Colorado College freshman Kristian Blumenschein was thrown into the fires of Division I hockey early, but the defenseman proved up to the challenge.
The Kelowna, British Columbia native played junior hockey for the West Kelowna Warriors, only 20 minutes away from home, before he arrived at CC.
It's unusual for incoming freshmen to not have lived away from home for 1-3 years.
"At the start I was definitely a bit homesick but after Christmas I adjusted into the schedule we have with class and hockey," Blumenschein said. "Getting used to the speed and strength of everyone was a big adjustment from junior hockey."
"He has played pretty well," CC coach Mike Haviland said. "He has a great competitive side to him and good hockey IQ. He is getting more confidence in his offensive game which is important at this level."
It would be understandable if the learning curve was a little steeper for Blumenschein, who turned 20 on Feb. 6. He joined the rebuilding Tigers a year earlier than planned, but departures and performance prompted the move.
"In the situation we are in, Blumer could have used another year (in junior hockey) but we felt we needed him to come in now," Haviland said. "We think he is getting better and better. I think as the years go on and he gets bigger and stronger, that he will be real good for us."
The 5-foot-10, 171-pounder is well on his way in one statistic. Blumenschein is the only active Tiger on the positive side of the plus/minus rating with a mark of plus-4.
Haviland expects Blumenschein, who has four points in 24 games, to develop into a leader on the CC power play and continue to play in more situations for the Tigers (7-19-2, 3-13-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference).
"I take a lot of pride in plus/minus but I do want to step forward and contribute more on the offensive end," he said.
Blumenschein could blossom as a sophomore, much like leading scorer Mason Bergh (18 points, 13 goals), who came in a year early.
Haviland said the program's recruiting has reached the point where players will be able to stay in juniors longer.
Expect to see plenty of Blumenschein against No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth (18-5-5, 12-4-2-2) in this weekend's second-to-last home series.
The Tigers went 1-0-1 against UMD in early January. The Bulldogs are one point behind second-ranked Denver for the NCHC lead and top playoff seed, which will likely host CC in the first round in mid-March.
"They have been No. 1 or No. 2 basically all year so they are an extremely good hockey team," Haviland said. "It's an older team that knows how to win, that has a lot on the line. They are going to come in here hungry."