Fargo Force goalie Ryan Wischow plans to study actuarial science when he heads to St. Lawrence University. The irony of studying risk by a guy who throws himself in the way of pucks isn't lost on Wischow.
"There's obviously risk in that, but I wear a lot of protective gear," Wischow said. "It's a math-based major, so it's a lot of calculus, statistics and stuff like that. I've always been good with math and science, and the doctor thing won't work with hockey getting pretty serious. Going to take math and see where it goes."
For Wischow, goaltending is math.
"It's a lot of calculating angles and calculating percentages," Wischow said. "It's a lot of math for goalies. It keeps me on my feet in the net and should help me out in my career longer because hockey is only going to be there for so long for me."
No one would guess the complexity of Wischow by watching him dance back and forth and lip-sync lyrics played at Scheels Arena in net before a game's most intense moments. He has Heath Ledger as The Joker on the back of his goalie mask. When asked in a player spotlight video by the Force what was something he used to get in trouble for as a kid Wischow said "I used to lock my grandma in the basement."
Force coach Cary Eades laughed when asked about Wischow and said "I think he enjoys life." Force assistant captains Shane McMahan and Denis Smirnov couldn't help but smile when asked about Wischow.
"He's not as weird as everybody thinks, goalies being weird and all," McMahan said.
Weird is what goalies are supposed to be.
"You have to play off your own personality," Eades said. "I've had the good fortune of being around a lot of good goaltenders, both playing and coaching. A guy like (NHL Hall of Famer) Ed Belfour was all business. When he got to the rink, there wasn't much joking around. You have other guys that are real loose and like to have a lot of fun.
"You have to be a little bit different character to play the position of goaltender and deal with the stress and the pressure of it. Also, you have to be a little bit different human being to get in the way of projectiles going 100 miles per hour at you. I don't think that's human nature. Human nature is you're supposed to get out of the way. They're a little different characters and they're kind of wide-ranging personalities."
It was at a friend's birthday party in Oshkosh, Wisc., when Wischow was 4 years old when he first skated. A couple years later he saw a goalie with a lot of pads on T.V. and told his dad he wanted to be a goalie. His dad scoffed at him and said he didn't want to be a goalie. Wischow was adamant that he did.
In 12 games in February and March in net, Wischow stopped 302 of the 325 shots he's seen, as the Force head into the final two games of the season against Sioux Falls tied with the Stampede in points for the final playoff spot.
Now, he's trying to lead the Force into the playoffs for the first time since 2013 the only way he knows how: with a smile.
"A lot of goalies are quiet and like to keep to themselves. I'm more of an outgoing guy," Wischow said. "The looser I am the better I play. Hockey is supposed to be fun. At the end of the day, you want to be having fun. If you're not having fun, you're not playing well or things aren't going well for you or your team. I think it's important to have someone in the room that keeps the mood light. I like to think I'm that guy. A lot of the guys skate past me before faceoffs and remind me to have fun at tough spots in the game. It just brings a smile to my face."