Rodahn Evans: The NIU Hockey star flying under the radar

Junior+forward+Rodahn+Evans+plays+the+puck+in+an+NIU+Division+I+hockey+game.

Courtesy of NIU Hockey

Junior forward Rodahn Evans plays the puck in an NIU Division I hockey game.

At a glance

  • Fairbanks-native grew up playing on outdoor rinks
  • Advice from former GM led him to NIU
  • Close knit relationship with roommates, teammates

Junior forward Rodahn Evans of NIU’s Division I hockey team looks to continue his success on a team that flies under the radar of college athletics.

Evans spent his early years in Healy, Alaska, a small town 250 miles north of Anchorage with a population of approximately 1,000 people.

“(It was) very quiet,” Evans said. “(Healy) doesn’t have much going on. We had to play on an outdoor rink. We didn’t have a grocery store growing up. We didn’t have any sports besides soccer and hockey. It was one or the other.”

Evans later moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, with his mother when he was eight years old.

“(Fairbanks) was a little less eventful,” Evans said. “There were just too many people for my liking. It was fun playing with a real team and playing with real friends, but it wasn’t Healy, and it didn’t feel like home.”

First-year forward Rodahn Evans carries the puck up ice Feb. 14 against Robert Morris University at Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, Illinois. NIU would go on to lose 10-3.
First-year forward Rodahn Evans carries the puck up ice Feb. 14 against Robert Morris University at Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, Illinois. NIU would go on to lose 10-3. (Erin Ledyard | Courtesy NIU Hockey)

With limited options for sports in Alaska, Evans picked up hockey at a young age after receiving encouragement from his father.

“(Hockey) was the only thing available in the winter times,” Evans said. “My dad was naturally just like, ‘Throw on a pair of skates. Go waste some time.’”

From there, Evans began to further establish himself in the sport and started playing at the junior level.

“In juniors, I played all over the place,” Evans said. “I played on a couple teams in juniors where I would go to Texas and end up getting traded after a week.”

From The Far North to Northern

Evans eventually made his way to DeKalb after being contacted by former hockey general manager Ian Kalanges.

“Our old general manager called me up and talked me into it,” Evans said. “He showed me how good of a school it was, and I was all for it.”

Now, in his third year as a Huskie, Evans is playing under first-year head coach Nicholas Madonia, who praised Evans’ work ethic.

“He’s always one of the hardest-working players on the ice,” Madonia said. “He’s a smart hockey player, but I think his work ethic is what sets him apart from a lot of the teams we play.”

During his time at NIU, Evans has had the opportunity to become close with players such as sophomore goaltender Benjamin Vutci and sophomore forward Brandon Weitzel, so much so that the three are currently roommates.

“Rooming with those guys is a hoot,” Evans said. “They’re characters themselves, and I’m a character too.  It’s a wild time.”

“It’s almost like a brotherhood,” Weitzel added.

Based on his leadership abilities and work ethic, Evans was elected by his teammates to serve as the president and captain of the Division I team.

“It was a pretty easy call to make him captain,” Madonia said. “As a coach, you want your captain to be the guy that players are going to go to when they need something. You can just tell that the guys on the team have a good amount of respect for him. When Rhodie talks, everyone listens.”

Reflection on the past, looking towards the future

Looking back on his career, Evans indicated his selection to become president and captain of the team as his greatest accomplishment as a player.

“It just really felt good for them to put that trust in me,” Evans said.

(Hockey) was the only thing available in the winter times. My dad was naturally just like, ‘Throw on a pair of skates. Go waste some time.’”

— Rodahn Evans, junior forward

Evans originally came to NIU intending to study mechanical engineering before electing to switch to a major in pre-physical therapy.

“(Pre-physical therapy) was a dream of mine,” Evans said.  I just decided it was a good idea to study more of the body. I enjoyed figuring out the mechanics of the body compared to the mechanics of a car.”

Evans has also spent time working in the construction industry with his father for the past seven years. He has obtained enough hours to acquire a master operator card for an excavator, a loader and a Bobcat.

As his team currently looks to break a nine-game losing streak, Evans assures Huskie fans that a turnaround for the team will soon arrive. 

“This season, they should expect us to start turning it around here soon,” Evans said. “The puck can’t always be going against us, so pretty soon, we’ll be winning games.”

Evans is tied for ninth place with 11 other players in goals scored with 11 goals on the season thus far.

Evans will make his next appearance on the ice at 7:15 p.m. on Dec. 4 when the Division I hockey team travels to play the Illinois State University Redbirds at Bloomington Ice Center in Bloomington.