MOORHEAD -- St. Cloud State junior defenseman and former Moorhead hockey standout Will Borgen was driving home from practicing with the Spuds hockey team a couple weeks ago when he got a call from Huskies coach Bob Motzko. Borgen was home for winter break and Motzko was at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo, N.Y.
He called to tell Borgen he was going to represent the United States at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. This was the same Borgen who, as a high school sophomore at Moorhead, was cut from an elite prep development team. The same Borgen who was just hoping to get a chance to play college hockey when he entered his senior season with the Spuds.
“It was pretty crazy,” Borgen said. “I was surprised, excited. It’s pretty surreal. It was a dream come true.”
The first person he called was his dad and he told his mom when he got home. When Borgen was 3 years old his family took a ski trip to Bozeman, Mont. His parents thought skiing was too dangerous, so he spent the time skating with his aunt. A hockey player was born.
“Hockey was always the thing I was hoping for, but I never imagined anything like the stuff that has happened the last couple of years,” Borgen said. “I was just trying to find a college and play college hockey.”
Moorhead head coach Jon Ammerman was roommates at St. Cloud State with Huskies assistant men’s hockey coach Garrett Raboin. He had told Ammerman in the middle of fall Borgen was on the radar for Team USA with the NHL pulling its players out of the Olympics for the first time since 1994.
“His physical talents are just unbelievable,” Ammerman said. “He’s huge, he’s 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3, he’s an incredible skater. What really sets him apart is his ability to compete. His compete level is something that obviously you can’t quantify because it’s not points or stats, but he just competes incredibly hard and he likes doing it.
“It’ll be a pretty cool experience. Interesting couple years for him in college. He’s on the world junior team and now he’s going to be basically spending three weeks to a month in South Korea. Way different than my college experience.”
Borgen graduated from Moorhead in 2015, finishing with 18 goals and 54 assists in 84 games in three varsity hockey seasons. He was a Mr. Hockey finalist in his senior season. Borgen has 34 points in 87 career games at St. Cloud State. He has eight points in 17 games this season with a plus-minus of plus-5 for the No. 1-ranked Huskies.
Before his senior year at Moorhead, Borgen figured he’d have to play a season of junior hockey to get looks from colleges. He was wrong, as he committed to St. Cloud State in September of his senior year, was drafted in the fourth round by the Buffalo Sabres in July of 2015, named to the U.S. National Junior hockey team in December of 2015 and was named to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference All-Rookie Team in May of 2016.
Then, the call from Motzko came in December of 2017.
“It’s all Moorhead hockey honestly,” Borgen said. “It’s every one of my coaches and (Moorhead Youth Hockey Arena manager) Dennis Bushy letting us skate for free and skating with pros like Matt Cullen and Chris VandeVelde. I’ve just been playing hockey in Moorhead. That’s helped me with everything.”
Team USA will compete in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea between Feb. 14-25, opening with Slovenia on Feb. 14. Borgen said he’ll leave the Huskies after their series against Nebraska Omaha Feb. 2-3.
Borgen is technically the third Moorhead hockey player to be part of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team, as Cullen was a reserve in 2006 and Jason Blake was on the roster in 2006.
“It’s a special honor,” Borgen said. “Just keep working at whatever you want to do. Things happen. Things have just worked out for me so far. Just keep working at whatever you like.”