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BROOKLYN ACES ORGANIZATION Detroit Lakes native Mike Christensen is the leading goal scorer in the EPHL as a forward for the Brooklyn Aces.

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When Mike Christensen walks outside his front door to go to work, he has a beautiful site of the Empire State Building -- which is quite a different view than he's used to growing up in Detroit Lakes.

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But although Christensen's surroundings have changed dramatically, his work hasn't and he's doing his job beyond expectations.

Christensen is currently the leading scorer of the Eastern Professional Hockey League, which is based in the New York City area.

The DL native received an extension of his hockey career after signing with the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Aces this past September.

After taking a year off from hockey after playing a combined three years in the Minnesota Junior League for Rochester, a three-month stint in Winnipeg, Manitoba and a one-year gig skating for St. Mary's College, Christensen got another lease on his hockey life.

And it's one he has taken full advantage of as per his league-leading 23 goals in just 26 games played this season.

"I was excited to play hockey again after taking last winter off (where he was an assistant coach for the DL boys' hockey team)," Christensen said. "I ran out of my eligibility in juniors, so it was new playing against players who played professional hockey."

But the naturally-gifted athletic Christensen adapted well and quickly carved himself a niche on the Aces squad as a player who can find the back of the net frequently.

Not only has Christensen thrived for the Aces, there is a potential his play may provide him with a bigger and grander opportunity down the road.

Remembering Christensen

When Aces head coach Chris Firriolo was scouting for his Syracuse Stars Junior "A" team three years ago at the National Tournament, he wasn't there to see what Christensen had to offer on the ice.

Instead, Firriolo was scouting one of Christensen's Rochester teammates. As it turned out, the future Aces coach was introduced to Christensen's play.

"I fell in love the way Mike played," Firriolo said. "He was a two-way player and very versatile. So I knew about Mike for a long time and I was able to stay in touch with his teammate (he was originally scouting)."

That connection remained up to last September, when Firriolo was going to run his first prospect camp for the Aces -- which was entering play in the EPHL's inaugural season.

"He was the same player I remembered three years ago," Firriolo said of Christensen after he tried out in the prospect camp.

The transition to playing professional hockey was challenging, but completed quickly by Christensen.

He introduced himself to the league in grand fashion, scoring a breakaway goal and tallying a power play score in the Aces' first regular season game.

"I was like any rookie and just wanted to get that first goal out of the way," Christensen said. "In my first preseason game, I had two assists, so that was nice, too."

Through 33 games, the Aces hold down first place in the four-team league with a record of 25-5-2, ahead of the second-place Jersey Rockhoppers which is 20-12-0.

The other two teams are the Danbury Mad Hatters and Hudson Valley Bears.

Christensen and Jersey's Kyle Bozoian are tied for the top slot in goals with 23, while the former Laker is the league's fourth leading scorer with 38 points.

It's not only impressive that Christensen has accumulated such numbers, he has done it in 26 games.

The top three scorers in the league have played either 33 or 32 games, while the fifth and sixth leading scorers have 30 and 33 games logged in, respectively.

Christensen also has a six-game goal streak, which is one of the longest in the league.

"Mike is a great athlete and a tremendous competitor," Firriolo said. "He has a good physical presence to him and doesn't get bumped off the puck easily. But he's also plays well defensively and makes life uncomfortable for his opponents."

Christensen likes the style of play the EPHL offers, which fits into his game perfectly -- as his numbers shows.

"There are fast and skilled players," Christensen said. "It's an exciting and high-scoring league. It's similar to juniors, but on an elevated level."

Christensen also has a prime opportunity to be bumped up to the ECHL, which is another minor-league whose teams are affiliated with NHL clubs and is comparable to a AA league in baseball.

More than several players have been called up to the ECHL and Firriolo said there have been conversations about Christensen, as well.

"Mike has a good chance of being called up," Firriolo said. "I've had discussions about him (with ECHL officials). It's a credit to Mike because he's a world-class kid and a locker room favorite.

"He has that Midwest demeanor and he's the first one to jump on the ice to help with the youth hockey teams. Wherever he ends up, he will be a leader."

His Brooklyn experience been an opportunity Christensen is taking full advantage of, especially with it coming with some surprises.

"I definitely didn't expect to lead the league in goals, but that really has been due to some great set-ups by my teammates," Christensen said.

So there is one aspect which hasn't changed from Christensen's DL days amidst the busy life, skyscrapers and the popular skyline of New York City -- and that is excelling at the sport of hockey.

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