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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published November 05 2010

Fargo North grad Berg proves to be unrelenting for Sioux women's hockey team

GRAND FORKS – The University of North Dakota never recruited Kayla Berg.

The Fargo North graduate e-mailed Sioux coach Brian Idalski. Then, she called. Then, her high school coaches called. Then, she sent video.

“Finally, we said, ‘Fine, you can walk on and try out,’” Idalski said.

So, she did. She made the team. And after a redshirt season, Berg has developed as one of the most reliable defensemen for the seventh-ranked Sioux.

Berg has maintained a plus-one rating (one away from the team lead) while playing against top forwards from nationally ranked teams Boston University, Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota.

“She’s been absolutely fantastic,” said Idalski, who wasn’t sure if Berg would make it through tryouts. “Normally, you’re like, ‘This kid is going to get scared in the first week of training.’ (They’ll say), ‘You guys do what? You work how hard?’ She walked in and was one of our strongest kids, which never, never happens.”

Berg said she was recruited by Bemidji State and made a visit there.

But she didn’t enjoy it and wanted a chance at UND.

“I really wanted to come here,” she said. “I knew they had a good program here.”

It wasn’t until Idalski’s mention of redshirting last fall that Berg realized she made the team. She used that redshirt year to her full advantage, too.

Despite not playing a single game in 2009-10, her teammates voted her most improved player.

On opening day 2010, Berg was a first-pair defenseman.

“I improved more in one year than I ever have,” Berg said.

“I kind of saw it coming at the end of last year,” Idalski said. “I remember telling a couple of kids, ‘You’re lucky that Kayla isn’t playing right now because she would be ahead of you on the depth chart.’

“She’s in the same mold as Jordan Slavin as far as being a physically strong kid who makes solid decisions. She doesn’t beat herself. She manages the game. She’s eating up a lot of minutes, playing at a very high level against a lot of great kids. That’s been huge for us. It really has.”

Idalski said that consistency is one of Berg’s best attributes.

“I know what I’m going to get every shift, every single time she goes on the ice,” he said. “I know she’s going to do her job.”

Berg said she’s playing more minutes than she expected to. She’s a consistent presence on UND’s penalty kill, which has held opponents to three power-play goals in 30 chances.

“This year is going really well so far,” she said. “I didn’t think initially that I would be playing this much.”

Initially, neither did UND.

“Kayla is someone who was very passionate about wanting an opportunity here,” Idalski said. “I can’t take credit for Kayla Berg being here. She wanted to be here and she did whatever she had to do to be here.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald