Jim Kruger was the Rivermen’s starting goaltender in the inaugural season. He saw a lot of rubber and was as advertised coming into his first BCHL season and proved he is a very solid goaltender. He was able to earn a scholarship to Dartmouth University and just wrapped up his freshman year as a back-up. I had a Q & A with the Minnesota native:
BA: Talk about your first season at Dartmouth
JK: My first season at Dartmouth was a great experience. To finally realize my dream of playing Division 1 hockey at an Ivy League school was a great feeling. While I didn’t see many minutes of playing time, I improved a lot and I was still part of a team that had a pretty good season. We came up a little short of making the NCAA tournament, but I’m confident we can make a run at it in my next three years.
BA: Was it everything you expected it to be or was it harder than you thought?
JK: It was mostly what I expected. Guys are bigger and stronger, and everyone has a hard shot. There is definitely a difference between seeing shots from high school kids in juniors and seeing shots from guys in their mid-20’s. Also the college game is a lot tighter. Defenses are stingier and play is hard-nosed. But overall the mindset of a goaltender doesn’t change much. It’s the same stuff. The game is a bit faster but you just learn to adjust accordingly. The lifestyle is also much busier with school. I took for granted my days of junior hockey where all I had to do was go to practice and hang out with the guys. There is a lot more responsibility in college and staying disciplined can be hard to do with hockey, school, and my social life eating up crazy amounts of time. But after a while you settle in and find a routine that works and it’s all good.
BA: Obviously being a freshman it is hard to get minutes, how tough was it mentally to not play as much you would like?
JK: It was definitely tough. I’ve been a starter my whole life. I didn’t see playing time right away, and our team started off really hot, so our coaching staff didn’t shake things up. As the season went on I established myself in practice and felt I was more than ready to start in a game. Eventually I got a shot in relief duty, and did well, but unfortunately I didn’t play again after that. Mentally it’s a challenge because I know no matter what I do in practice, playing in a game is out of my control. And when I feel like I deserve a shot to play and don’t get one, it’s draining. But I felt I did a good job of staying positive and working hard despite not seeing minutes and am looking forward to challenging for the starting spot next year.
BA: What are some of the biggest adjustments from the BCHL game to the college game?
JK: The guys are bigger, older, stronger. The game is much tighter defensively. 25 shots on goal is a good night for teams in the ECAC, a far cry from the 60 shot games I used to face with the Rivermen.
BA: How tough was it juggling school and hockey?
JK: It’s tough, especially at a school like Dartmouth. The professors hold us accountable, and vigorous studying is essential to have any academic success. During the season, most of the guys try to take an easy class or two to lighten the load, but even so our days are very busy with class, workouts, practice, and then homework. It can get overwhelming at times, but we get through it.
BA: Describe the campus over there at Dartmouth?
JK: The campus is beautiful. It’s a small school in a fairly isolated rural environment, But it’s extremely nice. I like the small town feel and open space. The weather is a little brutal in the winter, but nothing I’m not used to (being from Minnesota). I really like it here.
BA: It is a big lifestyle change moving from Junior “A” on to the NCAA ranks where in Junior you have a billet family taking care of you everyday from cleaning to cooking. Now in University, you are all by yourself (maybe with some roommates) how long did it take you to adjust or is it still a work in progress?
JK: Yeah it’s definitely a big change. I’ve always been an extremely independent person, so I really thrive on taking care of myself and doing my own thing. I have a great roommate and my own room that I am happy with. It didn’t take much adjusting. I’ve been living away from home for years now, and I was definitely excited for dorm life. As far as food I don’t do much cooking, but we have a cafeteria here that is “all you can eat”, so I find myself going there for most major meals. However, when the campus is shut down for winter break during the season, we live off of Subway and a handful of other small restaurants in town.
BA: What are your plans for next season?
JK: Our team has scheduled a trip to Italy in August, so I’m very excited about that. We are going to play against a couple European Pro teams and tour Italy. It’s a 10 day trip and I’m looking forward to it. After that I will just settle back in on campus and start working for the season.
BA: Did you follow the Rivermen at all last season?
JK: I did! I follow the blog and Twitter accounts and check in on my former teammates. I was happy to see the Men made the playoffs. It was also great to see Mario have such an amazing year. He deserves it and I’m looking forward to suiting up against him next year when he is playing for Vermont. I’m also looking forward to seeing my former goalie partner James Barr continue to be a top goaltender in the BCHL. I expect big things out of that kid.
BA: Thanks for doing this Jimmy and good luck next year!
JK: Thank you! Go Rivermen!!