Ethan Lindahl didn’t start playing hockey until he was 10, didn’t make a top-level team until his final year of youth hockey and didn’t become a varsity regular until now, his senior season.
Now look at him. More than a gifted skater and a good-natured personality who is beloved in the locker room, Lindahl is a pure goal scorer. When Lindahl scores, which is often, he often scores in bunches. He cemented his spot on the Huskies’ varsity — albeit on the fourth line — last season with a hat trick against Spring Lake Park.
Lindahl upped the ante this season with a five-goal game on Jan. 21 against Coon Rapids. He’s one of just three players this season to have scored five or more goals in a single game.
“Oh my gosh, that was the greatest feeling ever,” Lindahl said about his five-goal outing, an accomplishment he said he might have achieved as a grade-schooler at the Squirt B2 level. Maybe.
“I could have had eight or nine goals, too — the puck was on my stick all game,” Lindahl said about his outburst in the 9-1 victory over Coon Rapids. “Grade A chances left and right. It was awesome.”
Andover coach Mark Manney first remembers Lindahl skating into his consciousness during a fall skills development camp when Lindahl was a Bantam.
“Here’s this kid out there just flying around, scoring goals,” Manney said. “I finally asked him, ‘What team were you on last year? I don’t remember ever seeing you play.’ ”
Lindahl had spent the previous season playing on Andover’s Bantam B1 team, two levels below the top squad. That seemed odd to Manney, given Lindahl’s obvious ability.
“I said, ‘What happened?’ ” Manney said. “And he said, ‘I got new skates right before tryouts and I couldn’t stand up out there.’ ”
Ever the optimist, Lindahl could find the silver lining in bucket of coal. He said playing on the Bantam B1 team was a great experience, affording him an abundance of ice time as one just two centers on the team and providing a much-needed injection of confidence in his game.
Spending most of last season playing junior varsity or affixed to the varsity bench was more difficult, Lindahl said.
“It was, honestly, really tough,” he said. “I was pretty sad about it, but I wasn’t haven’t great games throughout the year. I couldn’t stay consistent.”
This season, as one of Andover’s top six forwards, Lindahl has seven goals and seven assists through five games. He’s scored at least one point in every game, all victories for the Huskies who are 5-0-0 and ranked No. 15 in Class 2A despite losing 15 seniors from last year’s team that was ranked No. 1 for most of the season.
Matter of fact, no team least season was more senior-dominated — or just flat-out dominated — more than Andover. Last season the Huskies allowed the fewest goals in the state (38) while scoring the the third-most (174). Andover had the third most power-play goals (34) and the Huskies' 1,398 shots on goal were the second most statewide.
As the top seed in last year’s state Class 2A tournament, which Andover reached for the first time in program history, the Huskies were upended 3-2 by unseeded St. Thomas Academy in the quarterfinals.
With top scorer Garrett Schifsky (No. 13 on Legacy Hockey’s list of the state’s top seniors), fifth and sixth defensemen Mason Cotter and Weston Knox and steady goaltender Will Larson the only significant holdovers from last season, it seemed inevitable that Andover would suffer a significant drop-off, at least early this season.
Drop-off? Hardly. The Huskies won their first five games by a combined score of 38-7. Their previous four games entering Saturday afternoon’s matchup with Totino-Grace ended in running time in the third period because of the six-goal-lead mercy rule.
“We had such an old team last year, with crazy good players,” said junior forward Logan Gravink, who had a hat trick in the first nine minutes of Andover’s 9-1 victory over Champlin Park on Thursday. “We knew it was going to be a tough task losing all those seniors. It all started this summer, everyone came in with that winning mentality and they wanted to work.”
The emergence of former JV players such as Gravink and Davis Gohman, the injection of former Bantam AA phenoms such as sophomores Gavyn Thoreson and Cooper Conway and the as-expected stellar play of seniors such as Schifsky, Larson and Cotter all has fed Andover’s dominance.
And then there’s Lindahl.
“I’ve been playing with Lindy since Bantams,” Gravink said. “Great kid, fun to play with, always out there making plays. He gets that puck, it is in the back of the net every time.”