first round of the Col­lege Hockey Mid-Amer­ica play­offs to John Car­roll (Ohio) Univer­sity.

He talked grad­u­a­tion. On May 14 — 79 days after his fi­nal hockey game — Olds achieved the goal he wanted more than any other, walk­ing across the stage at the WVU Coli­seum after earn­ing his de­gree in crim­i­nol­ogy with a mi­nor in foren­sic in­ves­tiga­tive sci­ence.

But he also talked like he was again jostling for lever­age in the cor­ner, not with any par­tic­u­lar op­po­nent, but with his es­cape.

“Even now, towards the end, I’m start­ing to get to the point where I want to be done,” Olds said. “But there’s still … Ev­ery time I step on the ice, I get that re­lief of where I can stay out here and do just this and not have to worry about any­thing else.”

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Bil­l_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@star­dem.com

GAVIN JENS

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