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Finding his groove

By Nick Clark, Sun Newspapers, 01/08/12, 9:24PM CST

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Osseo graduate Tim Bonner piling up points with Tri-City in USHL


Former Osseo standout Tim Bonner, who has committed to play at Yale, is playing for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL this season. Photo by Helen Nelson


Tim Bonner

It wasn’t that long ago that a statistics sheet would do plenty to prove Tim Bonner’s worth to a hockey team.

In high school, the Osseo graduate filled it almost nightly, to the point that after four years of playing varsity hockey for the Orioles, he graduated in 2011 as the Orioles' all-time leading goal scorer and point producer.

Before then, it was much the same, as his high-powered youth numbers had him debuting with the Osseo varsity as a ninth-grader.

But then came this season, his first in the United States Hockey League, where patience was going to do even more for his pedigree than points.

“I had to figure a lot out in this league, and I knew that coming in,” said Bonner, who has spent the past two-plus months skating for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm in Kearney, Neb. “It was a big adjustment for me. The game was just faster. But I’m starting to get more confident, and the points are starting to come.”

That they are.
 
Bonner was named the USHL’s co-Offensive Player of the Week for the week ending Dec. 17.

In two games with the Storm that week, Bonner racked up five points (three goals, two assists) in two victories over Sioux City. That point total was three more than he had in his previous 23 games.

The outburst provided the type of relief Bonner – and the Storm – had been looking for.
 
Bonner had not been scoring much, and the Storm wasn’t winning much, either. The team was just 6-16 overall leading up to its holiday break but has since gone 5-3.
 
That much, Bonner said, needed to change.
 
“It was a team thing,” said Bonner, who as of Jan. 9 ranked fifth on the Storm in scoring with nine goals and six assists. “We just needed to win a couple and get our confidence back as a group. Sure, it was nice to get on the score sheet, but it made it that much better to do it in games we were winning.”
 
Many of his teammates, Bonner admitted, felt the stress. Then again, most don’t have their future in line the way Bonner does.

Tim Bonner, left, graduated from Osseo in 2011 as the Orioles' career leader in goals and points. Courtesy photo

Nine of his current teammates have college commitments locked up. Bonner does as well, and it’s alleviated a lot of stress. A number of his teammates still wonder daily who is watching, and where they may end up.

Bonner came to the team with that problem solved.
 
Yale University approached during his senior year at Osseo, offering a chance to play for what was at the time the top-rated Division I college hockey program in the country.
 
That fact alone caught Bonner’s attention. Bulldogs head coach Keith Allain, a Yale graduate himself, threw out this nugget.
 
“He told me his roommate from his freshman year made $300 million last year alone,” Bonner said. “It’s amazing what you can do with that type of education.”
 
Bonner said it might be another year before he heads to Yale, adding that an additional season in the USHL could be beneficial for his development on the ice. He certainly doesn’t need it in the classroom however, as he graduated from Osseo with a grade-point average of 3.98.
 
In other words, he wasn’t one of the players Osseo co-head coaches Mark Phenow and Kevin Willey had to worry about on report card day.
 
“Oh no, not at all,” said Phenow. “He’s just one of those kids that is gifted in many ways, and his studies are one of them. He’s just a smart kid with a great head on his shoulders. He’ll do well wherever he ends up.”
 
The fact it eventually will be Yale still gives Bonner the chills. When the school first contacted him last winter about possibly playing hockey, he had already started to compile a list of schools showing interest.
 
None offered the same opportunity.
 
“When a school like Yale calls, it’s tough to even consider turning it down,” Bonner said. “It’s a great hockey school, but the education I am going to get is fantastic. I couldn’t turn it down.”
 
After accepting the offer, he immediately started making plans for this season, working out weekly at the Herb Brooks Training Center inside the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine.
 
He was in Kearney by September, and has been a regular in the Storm lineup ever since.
 
Tri-City has played 30 games this season, and Bonner has dressed in all of them. The point production has continued. All it took was some time.
 
“I expected that,” Bonner said. “I was patient with it, and now it seems like it is paying off for me, and that is starting to show on the stats sheet like I was used to.”

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