Teen From Belarus Learns English While Playing Hockey in Owatonna
Teenager Arturas Laurynavichus came to southern Minnesota last fall knowing virtually no English. But through hockey, he’s become fluent enough to hold a conversation, “Right now, yes. But first month I understand nothing. Right now my English, really good.”
Early in the season the Steele County Blades forward from Minsk, Belarus communicated through a phone app and translations through Russian defenseman Andrei Moskvitin. Through it all, Laurynavichus says he didn’t get homesick, as he talks with his mother nearly daily.
He asked his mom about playing hockey when he was three but she said no. At age six she changed her mind. He came to the U.S. to take his game to the next level, “Because it’s [best] hockey in the world.” He’s the second-leader scorer for the Blades, “I feel really good. I want to win playoff and go to another playoff with another team from another state.”
Steele County has picked up several big wins late in the season and played competitive games against some of the top teams in the league.
Goalie Levi Preugschas appreciates when the team gets an early lead, but remains focused regardless, “I love seeing the boys come out with energy. It feels good but I know I just have to focus on the next shot.”
“We’re starting to click offensively. We’re starting to put pucks in the back of the net. It’s my job to keep them out. Give my team a fighting chance to get the two points at the end of the game.”
Several Blades players will age out of junior hockey after the season. Anders Thorager (Stillwater) has played his entire junior career with the Blades, skating where his father David played his high school hockey. He is proud to have been the captain this season.
He says the chemistry on the team has been strong, thanks in part to, having so many players from around the world, “It’s really cool. We have two guys from Czech [Republic], a couple guys that speak Russian, a guy from Hungary, a guy from Australia.” He’s picked up a few words from those nationalities.
Joey Bunton (Danville, IL) is wrapping up his third season with the Blades, “I don’t think it’s really set in yet. I know it’s coming. I’m happy about it,” he said about the ending of his junior career. Bunton will play club hockey at the University of Kentucky.
Brady Rossbach (New Berlin, WI) has become a face off specialist for the team in his two years in town, “I practice as much as possible. A thing that I like to do is I like to see what the other team is doing their faceoffs and I try to counter every single time depending on who is taking the faceoff against me. If I start losing my faceoffs, then I’ll start wondering what are they doing to counter me, and I try to counter what they’re doing.”
Connor Homan (Anchorage, AK) spent a portion of this season with Steele County and has had a great chance to tour the country during his career, playing in Texas, Montana, Illinois, and Utah along the way.
Homan believes following the basics can lead to playoff success, “If we just stay focused and play our systems, we can beat any team in this division. We’ve shown it.”
Homan plans to continue his hockey career in college. He says there have been days this season when home was warmer than here.