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Former Moorhead hockey standout Borgen signs with the Buffalo Sabres

MOORHEAD, Minn.--Former Moorhead hockey standout Will Borgen grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL. He used to tell his dad he didn't know what he would do if he couldn't play hockey. He won't have to worry about that for awhile, as he signed a ...

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St. Cloud Stateโ€™s Will Borgen skates against the University of Minnesota-Duluth during the first period Nov. 4, 2017, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. (File / Forum News Service)

MOORHEAD, Minn.-Former Moorhead hockey standout Will Borgen grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL. He used to tell his dad he didn't know what he would do if he couldn't play hockey. He won't have to worry about that for awhile, as he signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

"Pretty cool. It's always been a dream of mine," Borgen said. "I signed this morning. It's been a lot to do. I've been on the phone all day and packing."

The deal will begin in the 2018-19 NHL season, as the defenseman signed an amateur tryout that will allow him to play for the top minor league affiliate for the Sabres for the rest of this season. Borgen will fly to New York on Monday to join the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League.

"Once I got to high school I just wanted to get to college and the NHL has been a dream since I got drafted," Borgen said. "Just got to get stronger and work on all assets of my game to be honest. How I've been playing right now has gotten me this far. I'm just focusing on going to Rochester and hopefully playing well there."

The decision to skip his final season at St. Cloud State was not an easy one for Borgen. He would never talk about it with friends and family during the hockey season. If he was asked he would say he was focused on the current season.

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"It's pretty hard," Borgen said. "I made some of my best friends at St. Cloud and they're still there. I'd love to play with them another year. It sucks to not be able to play college hockey, but it's also awesome to get a chance to play pro hockey."

Borgen was a 2015 Moorhead graduate, finishing his career with the Spuds with 18 goals and 54 assists in 84 games. He was a Mr. Hockey finalist in his senior season with Moorhead. He's the first player Moorhead hockey coach Jon Ammerman has coached to sign an NHL contract.

"Anytime a kid moves up, no matter to what level, it's always fun to watch him succeed," Ammerman said. "With his size and his skating ability that put him in the conversation. He competes so hard. With practice, with how hard he competed, you knew there was a chance. Obviously, a lot of things have to work out for a kid, but he competed so much harder than kids and it was just a different level. He was just different."

He played 106 games with St. Cloud State, notching 41 points. He was named National College Hockey Conference's Defensive Defenseman of the Year this season. Borgen was one of four collegiate players to be named to the U.S. Olympic men's hockey team this year. He also won a bronze medal with the U.S. team at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in 2016. Borgen was selected in the fourth round, No. 92 overall, in the 2015 NHL Draft.

"I just personally feel like I'm ready to make the next step in my hockey career," Borgen said. "I had a great opportunity in St. Cloud. They developed me to this point to help me move on.

"I learned a lot. St. Cloud developed me. My coaches helped me a lot. They brought me in straight in from high school. I wouldn't have gotten to play world juniors or go to the Olympics without them. Also, Moorhead hockey obviously helped me a lot to get to college That's why I go back every summer."

Borgen has always been even-keeled off the ice. His agent had to warn Buffalo General Manager Jason Botterill that he was most likely going to get one-word answers of "Thanks" and "Yeah" in response to welcoming Borgen aboard and asking him if he's excited.

When Borgen tells his parents about an important decision over the phone, it generally is midyawn. That's how he told his dad he was signing an NHL contract. Borgen's dad, Bill, drove to St. Cloud to have lunch with him on Sunday. They talked about how he's going to room with St. Cloud State teammate Judd Peterson and about his flight Monday morning.

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Bill asked Borgen if he was excited.

"Yeah," Borgen said.

Murphy has covered sports in Chicago, Minnesota and North Dakota since 2009, working for The Forum since 2012. Contact: cmurphy@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5548
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