Gislason embraces his role

By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Tuesday, January 25, 2011

ONALASKA — For Coulee Region Chill defenseman Ben Gislason, boring is good.

If all Gislason does during a shift is clear the puck out of the Coulee Region zone and maybe stop an opposing rush, he’s a happy guy.  It’s not a glamourous role but it’s one that Gislason embraces. The 19-year-old from Burnsville, Minn., (Breck High School) is a defensive defenseman by trade. His office is the Chill’s end of the ice.

“To me it’s all about getting the puck to the guys who are here to score goals,” Gislason said. “Not that I can’t (score) but I don’t. That’s my thing; maybe I’ll get (a goal), maybe I won’t, but we’ve got a lot of skilled forwards. I look for the guy that’s open and get it to him, get up the ice and get ready for the next rush.”

Coulee Region has defensemen like Matt Blomquist (26 points), Eric Drapluk (17) and Mike McDonald (11) who are able to join the offense.  Meanwhile, Gislason has the highest plus-minus rating on the defensive corps (plus-7), with no goals and 10 assists in 34 games.

“His biggest strength is the decisions he makes with the puck,” Chill coach Garrett Strot said. “He doesn’t panic and for the most part he’s been good without the puck. A lot of the reason he’s plus is that when he’s out there, he’s getting the puck out of the zone.”

Gislason has first-hand experience with how playing a specific role and playing it well can help a team. He was one of the top defensemen on Breck’s Minnesota Class A state championship team last March. In three state tournament wins, Gislason had two points and was plus-eight.

“We had good forwards at Breck — I gave the puck to them and they scored,” Gislason said. “And here it’s no different.”

Gislason did have to make adjustments when he reached the NAHL, even from a high level of high school.  He graduated at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, and knew he wasn’t carrying enough muscle to handle a regular shift in juniors. So Gislason focused more on weightlifting and less on hockey skills over the summer to be ready.

“I knew coming down here, this is a league of big guys and older players,” Gislason said. “I knew I had to be stronger at the core and just be ready. I didn’t want to get thrown around. 

“The speed is a notch up from even  high level of high school hockey; you’ve got about a split second to make a play and you’ve got to know where you’re going way before you get the puck. You adjust for that and see what you can do and get better at that.”