Whatever the opposite of a fifth-year “victory lap” is, Jon Flakne is on track to do it. While juggling the responsibilities of a Division I athlete, no less.
The Colorado College junior goaltender will graduate in three years with a degree in economics. Following his career finale, which came earlier than anticipated due to the cancellation of the postseason, Flakne thought back to the visitor’s bench at Denver’s Magness Arena.
“You always have to live in the present. You never know,” Flakne said.
“You always thought you had that next game. ‘Oh, we have the Denver series. Oh, we have playoffs.’ I was never ready for it to be over, but you always thought you had one more weekend. That was the big realization, that I didn’t have that next moment.”
There promise to be many big moments ahead. He would like to own a business in the marketing industry, but as a hobby. He’s looking into becoming a consultant specializing in mergers and acquisitions.
Flakne entered with a full semester’s worth of advanced placement credits under his belt and while people he knew took blocks off, he had no interest in slowing down. He took summer courses through CC and accounting classes through the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.
He realized he had to be close to a full year ahead of schedule. He said he alerted the CC coaching staff midway through the season that he’d be moving on.
“When I saw myself that far ahead I was like, why not?” Flakne said.
The first half of his sophomore and junior seasons, he was the third goaltender and could focus on his studies at school. The second half of each year he traveled as a backup, due to Alec Calvaruso returning to juniors and Ryan Ruck being injured, respectively.
Tackling coursework instead of wandering over to Instagram was “a mental game” for the two-time National Collegiate Hockey Conference Distinguished Scholar-Athlete and member of the all-academic team.
“Every bus ride, every flight, every wait in the airport, every three-hour flight delay was an extra three hours to work and study,” Flakne said. “The time was there, you just had to find it.”
His only game appearance this season came in the third period at North Dakota on Feb. 1 when he briefly relieved Matt Vernon with the game out of hand. He didn’t absorb the 8-1 loss but allowed two goals in 5:38 of playing time and landed with an odd 21.30 goals-against average on the season. It’s not the most important part of the experience, a highlight of his three years.
“(It) obviously didn’t go ideally, but still I think no matter what, that opportunity to play in front of the 12,000 fans at North Dakota with my family there was definitely like a dream come true,” Minnesota native Flakne said. “That’s something I think a lot of hockey players set out to do.”
Though he never got the call to start at CC and appeared in three games, he was a steady presence.
“Great attitude coming to the rink,” senior co-captain Alex Berardinelli said. “He kept the room positive. One of those guys that comes in every day, and even though he’s not getting the most playing time, worked hard. Guys build off that.”
Though pleased with his academic route, Flakne would have enjoyed some more minutes.
“I wish there was, but I think everyone would,” Flakne said. “No matter what it is in life, if it’s something you truly enjoy, you wish there was more of it. But no matter how much I played, I think I’d wish that would have been the case.”
He was impressed by the underclassmen on and off the ice. They were more studious than he remembered his own class being at the time. And with the benefits of maturity and experience, he hopes they can lift the Tigers to the kind of success the team enjoyed in 2018-19.
“If you look at (former goaltender Alex) Leclerc’s path, he kind of came in as a freshman and really worked his way up into the standings,” Flakne said. “I wish the same for (rising sophomore Matt) Vernon. I think he had a great year with a bunch of potential.
“When we came in as freshmen, we came in young and it worked out for us. I’m really hoping that the next year or two, the younger classes and the team as a whole can come together and really get it done.”