Tolvanen missing one key piece of hardware

Tolvanen

Tolvanen

Nate Bellville

Through all the honors and achievements earned in his tenure with the Northern Michigan University Men’s Hockey team, senior goaltender Atte Tolvanen is on track to graduate as one of the most decorated Wildcat players of all-time.

“I knew I had the talent to be really good, but I had to work on my game,” Tolvanen said. “It’s always been a goal for me to play professional hockey and that’s why I’m down here.”

Last season, Tolvanen was awarded WCHA Goaltender of the Year after tallying 17 wins, a .773 win percentage and a .917 save percentage. As of this year, his 2.44 goals-allowed-average (GAA) ranks third in program history. He is currently tied with Craig Kowalski (2000-04) for most career shutouts (12) in Wildcat history, a feat he achieved at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks on Jan. 4.

“There’s been a lot of great goalies and great teams here and seeing from the banners hung from the rafters, it’s very humbling to be part of it,” Tolvanen said.

With the growing list of accolades to his profile, Tolvanen attributes his team for helping him reach his full potential.

“To me, it’s always about the team and the coaching staff here has done a great job,” Tolvanen said.

Majoring in business management, the Vihti, Finland native has started in every game this season, totaling 579 saves, a 2.06 GAA and three points. One of those points came right before the winter break when he notched his first career goal after launching the puck from his own crease into rival Michigan Tech University’s goal, sending the sold-out Berry Events Center crowd and the internet into a frenzy.

“I looked up and saw that there’s no one by their net, so I decided to give it a try and was lucky enough that it went in,” Tolvanen said on the goal. “It was pretty awesome having all the guys go nuts and have all of the building go nuts; it was an awesome feeling.”

Tolvanen said that he wants to play professional hockey after graduating, hoping to join his brothers Joona and Eeli. Before enrolling at Northern, Tolvanen gained experience in junior hockey, playing for the NAHL’s Minot Minotauros in North Dakota and the Minnesota Magicians. His older brother Joona plays forward in Poland with the Podhale Nowy Targ hockey club, while his younger brother Eeli plays forward for the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, an affiliate team for the NHL’s Nashville Predators.

In his spare time, Tolvanen is active in the Marquette community such as handing out tickets to fans and helping out at children’s hockey camps.

As his senior season closes, Tolvanen is hoping he can live up to his personal goals and team goals. He was selected to the WCHA All-Academic Team last year and was recently nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, an award given out to the Division I collegiate hockey player who displays best in performance, integrity and character.

“Personally, being an All-American would be a great honor along with being in the top 10 for the Hobey Baker Award too,” Tolvanen said. “Going forward as a team, we want to win our league. That’s our main goal.”

Tolvanen identifies the team’s goal as winning the regular season conference title to securing home-ice throughout the WCHA playoffs.

“Obviously, we’re trying to finish strong and win the trophy. That way if we clinch the regular season, we could have the Berry rocking again in the playoffs,” Tolvanen said.

The star goaltender is on pace to reach records for career save percentage, career total saves and possibly, career wins. With 12 games left, all signs point toward Tolvanen smashing more records in NMU hockey history.