Max Karlenzig always plays hockey to win ... while having as much fun as possible.
The Ohio freshman goaltender plays desperate. He dives around, throws his limbs out and will sacrifice his body to stop the puck and make a save.
But he also enjoys when he can just keep a relaxed but solid stance. Either way, Karlenzig has fun on the ice.
Growing up in Chicago, Karlenzig often rooted for the Blackhawks, but he always cheered for former Penguins and current Las Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, his favorite player. Fleury still reminds Karlenzig of why he plays in the first place.
“(Fleury) always has a smile on his face,” Karlenzig said. “He’s always having fun. It just reminds me that that’s what I’m supposed to be doing out here. The biggest factor in hockey is to have fun. Just go out there and smile.”
Karlenzig has played hockey ever since he was a child, but a big moment in his hockey career came when he joined the Fresno Monsters of the Western States Hockey League (now a part of the United States Premier Hockey League) for the 2017-18 season. He played in Fresno for three years and had plenty of time to build memories in the central California city.
Other than playing packed games at Selland Arena with the Monsters, Karlenzig’s fondest memories come from being around his teammates. Whether it was in the locker room, on the bus or in hotel rooms, the people around Karlenzig made the most of Fresno to him.
Karlenzig doesn’t know how to compare Fresno with Athens, but he seems to have a preference for his new home in Ohio already.
A lot of people around Karlenzig get the wrong idea of Fresno whenever he tells them it’s in California. Like many, they automatically associate California with beautiful cities, coastlines and beaches. Fresno, however, is in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, and it doesn’t have the scenic beaches and Hollywood lifestyle like coastal California cities.
He loved Fresno, but he also wanted something a bit different.
He originally wasn’t interested in playing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association and, instead, had his sights on the NCAA. However, after meeting Ohio coach Cole Bell at an annual WSHL showcase in Las Vegas, he was asked to come down to Athens for a visit on one of his free weekends.
Karlenzig met the team and staff, saw the facilities and toured the university and campus life. He knew then Athens was where he wanted to be.
“I just kind of fell in love,” Karlenzig said. “I felt like I fit right in.”
Karlenzig enjoys being on a campus that isn’t small but also isn’t as big as other colleges, such as Ohio State University.
“Everything seems to be close enough to where you can walk around and get to certain places,” Karlenzig said. “Your friends aren’t too far.”
Even though Fresno State University was near his old team, he prefers the college life Athens and Ohio University have far more.
Outside of hockey, video games are one of Karlenzig’s biggest hobbies. He’s been playing them ever since he was little, and right now, he enjoys Rocket League, Call of Duty, NBA 2K and FIFA. Rocket League has especially been one of his favorites ever since it was released in 2015.
“My buddy showed me that game when it first came out,” Karlenzig said. “I was like, ‘I can’t stop playing now.’”
Other than video games, Karlenzig also enjoys playing other sports, such as volleyball or soccer, although it’s been a bit difficult for him to play those in public with the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the coronavirus stopped Karlenzig and the other Bobcats from playing much longer than they were used to, he didn’t worry about switching teams during the strange times. But he was nervous going into his first game. What would his form look like? How would it even work at the collegiate level?
Karlenzig didn’t let his nerves get to him in his first game, and now, he’s become a regular starter for Ohio as a freshman. Feeling more comfortable with the team around him, he’s now finally getting back to having fun while playing hockey.