Swedish freshman Stenlund pivotal in Purple Eagles' strong start

James Neiss/staff photographerNiagara hockey player Ludwig Stenlund poses during a December practice at Dwyer Arena. The Swedish freshman is tied for second on the Purple Eagles with six goals entering the second half of the season.

LEWISTON — Coming off the first part of a 2018-19 season which saw him earn Atlantic Hockey’s Player of the Month honors and the NCAA’s Third Star of the Week in November, freshman Ludwig Stenlund is using his time at Niagara to grow both as a player and a student.

Stenlund, who hails from Skelleftea, Sweden, enters the second half of the season with six goals and 12 total points. He’s been reliable for the Purple Eagles, scoring big goals, including the overtime winner in the season opener against AIC.

For Stenlund, who played for the United States Hockey League’s Madison Capitols in Wisconsin last year, the transition to Niagara has gone well.

“It’s been super fun, honestly,” he said. “It’s different now this year with a lot more school, but I think it’s been a real good experience both getting into the hockey and school, and managing the time. I think we freshmen did a good job for the first semester figuring everything out.”

Coming from playing on international ice surfaces in Sweden, Stenlund said it took a few months to get used to the smaller North American ice surfaces.

“Everything happens faster,” he said. “You have much less time. That was probably the hardest part.”

There are other differences in the way the game is played, Stenlund said.

“It’s more of a north-south game, where everything is going to the net instead of pulling up and making plays,” he said. “They still do that here, but it’s more focused on going to the net. It’s more physical, too. Just the smaller rink makes it more physical.”

Stenlund grew up hearing about Niagara Falls in Sweden, and enjoys being in the area.

“I think it’s super cool,” he said. “It’s a great location — you’ve got Canada a few minutes away, and the same with Buffalo. It’s a cool spot to be in.”

Playing hockey at high level and getting an education at the same time is tough to do in Sweden, Stenlund said, which led to his decision to come to Niagara.

“When I got here, the guys were super nice,” he said. “The coaching staff was helping me a lot. The whole campus has been super nice, too. It’s been easy and it’s been fun to transfer everything I do.”

Majoring in business management at Niagara, Stenlund eventually plans on heading back to Sweden to work for the IT company his father owns. He gets back there for summers and breaks during the college schedule.

“Even if it’s for a short time, it’s nice to see friends and family,” he said.

Going forward, the goal is to improve on the ice and off, Stenlund said.

“I always want to get better,” he said. “It’s been something I’ve been talking with the coaches a lot too. Just work hard every day. Things don’t come by themself, you have to work hard every day and put the time in.”

Stenlund and the rest of the Purple Eagles (8-10-1, 7-5-1 in the AHC) get back to action at 7 p.m. tonight against RIT (7-8-1, 5-6-1 AHC) at Dwyer Arena. Niagara is looking to avenge an 8-4 loss to RIT in its final game before the winter break. The teams will meet against Saturday evening in Rochester.

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