Meet Minnesota’s only Black college hockey players

Kensie Malone
Photo by Kevin Healy for Augsburg

Augsburg sophomore forward Kensie Malone scored the Auggies’ first goal of the 2021-22 hockey season, an unassisted tally earlier this month. She finished the Nov. 4 overtime contest against Wisconsin-River Falls with two shots on goal and posted a team-best .615 in faceoff wins.

Minnesota senior defense Crystalyn Hengler last Saturday assisted on the Gophers’ only power-play goal in her first start of the season, a 7-1 home victory over RIT. Additionally, the 5’-8” left defense had three of the team’s 72 shots on goal.

“I’ve never been part of a game where we put so many shots as a team,” admitted Hengler. “It was awesome, but overall we had a lot of chances on offense.” Asked about her first start of the year she said, “It was nice. I didn’t think too much of it. It is always fun when you can start.” 

Malone and Hengler are the state’s only Black college hockey players. Last season the two local players were among approximately 15 Black women players nationwide.  

Minnesota Coach Brad Frost pointed out, “I know Crystalyn wants to be known as a hockey player” rather than just a Black female hockey player. “She understands who she is.” 

Said Hengler, the Eden Prairie native, “As a sport, we are getting toward that goal. I’m hoping when I am an actual adult to see that happening.”

“I hope to see some more [Black players],” concurred Malone, the 5’-5” Minneapolis native, and Gentry Academy High School grad.

Courtesy Gopher Athletics Crystalyn Hengler

Frost said he likes Hengler’s progression as one of 11 upperclassmen on this year’s Gopher squad, both as a player and leader over the course of her time at Minnesota. “She is progressing well. She had a real good career for us. She led our defensemen in scoring last year. We’re excited to see her progression. 

“She continues to get better and is composed with the puck and really strong on it. She continues to make smart hockey plays,” said the Gopher coach. “She is an awesome person, too. We love having her.”

Malone, now in her second college season, hopes for a complete season after a pandemic-affected one last year. “Having a schedule that says no cancellations, it’s been fun so far,” said the Auggie forward, who had an assist in Augsburg’s 5-3 win over Hamline at home last Saturday.

Unlike men’s hockey, women’s hockey relies primarily on skill rather than being so physical.  

“We use our skills and use our teammates to get around players to get the puck in the net,” explained Malone. “The speed of the game is also faster [than high school]. But you just got to be quick on your feet and quick with your passes.”

But this doesn’t mean the women aren’t physical—Malone drew a holding penalty, and 14 penalties total were called in the Nov. 4 River Falls game at Augsburg’s Ed Saugestad Rink.

While Malone is still undecided on a major, Hengler is close to completing her kinesiology degree. “For being here 3½, almost four years now, I’ve learned some things from my former teammates and former captains. I definitely see some growth in my leadership and how it impacts our underclassmen.”