Oleksuk Duo: Bill and Travis

The Oleksuk father-and-son tandem from Thunder Bay, Ontario, has combined for 91 career goals with the Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey program.

Crafty left winger Bill Oleksuk had 90 goals from 1978-82. Crafty sophomore center Travis Oleksuk has one goal, finally breaking through a week ago in a 4-3 win at Colorado College.

Travis, just back from a knee injury suffered in the season’s first game, says he’s happy to be in the lineup and isn’t chasing any family statistics.

“When making up my mind about college, one of the last, little things I considered was that my dad went there,” Travis Oleksuk said this week. “I liked the feel of the city because it was a lot like home, and the hockey program’s top notch. I didn’t pick UMD because I thought, ‘It’s where I can follow in my dad’s footsteps.’ ’’

The imprint is notable.

Bill Oleksuk debuted with 30 goals in 29 games in 1978-79, a school record for freshmen at the time. By the time he graduated with a major in communications and psychology, he had 190 points in 156 games, which ranks No. 11 in school career scoring and No. 4 in goals. Oleksuk, 49, followed with one professional season in Sweden, where he led a Division II league in scoring, and returned home to take a government job and now works as regional counseling manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Oleksuk kept his hand in hockey on the youth level in Thunder Bay coaching his two children, Travis, 20, and Ryan, 18, until age 12. And he coached Senior Little League baseball, for ages 14-16, getting Thunder Bay to the 2005 World Series in Bangor, Maine, with Travis pitching and playing shortstop.   

“When Travis was 16, and thinking about Canadian Major Junior hockey, I said, ‘Let’s take a look at the American college system. Let’s make a trip to UMD,’ ’’ said Bill Oleksuk. “I had a great experience there, I got treated well, and I thought it might be the best opportunity for him. I knew if he was in Duluth, he’d get a lot of support from friends who would come to watch and it was close for me and my wife [Shelly].”

After two years in the U.S. Hockey League with Sioux City (Iowa), Travis Oleksuk got to UMD last season when few roster spots were open for rookies. But he was in the lineup for the final nine games, 15 in all, as UMD won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff title and advanced to the Division I tournament.

In his 20th career game, at Colorado College, he started UMD on a third-period comeback for the first road victory of the season.

“When he was recruited, we looked at Travis as centering one of our top two lines,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “He’s got good offensive skills, a deceiving shot, makes plays, is good on face-offs and is good on power plays.”

Oleksuk has one goal and five assists in two years at UMD and looks at last weekend, with a healed knee, as a new start.

“The end of last season was good for me and I fed off of that to start this year. I had loads of confidence,” Oleksuk said. ‘The injury was difficult and I’m still getting my endurance back. I know I’ll have to play my best to keep my position.”

He’ll need to stay in the lineup; he’s 89 goals behind his dad.

r Defenseman Justin Faulk of South St. Paul, with the U.S. National Team Development Program U-18 team in Ann Arbor, Mich., returned a signed letter of intent to UMD on Thursday for 2010-11.