Alex Falkenhagen’s June became immediately memorable last year, when an NCAA conversation turned into an NCAA commitment. The three-year Minnesota Mullets goaltender has committed to Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts.
“To be honest, it all happened pretty quickly. I started talking with them a couple of days ago, and I felt it was the right fit so didn’t want to wait on it,” said Falkenhagen, a 2002-born native of Markham, Ont. “The coach said he liked my size to replace the goalie that was leaving the program, and also my work ethic on and off the ice.”
That work ethic was recognized easily by his Mullets coach Chris Walby and the other players as they elected him a Captain for 2023-24. When Falkenhagen came in, he had massive skates to fill, as Jack Bostedt had just moved on after setting team records for games played (97 – also a USPHL Premier league record) and wins (35). Bostedt went on to the College of St. Scholastica and was named the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and an All-American. Falkenhagen didn’t see that as pressure, but rather an opportunity to build on the standard that Bostedt had set for the Mullets. Falkenhagen’s .924 save percentage in 2021-22 was a better mark than in two of Bostedt’s three seasons and is among the best single season save percentages in the Mullets’ nine-year team history.
“I can’t say enough great things about the Minnesota Mullets. I originally signed there during the COVID year and Coach Walby had full faith in my ability to come in and play at the junior level right away,” said Falkenhagen. “It was a no-brainer to come back for two more years after my first when I built a relationship that I did with Coach Walby and knew that we could move me on to the NCAA D3 level.”
The attention to detail was huge in helping Falkenhagen bring his game to the attention of NCAA scouts and, ultimately, Fitchburg State itself.
“The model that the Mullets have was really good, letting us [the goalies] have a lot of say and control in practice on what type of drills we would like to see with certain types of shots and situations,” he said. “I feel the part that helped me improve the most was my game time. If you don’t play you don’t get better.”
Falkenhagen’s 71 games played for the Mullets are second to Bostedt, but also ranked sixth all-time in the USPHL Premier. No other franchise has two goalies in the top 10 all time for games played. This tendency for endurance did not escape the Falcons, who saw their own Brian McGrath – a former Boston Junior Bruins Premier player from the years prior to the NCDC – post 40 wins in 84 career games over five NCAA seasons between 2017 and 2022. Their own tendency to stick with the hot hand is not the only characteristic of Fitchburg State that Falkenhagen liked.
“I really like the facility Fitchburg has to offer, with the old-style rink with benches across from each other, this brings me back to when I first started playing,” he said. “What I really like about Fitchburg in the classroom was that it’s one of the top exercise science schools in the country and that is my major, so when I heard that it was the perfect fit. I feel I didn’t need to see the campus in person to persuade me. I saw pictures and videos. I really like its proximity to Boston so you get the best of both worlds with the big city and also the college town feel.”
Falkenhagen himself has played in and around Boston as part of past year USPHL Showcase Series events, so he’s excited to return, and also had some kind words for the league that played its part in advancing him to Fitchburg State.
“I think the USPHL Premier does an extraordinary job at sending kids on to the NCAA level. With it being a competitive league, many games can go either way depending on the night, so you have to give it your all, night in and night out,” he said. “This is clearly evident each year with the number of commits that go on and play at the NCAA level.”
And as he’s seen from his predecessor, former Premier players often make a massive contribution at the NCAA level, so that is even more inspiration to buckle down this summer and prepare to be at his best when he arrives in Fitchburg.
“During the off-season, my main focus has been to tighten up my game and to eliminate things that I was getting away with at juniors that I won’t be able to get away with at the college level,” he said. “I’ve been working with my goalie coaches at Franco Canadian Goalie School to do so and have seen my game come a long way since the season ended back in the spring.”
The USPHL congratulates Alex Falkenhagen, his family, the Minnesota Mullets and Fitchburg State University for his commitment.