From New York City to Michigan, from Long Island to the educationally hallowed ground of Amherst, Mass. - Henry Graham’s hockey path has taken many directions.
However, all the forks and turns pointed one way - to the NCAA Division 1 college world, as the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders’ NCDC goalie recently committed to the University of Massachusetts, members of the Hockey East Association.
“It’s amazing. It’s a long time and a lot of hard work paying off, but it’s really fantastic,” said Graham, a native of Manhattan in New York City. “I found out they lost a goalie a week and a half ago. Coach Marcou [Mike Marcou, of the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders] had played at UMass, so he had a good relationship with the coaching staff there. It all happened in a week or so. I feel super fortunate.”
The UMass Minutemen have become a regular contender not only for Hockey East league honors, but even National contenders. They made the 2019 Frozen Four Final, losing their only national tournament game to eventual champions and repeat winners Minnesota-Duluth.
“Program-wise, UMass is a top program in the country. I’ve only heard good things about playing there, and how you are treated as a player,” said Graham. “Academically, they have the No. 2 public business school in the Northeast, which I hope to go into.”
Business was very good for the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders in the 2019-20 season of the NCDC, who put together a 29-point improvement on their 2018-19 season. Graham was a regular man in the net for the Jr. Islanders, putting up a .924 save percentage and earning himself an All-Star Game spot.
“It was amazing being able to play with all the best players in the league, to be able to pick everyone’s brain, talking to the other goalies, and the level of competition,” Graham said.
Although he was a big player in helping the Jr. Islanders to their best season yet in the NCDC, Graham also felt he could have been better this year.
“With P.A.L., I learned that in order to be an elite goalie, you have to be ‘on’ every single night. I had a few tough nights and in the end, we just missed out on earning home ice in the playoffs,” said Graham, whose team was ultimately unable to compete in the virus-canceled NCDC playoffs. “Technically, I worked a lot on just battling, working hard every day, and I feel like my game is at the NCAA level. I was reading plays better, and stickhandling the puck better.”
He will continue to tune up his game ahead of his planned arrival in August in Amherst. Until then, he’s working in Michigan with his goalie coaches, including former NHL goalie Manny Legace and A.J. Walczak. He’s been working with Manny for five years, as he also played two years of AAA hockey with Honeybaked in Michigan.
“My coach at Honeybaked had a great relationship with coaches in the USPHL. Living on Long Island, I always knew about the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders,” said Graham. “Talking with Coach Marcou and with what the program looked like - and the fact it was 1 hour from my house - it was perfect.”
The perfect situation became even moreso here in late July, when his single year in the National Collegiate Development Conference has resulted in an NCAA Division I hockey commitment.
“I want to thank the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and especially Coach Marcou for a great year,” said Graham.
The USPHL congratulates Henry Graham, his family, the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and the University of Massachusetts for his commitment.