Crystalyn Hengler excels at hockey, dancing

On defense, Hengler has recorded six points this season for Minnesota.

Freshman Crystalyn Hengler passes the puck on Friday, Jan. 18 at Ridder Arena. The Gophers lost to the Wisconsin Badgers 2-1.

Elle Moulin

Freshman Crystalyn Hengler passes the puck on Friday, Jan. 18 at Ridder Arena. The Gophers lost to the Wisconsin Badgers 2-1.

Erik Nelson

Ask any Minnesota player who the best dancer on the team is. One of the first names that came up was defender Crystalyn Hengler.

Defender Sophie Skarzynski said Hengler isn’t afraid to bust a move in front of her teammates.

“Everyday in practice she [dances],” Skarzynski said. “She’ll do it all the time.”

Hengler’s talents extend beyond dancing. She has played in 27 of Minnesota’s 30 games this season, blocking 22 shots. She made her debut on Sept. 29 against Mercyhurst. Offensively, she has scored one goal and assisted on five others.

“She’s got a good hockey IQ,” said head coach Brad Frost. “When you have the ability to protect the puck and use your size to your advantage, it’s always a positive thing.”

As a student-athlete, Hengler looks up to her brother Gamiel Hall. Hall was a wide receiver for the University of St. Thomas for two seasons and played two games in 2016. Hengler played football and lacrosse in addition to hockey.

“I wanted to play a college sport, specifically hockey,” Hengler said. “[My brother] influenced me to keep going and keep up with my academics, and not only that but athletics as well.”

Like many student-athletes, Hengler doesn’t have difficulty finding a way to keep busy. In addition to being a top-six defender on the Gophers, Hengler is majoring in kinesiology and plans to attend medical school after she completes her undergraduate education. 

Hengler said she wants to concentrate on sports medicine if she attends medical school.

“I’ve always like the hands-on, interactive stuff,” she said. “I want to continue with a sports and medicine track. … Hopefully, I can talk to Erin [Moore, the Gophers’ trainer] and other medical staff.”

Hengler plays alongside fellow freshman Gracie Ostertag. This is Minnesota’s most defensive-minded pair, as Hengler and Ostertag have a combined total of 12 points. Unlike Minnesota’s other two defensive pairs, which have one left-handed shooter and one right-handed shooter, both Hengler and Ostertag shoot right-handed.

Ostertag said Hengler is one of the most calm and composed players she knows.

“She knows how to clear the puck in our [defensive] zone. She’s a strong player with crazy hands [who] dangles everybody, and she’s got a hard shot she can release on the power play,” Ostertag said.

Hengler and the Gophers are nearing the end of the regular season. With the WCHA postseason only a few weeks away, Minnesota can turn to Hengler to keep the team both happy and productive.

“[Hengler] has the most contagious laugh you will ever hear,” Ostertag said. “She’s a riot both in the locker room and on the ice. She’s got the biggest smile, so even if you’re in a bad mood you can’t help but smile yourself.”