116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CORALVILLE — This opportunity, this wonderful opportunity, isn’t lost on Trevin Kozlowski.
He gets to continue to play hockey, the game he loves, and to chase his professional dreams in it. It’s such a blessing.
Every time the Iowa Heartlanders goaltender picks up his phone and sees a text from one of the guys he played college hockey with last year at Army, it’s a reminder.
“They’re sending me videos of them at 3 o’clock in the morning running around in the woods. Barely any sleep, barely any food,” Kozlowski said. “So I’m very humbled to be able to keep playing hockey and come to the rink every day. Even days where I’m feeling bad, I’m just thankful I get to keep playing hockey.”
Kozlowski gets to keep playing hockey under a United States Department of Defense directive from last year that allows graduates of the academies at Army, Navy and Air Force to pursue professional athletics opportunities. They still must honor their five-year post-graduate military commitments.
Technically he is an E-4 specialist in the reserves right now. He’ll be a second lieutenant, infantry, whenever he resumes his military career: whether that’s a year from now, two years from now or 10.
“I’ll keep working, keep climbing the ladder,” Kozlowski said. “Start getting some success here, play to my ability, and it’ll be good. I’ll keep going.”
A 24-year-old from Southern California, Kozlowski was a second-team All-American last season at Army, when he compiled a 14-4-1 record, Atlantic Hockey Association-leading 1.97 goals against average and an equally-impressive .921 save percentage. He signed an ATO (Amateur Tryout Contract) at season’s end with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, playing in one game, then a full-fledged AHL deal with the club in the offseason.
A logjam of guys at the position has him with the Heartlanders. He played his first two ECHL games last week.
“He played well, he gave us a chance to win,” said Heartlanders Coach Gerry Fleming.
“It’s been good,” Kozlowski said. “I was able to get into my first couple of games (last) weekend … so it’s good to kind of get back out there consistently and at the pro level and get used to the pace of the play and (understand) plays that certain guys are able to make.”
Kozlowski has really good size at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds and there is obvious upside there since playing at a military academy has prevented him, obviously, from concentrating on his goaltending craft. The ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones have a former Army teammate of his in forward Dominic Franco.
Air Force grad Billy Christopoulos is a goalie with the league’s Toledo Walleye. The only former Army player to make it to the NHL is forward Dan Hinote, who left the academy to play major junior hockey in Canada after the Colorado Avalanche drafted him in 1996 following his freshman season with the Cadets.
Hinote is now an assistant coach for the Nashville Predators. Army assistant coach Zach McKelvie signed with the Boston Bruins following his senior season at the academy in 2009 and played in the minor leagues after spending two years serving as an infantry officer under a different Department of Defense policy.
“It’s hard because you don’t really have your typical offseason, where most guys are in the weight room or on the ice consistently throughout the summer,” Kozlowski said. “We’re in the woods, running around with machine guns, blowing stuff up. We’re coming out of helicopters, conducting missions … Not your typical offseason.
“Then when you are in season, the academic season, playing hockey, I’m taking 24 credits and stuff like that. Trying to stay on top of my school work while also dealing with the military rigors, then, obviously, the hockey on top of it. It’s a lot to juggle. But I feel like it has helped shape me into not only a better person, but a better hockey player, too. Now that I’m at this level, the professional level, I kind of take all the things I’ve learned with me. Such as discipline and stuff like that. Try to translate that over to my day-to-day work ethic.”
The Heartlanders announced this week a “Trevin’s Tickets” promotion in which Kozlowski will donate two free tickets to local military veterans to each of the team’s home games.
“It’s kind of hard right now with the COVID policy, I can’t really do all that much in the community, but eventually I hope they find a way for me to just go to the VA just up the road here,” he said. “Have me spend some time with the guys at the VA. Maybe go to some recruiting stations and explain ‘Hey, this is my scenario here. Anything I can do to help, if you need me to sit down with some men and women who are interested in the service, I’ll be more than happy to do that.’ Just trying to advocate for the army. It’s a great path.”
Kozlowski comes from Santa Clarita, Calif., just south of Bakersfield, which isn’t your traditional hockey area. He said he grew up a big fan of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, taking up the sport as a little kid.
There just happened to be a rink five minutes from his home. It took a couple of years of playing for the goaltending thing to kick in.
“One of the goalies on my team actually got hurt,” he remembered. “He came back, wasn’t doing too good, we didn’t have a backup. Our coach just tried to scare him a little bit and say ‘Hey, who wants to play goalie today?’ My hand shot up. I ran with it and haven’t looked back since.”
Comments: (319)-398-8258, firstname.lastname@example.org