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COLLEGE HOCKEY: Tests come first for players

At 8 a.m. Saturday morning, University of Denver men's hockey forward Gabe Levin strolled into Witmer Hall on the campus of UND, found a place to sit and waited to take the most important test of his college career.

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UND's Meghan Dufault fires a shot towards the University of Minnesota goal during Thursday evening's hockey game on October 29, 2015 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Photo by Nick Nelson for the Grand Forks Herald.

At 8 a.m. Saturday morning, University of Denver men’s hockey forward Gabe Levin strolled into Witmer Hall on the campus of UND, found a place to sit and waited to take the most important test of his college career.

Sitting alongside him was UND women’s hockey forward Meghan Dufault.

The college hockey players -- who were among 25-30 students taking the law school admission test (LSAT) -- had plenty in common.

They are both senior leaders. They both play on the top two lines. Neither had missed a game in more than two years. Yet they both made the difficult decision to sit out a key conference showdown Friday night in order to get a good night of sleep ahead of the critical test.

Levin made the trip to Grand Forks with the Pioneers, but sat in the stands Friday night for the first time since Game 3 of his freshman career, snapping the longest streak of consecutive games played in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference at 129. He left in the third period with his father, Ben, to go back to the Hilton Garden Inn to sleep.

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Dufault opted not to accompany her team on the trip to Bemidji State for the opener of a two-game series, knowing the team wouldn’t get back until midnight or later. She watched the game on the internet and went to bed early.

“Since I registered for the test, I was on the fence about playing,” Dufault said. “I didn’t know for sure. I talked to my parents about it a lot. We decided that not playing was probably the best option for me.”

The LSAT, an integral part of the law school admission process in the U.S. and Canada, is offered four times a year -- February, June, October and December. The December test is a key one because it is the last possible date to take it in order to get accepted into some law schools.

Levin’s story

Levin originally wanted to take the test in October, but missed the cutoff date to sign up for it. Dec. 5 was the date of the next test. He looked at the hockey schedule and saw that Denver was playing against North Dakota that weekend.

He then noticed that Grand Forks was one of two testing locations in North Dakota, and signed up for the exam. His plan, at that point in time, was to play in both games. He told an assistant coach in passing about the test.

Last week, Denver head coach Jim Montgomery approached Levin and asked how he was feeling about it. He asked if Levin was going to be stressed out for the exam if he played Friday night. Then, he suggested the possibility of sitting out that game.

“At first, I was like, ‘Screw that. No chance,’” Levin said. “But after I talked with him, I thought about it more. I talked about it with my parents, and we decided that it was the best thing for me and the team.”

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Levin found out on Twitter that his consecutive game streak ended at 129.

“I didn’t realize how long it had been since I missed a game,” he said. “That made me feel a little bit bad. It was tough to watch and not be out there with the guys, too, especially with the way the game went.”

Denver lost the opener 5-1.

Levin spent five-and-a-half hours in Witmer Hall taking the exam. He left at about 1:30 p.m. Because he missed the team lunch, he ate a meal with his father, then re-joined the team for pre-game activities.

Montgomery put Levin back in the lineup on the left wing of the second line. The Pioneers didn’t fare much better, losing the series finale 4-0.

"It was a little difficult,” Levin said of the wild day. “You’re out of your routine, which is tough. I missed out on pregame meal, which is tough. You’re just on such an emotional roller coaster. Your adrenaline is going crazy from the morning. It was weird to have to re-focus on hockey, but it was also nice at the same time.

“It gave me a chance to get my mind off of school and focus on something I love to do.”

Levin plans to apply to law schools in January with the hopes of enrolling in the fall.

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“I have a bit of an idea of what I want to do, but a lot depends on the results of the exam,” said Levin, who is expecting to hear back in three or four weeks. “So, the stress isn’t entirely over yet.”

Dufault’s story

Dufault is on track to graduate with a degree in business management, but wanted to do something more with it.

During the summer, she debated between trying for her Master of Business Administration or going to law school. She discussed it with family and friends and settled on law school.

In August, Hockey Canada invited Dufault to the national team festival, which could eventually lead to a chance at a spot on the Olympic team. But she declined and started studying for the LSAT.

“I’m ready to get going on a new chapter of life,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll get into law school and hopefully start a career.”

Dufault originally wanted to take the March test, but that’s past the deadline for her No. 1 choice of law school -- the University of Manitoba. So she signed up for the December test.

She recently informed the coaching staff of her decision to stay back, factoring in the time UND would get back to Grand Forks and the fact that it would sap her energy level before the test.

“I’m not a morning person to begin with,” she said.

Dufault, who is the team's second-leading scorer, said the webcast didn’t work in the first period, but she watched the second and third. UND won 1-0 on a goal by linemate Becca Kohler. Dufault was asleep by 9:30 p.m. that night.

Although UND and Bemidji State didn’t play the series finale until Sunday in Grand Forks, coach Brian Idalski decided to hold Dufault out of the lineup again, saying it was a coach’s decision. UND lost 1-0.

Dufault said the five hours at Witmer Hall on Saturday were a bit stressful, but she's happy to be done. She also said she spotted Levin when she walked into the classroom.

“He was wearing all Denver stuff, so I had a pretty good idea he was on the team,” she said. “When I saw him at first, I thought that he played the night before. When I heard that he didn’t, I felt a lot better. I wasn’t the only one.”

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Gabe Levin

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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