Ming DeMers/Sun Senior Photographer

Gabriel Seger '24 against Harvard at Lynah Rink on Nov. 11, 2023.

March 28, 2024

From Uppsala to Upstate: How Gabriel Seger ’24 Skates to Success

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This story is part of The Sun’s 2024 NCAA Hockey supplement. To view the rest of the supplement, click here.

Hailing from across the Atlantic in Uppsala, Sweden — nearly 4,000 miles from Ithaca — senior forward Gabriel Seger engineers success both on the ice and in the classroom.

Most weekends, you’ll find him at Lynah Rink, poised to make his mark on the ice and drive the Red toward NCAA tournament triumph.

But when he’s not firing pucks into the net or outsmarting his opponent at the faceoff dot, Seger can be found delving into advanced classes in circuitry and computer science. This spring, Seger will graduate with a degree in computer and electrical engineering.

“It’s about finding that balance,” Seger said. “At first it was a challenge. Now it’s kind of routine.” 

Earlier this year, Seger was named the 2024 ECAC Men’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year, flaunting a 3.513 GPA while helping lead Cornell toward an ECAC title. Seger, alongside junior goaltender Ian Shane, was one of two Cornell players nominated for this year’s Hobey Baker Memorial Award — awarded annually to the top NCAA men’s ice hockey player.

Seger said that he specifically dedicates time to his coursework every day leading up to the weekend so his focus can transition to the game.

“Some terms have been tougher than others. I really try to crush out [my schoolwork] on Monday[s], Tuesday[s] [and] Wednesday[s],” Seger said. “Some weeks you kind of fall behind a little bit so you have to speak to your professors.”

On average, a Division-I athlete can devote upwards of 40 hours per week to their sport, though for Ivy League athletes this number is slightly lower due to conference-specific restrictions. For Cornell student-athletes like Seger, this entails lifting and playing nearly every day plus playing about two games per week during the season, all on top of the rigorous demands of one of the nation’s top-ranked engineering programs.

However, Seger is determined to chase both academic and athletic prowess. 

“I’ve always been kind of a math guy. I love math. I love building things. A couple of family members are engineers — my grandpa, dad, sister,” Seger said. “Coming in as a hockey player, I was back and forth on whether I should do economics or engineering. So I just tried it out. I came in as an undecided engineer, and it worked out pretty well.” 

The Swedish native said that a major draw to playing college hockey in the United States was the balance it offered between education and sports. According to Seger, it is common in Sweden to enter professional hockey leagues at the age of 19 or 20. 

“In Sweden, if you don’t get into school [when you’re 18], you have to go all in with hockey. [Then] if you don’t go pro when you’re 22, you have to pick between [going to] school or just to keep working in hockey,” Seger said. “It was pretty simple to me — [I wanted] the opportunity to both keep developing in hockey and get [strong] academics from it too.” 

Seger may play for an American team now, but it’s not uncommon to see the blue and yellow of the Swedish flag waving in the stands of Lynah Rink in a display of support. Having grown up in Gävle, Sweden — a hockey-centric city home to Swedish professional ice hockey team Brynäs IF — Seger fell in love with the game at seven years old after being inspired by his friends on the rink. 

“All of my classmates were playing. I just asked my parents if I could try it out, and fell in love with the game,” Seger said. “It became my number one sport.” 

Seger spent time with the Brynäs Under-16 team before rising through the ranks of Brynäs’ J18 teams but said he decided to play junior hockey with the Amarillo Bulls of the North American Hockey League when he started taking hockey more seriously. 

Whereas North American and NHL ice sheets span 200 feet long and 85 feet wide, the international and Swedish surfaces are almost always 197 feet by 97.5 feet. The wider surface was a transition for Seger.

“Their level of play [in Sweden] is kind of similar, but it’s a faster game in North America for sure,” Seger said. “The players back home are still very skilled, but the ice surface is bigger so you have little more time. There’s [less] forcing pucks into the net.” 

Though Seger started his college hockey career at Union College, he was no stranger to Cornell’s hockey team and the intimidating atmosphere of Lynah Rink. In his transfer process, selecting Cornell was almost a no-brainer.  

“[Lynah Rink is] an unbelievable place to play at. When I played as an away team [with Union], I used to hate playing here,” Seger said. “I heard great things about [head coach Mike Schafer ’86] and the culture. I wanted to play with a really good hockey team — which Cornell was — and the academics was a big part of [my decision].”

Ivy League schools rarely dip into the transfer portal due to heavy eligibility restrictions, but Cornell hit the lottery when it snagged Seger in 2022. Since coming to Cornell, Seger said he has seen himself develop into a stronger player.

“My skating and conditioning were two things I worked a lot on [since I got here],” Seger said. “Last season especially, I got a lot of tips on tricks on the [defensive] zone to become a better defensive player.” 

Perhaps Seger’s most invaluable strengths are his faceoffs, a critical moment when players compete to gain possession of the puck at the start of play. Seger has excelled at the faceoff dot, winning 464 draws this season — a 58.8 percent clip.

“The more faceoffs you take, the better you become,” Seger said. “A lot of it is mental — you have to come to every draw and be ready to really battle for it. The technique is something we’re working on on a weekly basis.” 

Seger’s offensive flair hasn’t gone unnoticed. The forward, who centers Cornell’s top line with junior forward Kyle Penney and sophomore forward Nick DeSantis, has led the team in scoring over the past two seasons. This season, he has hit a career-high 14 goals and 42 points — and counting. 

Seger accredits his success to his teammates, his father for being his number one supporter through the years and his youth coach, Pär Jansson, or “PJ,” who coached him from the ages of 11 to 15 and has served as a guide both on and off the rink. 

As a senior, Seger bid farewell to Lynah Rink with a triumphant victory against rival Harvard, propelling the Red to ECAC championship weekend in Lake Placid. But this won’t be the last of the ice for Seger, who said he envisions using his quantitative skills within the realm of hockey.

Of course, after he pursues a professional playing career.

“My dream is still to work with hockey, in some shape or form,” Seger said. “I don’t know if that could be statistics, data science or analytics. We’ll figure it out later, probably.” 

Seger told The Sun earlier this semester that his biggest goal was to win an ECAC championship and make a turn at the NCAA tournament — feats he has already checked off the list.

“That’s definitely the goal — to win,” Seger said. “[It’s] hard work. Hard work.”