About to go Wild: Ex-NMU defenseman, former captain Beaulieu signs deal with Iowa
MARQUETTE — Former Northern Michigan University defenseman Phil Beaulieu was a team captain, All-American and WCHA Defensive Player of the Year during his four years in Marquette.
Now, he can add professional hockey player to his resume after he signed a two-way contract with the American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild and ECHL’s Allen Americans that was announced in July.
Both are affiliates of the Minnesota Wild, which makes it extra special for the Duluth, Minnesota, native.
“It’s the home state team, so I think I have a lot of pride in that, especially with Minnesota hockey being so big in our culture,” he said. “I’m really excited to be part of the hometown team and get my pro career started there.”
That’s not bad for a guy who came to the Wildcats on just a partial scholarship that was offered by former Wildcats coach Walt Kyle and was later honored by current head coach Grant Potulny.
Beaulieu then turned that original offer into an impressive college career that includes 121 points and 26 goals.
“It was a tough last year of juniors (just before NMU) for sure, and I kind of hit a little bump in the road and I came here and got a good opportunity and I just ran with it,” he said. “I was able to be confident and I found a good routine. It was just a little bit of a growing-up experience.
“I wouldn’t have been here without everything that happened and all the people that helped me out along the way. I believe everything happens for a reason and this is the place for me and it worked out the best.”
Beaulieu definitely left an impact on the ice as he became one of the best offensive defenseman in the country, but he also wasn’t afraid to get into a few scraps at NMU, too. If a teammate, or especially a goalie, was being pushed around, Beaulieu was typically one of the first people in the fray to defend them.
In one game, former Wildcat goalie Atte Tolvanen was tripped up behind the net when the puck was in the Northern defensive zone. After the referee blew the whistle, Beaulieu, who was well behind the play at the time, skated full speed toward the offending player and ended up planting him onto the ice.
“I was never the biggest fighter, but you always have to protect your teammates and your goalie whenever you can,” he said with a laugh.
When asked what he’s going to remember most about his time at NMU, Beaulieu said it was about playing with his teammates, and of course, playing rivalry games against Michigan Tech.
“The (Upper Peninsula) rivalry, you can’t beat it,” he said. “It was always such a high to play them four times a year and we even got to play them in the playoffs this year. Obviously, it didn’t go the right way, but you can’t beat those Tech games. That was a lot of fun.”
It’s different when you leave college for the pros and Beaulieu noticed that during this phone interview, since he was in NMU’s Berry Events Center watching his former teammates do the routines he used to go through.
“It’s a little sad watching all the boys out here and not being out there with them,” he said. “But it’s also fun to kind of watch how this place has changed over the last four years. With my buddies here practicing, it’s just fun to watch them. I can’t wait to see what they do this season. They have a lot of young, good, exciting guys, so I wish them all the best.”
Beaulieu said during this long stretch off, thanks to the minor league season being delayed, he’s focused on some off-ice stuff. However, now he’s excited to lace up the skates again, whether it’s in Des Moines, Iowa, or in Texas.
“I don’t think I’ll really have another chance to take a big chunk of time off the ice like this and be able to get away with it,” he said. “So there’s a positive in everything and if that gives me a chance to reset the body and the mental (frame of mind) on the ice, I’m going to take advantage of that.
“It helped out a lot and I’d love to be back on the ice and I’m hungry.”
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.