BLAINE, Minn. - Unlike most wide-eyed freshmen student-athletes, Tyler Jensen will have already played two seasons of post-prep junior hockey when he laces up his skates for the first time for the Lawrence University Vikings next season.
"I'll be 21 (years old) so hopefully I'll be a bit more mature than the average freshman," the Bel;it Memorial High School grad said in a telephone interview. "It's going to be different, but all the guys on the team are older and those are the guys you hang out with. They're ready to focus on school and hockey."
Jensen was a prolific scorer for the Purple Knights. As a senior when the team went 12-11-1, he scored 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists). Unlike other sports, however, the path to college hockey, Division III on up to D-I generally requires some time spent in the junior ranks.
Jensen played for the Skipjacks Hockey Club in York, Pennsylvania, last season and currently plays for the Minnesota Moose, based in Blaine, about 15 miles north of Minneapolis. Not only has he grown his game playing junior hockey, he has simply grown. He is now listed at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds.
"I think I have improved a lot," Jensen said. "The coaching staffs I've had the past two years have been amazing. With the Skipjacks I worked on a lot of the smaller fundamental parts of my game. With the Moose, I have three really good coaches who have different philosophies and styles to learn from. One is Joe Dibble, who coached with the (Janesville) Jets for six years and developed some top players."
The Moose are a solid contender in the U.S. Premier Hockey League (USPHL). They play at the Tier 3 level, one below the Janesville Jets.
"It's a very competitive league and this division is known for being physical as well as skilled," he said.
Jensen is the team's second-leading scorer through 24 games with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists).
"The guys on my line are really good, so that helps," he said. "It's a good atmosphere. If we make it to nationals, we'll wrap up the beginning of March. The regular season ends in February."
Lawrence scouted him back in October during a showcase tournament in Chicago. Jensen said playing for the Vikings was a no-brainer.
"I want to major in economics and the economics program there is very strong," he said. "The team plays in a really good division. I like their coaching staff and they have a solid young team. I'm really looking forward to going there and starting my college career."
While D-III teams are prohibited from offering athletic scholarships, Jensen's grades will likely earn him an academic aid package.
• NOTES: Lawrence plays in a Division III conference that includes St. Norbert, which often wins the national championship. The league also includes Adrian College, Concordia University, Marian University, Lake Forest, Aurora University and Milwaukee School of Engineering....Jensen saw former BMHS teammate Brayden Dooper two weeks ago when the Moose played against the Dells Ducks. ...Jensen will take a winter break and visit Beloit Dec. 23.