Hard work in the weight room and on the track has paid off on the ice for Virden’s Tyler Kirkup.
The son of Suzanne and Kary Kirkup is enjoying a strong second season with the Bemidji State University men’s hockey team. The forward’s eight points through 16 games this season already surpasses the seven he accumulated in 27 contests last winter. In 2019-2020, Kirkup has matched the two goals he scored for his Minnesota NCAA Division I team as a rookie.
“He’s a lot quicker, a lot stronger,” Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said. “He’s a lot more confident.”
Kirkup and Serratore both said being a year older has helped the player be stronger, however so has the work he has put in. At the university level, Kirkup said “You’ve got to be quicker. I kind of developed my workouts around that.” In the summer, he focused on track workouts and explosive exercises.
“What he improved over the course of a year was outstanding. …. He’s leaner and quicker,” Serratore said.
The 6-foot, 203-pound Kirkup has excelled this season as a “big, versatile centreman,” the head coach said. Serratore said the former Virden Oil Capitals Junior A hockey player’s smarts and skill allow him to play up and down the lineup. Not a lot of players can do this, he said.
The Beavers head coach also praised Kirkup for being a “heavy player,” explaining that the physical element Kirkup brings is something not a lot of NCAA teams have. Kirkup is successful on faceoffs and has been deployed on the penalty kill.
To succeed at the NCAA Division, I level, he has had to make adjustments on and off the ice. At that level, Kirkup said it is “harder to get time and space on the ice. A lot of teams are focused on defence.”
Even toward the end of last season Kirkup became more and more comfortable on the ice. Now in his second campaign, Kirkup said, “You know the systems and the players. … How Beaver hockey is played.
“Last year I was just trying to make my best impression on the coaches. … This year, I just tried to do everything a bit better,” Kirkup said.
Off the ice, the business finance major, who said he enjoys numbers, has adjusted to his new city, university classes, and a busy schedule. Kirkup has classes followed by practice, a workout, and homework.
“I feel very productive in my days,” he said, noting he has learned the importance of workouts, sleep, and nutrition.
Serratore praised Kirkup for being low maintenance and doing things the right way off the ice.
“He’s a world class kid. … He’s a pleasure to coach.”
Growing up Kirkup was regularly coached by his father. He said his parents loved to watch him play and now attend almost every home game. His older sister, Karissa, who starred at the University of Manitoba, has visited this season to watch him play.
“They have been really supportive. … If I am struggling in hockey or school, I can always look to them and they’ll be supportive,” Kirkup said.