Tuf Task

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Tufto is excited to trade the “A” for a “C” this season. | Photos: Liz Flynn

Olamide Gbotosho

A lot has changed for Odeen Tufto since becoming a member of the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team in 2017. From having thousands of fans in the stands cheering, to having none at all, while becoming the team’s 40th captain, he has experienced change like no other.

Due to the coronavirus and uncertainty surrounding whether or not there would be a season, Tufto had the tough challenge of leading a team through an obstacle that no other prior captain has experienced – not being able to play hockey, and dealing with the uncertainty of if there will be hockey again.

“I reached out to (Chase) Priskie and (Nick) Jermain and they couldn’t really offer me much because they said they had never been in that situation,” Tufto said.

“So far I think I’ve been able to do a good job. Older guys like Kieth and Joe O’Connor have really helped me, along with (Wyatt Bongiovanni) and (Peter DiLiberatore),” he added.

Tufto had the opportunity to either play professionally or stay at Quinnipiac this year, but due to the pause of sports around the world and advice from his teammate Keith Petruzzelli, he believes the decision was made for him. By staying at Quinnipiac this year, he had the opportunity to develop as a player and individual so he can be prepared to play at the pro level.

“I realized I had the chance to be the captain, a senior, and have one last kick at the can. After I thought about it with my family, my advisor, and the coaches, it was honestly a really easy decision. “I mean COVID kind of made the decision for me so I’m happy to be back and I’m happy for one last run in it,” he adds.

One of the first difficulties Tufto dealt with in the beginning of the season was being able to get to know the new players on a personal level before training started. Being able to know his teammates – who they were, and why they loved hockey – was a foundation Odeen knew was important to having a strong and successful team.

“I think those first weeks back on campus were definitely different. Usually you come in in the summer, you do a half or full summer here, the freshmen come in and the older guys get to meet them early on and you just kind of build that comradery during the summer.”

“Coming in three days before school started was very different. Doing Zoom calls with the new guys and not really knowing them on a personal level before I got here was challenging,” he adds.

Every season comes with adversity, but what you do to overcome those challenges and setting goals to improve yourself is what makes you overcome them. For Tufto, his goal is to put together all what he’s learned during his past three seasons to make himself a better player and have a memorable senior season.

“I put together three really good years…I think I’ve shown as a player that I can score and make plays and make a difference around the ice. Now it’s just compiling everything and being a reliable center – not only offensively but defensively.”

“I just want to compile everything together so I can have one last great year here,” he added.

A lot can change about a person and a player over the course of four years, and change doesn’t come without a few regrets. As Tufto looked back upon his development since freshman year, he wished he could’ve done some things differently.

“First thing I’d say is commit more to defense and the second thing I’d say is be a great guy on and off the ice,” Tufto explained.

“What I’ve learned and what’s allowed me to be in this position as a captain is putting your teammates before yourself on and off the ice,” he added.

As you grow not only as a player, but an individual, you learn the power of teamwork and become selfless rather than selfish. Your teammates are part of the reason you are as successful as you are now, and it’s important their needs are being taken care of. That’s something Tufto has realized himself as he looks back on his journey so far at Quinnipiac.

“There have been instances throughout my three years here where I think I’ve been selfish and made mistakes, but I think at the end of the day I’ve been able to look at myself and understand that the guy to the left and the right of me is just as important as I am, and I need to help that guy if something happens or boost them up if they made a mistake.”

“I’ve learned a lot from that freshman year player, and I’m better because of that.”