Last season the St. Cloud Norsemen were the stingiest team in the NAHL Central Division by 30 goals and nobody outside of the South Division surrendered less than their 153 goals in 60 regular season games. Goaltender Tomáš Boľo was a big part of that, with a 29-7-1 record, a .912 save percentage, 2.25 goals against average and five shutouts in 37 regular season games played. He was the backbone to the Norsemen winning the Central Division regular and postseason titles and was named the goaltender for the 2021-22 NAHL All-Central Division Team.
Boľo had a busy offseason as well, as he represented his home country of Slovakia in the World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta. “It was an awesome experience, just playing against the top players and top teams in the world at our age was just amazing,” recalls Boľo. “To see how skilled and fast and strong all those players are gives you a reality check of what you have to work on and where you have to get to play pro hockey. Obviously, playing for and representing my country on the international level at the World Championship is just such an honor.”
St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz knows how big of an opportunity getting to play in the World Juniors was. “That’s obviously a huge bonus and something I’m sure he’ll remember for the rest of his life. Just to be able to do that and come into the year with a little confidence and swagger; hopefully that translates to coming back and playing for us,” Kautz acknowledges. “That’s a huge testament to himself because that’s a pretty high achievement to do that and I’m sure it means a lot for him.”
Shortly before the 2022-23 season got underway Boľo made his commitment to play college hockey for Lake Superior State University next fall. It’s not surprising that LSSU and other schools coveted the netminder and we asked him to talk about what he feels are the strengths of his game. “Obviously I want to work on all areas of my game but where I feel most comfortable is my athleticism, my speed and playing the puck,” Boľo admits. “I think I got better lately with my mental side of the game and competing.”
Boľo’s numbers haven’t been quite as strong his sophomore NAHL season, but Kautz, who was a goaltender himself, points out that a big part of the difference is the team not having as much success in front of him. “He’d be the first to admit his numbers aren’t where he wants them to be. For me, being a former goalie, goalie numbers are not an individual stat; they go under his name but that’s a direct impact on how the team plays in front of him,” explains Kautz. “Save percentage, goals against, that’s a team stat in my eyes. He’s been trending in the right direction. He was really good for us this weekend. Friday, getting a 30 plus save shutout is tough to do. When we put up one goal and he keeps a zero on the board and gets a win on the road is very difficult to do in this league. We were very pleased with how he played. He’s starting to find a little groove and get a little more confidence in himself and we have a lot of confidence in him.”
Boľo’s veteran presence in the locker room and experience in the league are invaluable but as far as he sees it, there isn’t too much of a difference between last year and this year. “When I’m in the game I am just in my zone, focused, and that hasn’t really changed since last year,” Boľo points out.
Boľo and the Norsemen are at home this weekend against the Minot Minotauros Friday and Saturday night. Tickets are available online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.