Bigfork’s hockey elf: Skating into her future

Bigfork has its own national class female hockey elf who makes a gift of denying goals. An elf?

What do you call a girl whose equipment is 1/3 of her body weight?

Lauren Jochen, 16, can fake 5-foot-3 but admits she’s only 5-foot-2. She says she weighs 130 pounds but looks more like 120. And with her good looks, good behavior and good work habits, she looks nothing like a rugged, puck-stopping goal tender.

Not to mention, her equipment weighs 45 pounds. Jochen’s reputation is so solid, she was just asked to play on a 19U girls traveling hockey team in Denver. She left Bigfork Nov. 5 to start her cross-country odyssey that doesn’t end in April.

Most recently she was playing for the Flathead Fusion 19U girls hockey team when she received an interesting phone call.

“The (Denver) coached called and said they needed a goalie so I will move to Denver to live with a host family,” she said at her last day working for Tammy at Riecke Bayside Gallery. “I have a lot of good connections.” Jochen wouldn’t admit she has a good skills but her boss knows better.

“She is a special kid.” Tammy Riecke said. Jochen will received free room and board and the cost of travel and equipment. While the host family helps with the costs, USA Hockey helps fund junior teams.

“I’m excited to join this team,” she said. The team will travel across the country until the end of April 2017 and dozens of college scouts will be at the games. “They watch us and they are prepared to offer us college scholarships.”

Jochen grew up in Bigfork attending Swan River School from Kindergarten through 8th grade. “She is a talented artist. In fact, she just came back to do a class art lesson,” said her former teacher, Shelly Emslie. “She has a future in art, if she wants one. She is a smart kid with a supportive, generous family. Her mom still volunteers (years) after (Lauren) left here.” Parents Jessica and David Jochen moved to the Bigfork area from Pennsylvania where they raised their prodigy.

Her dad grew up playing hockey in Pennsylvania and Lauren is considering Penn State for its rigorous academic and sports programs when she graduates in 2018 from her online high school. Her commencement ceremonies will be conducted in Hawaii.

Prompted by her father, Jochen started playing hockey when she was 9. “I started as a forward and my dad said I didn’t have the mentality to be a goalie,” but she was curious to try so she waited until dad was gone on business and tried out the net.

“I’m small but I have quick reactions,” she said, sitting up in her chair to look taller. “It is tough but I like it. Mentally, you have to stay focused and don’t let things get you down. If you start doubting (yourself), it can cause you to fail.”

A gifted artist, straight-A student, prolific reader and national-class goalie, she has a broad set of potential goals.

She would like to win a hockey scholarship to a university where she would pursue sports medicine, literature or teaching at a prep school.

Jochen said a long-term goal would be to play in the currently forming National Women’s Hockey League where the minimum player wage is $80,000 per season.

She will be a well-paid elf.

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