Connor Leslie could get used to this life - which would be a good idea, as he’ll be living it for the next four years.
“I just finished school a few hours ago, got out to the gym, and now I’m here talking with you,” said Leslie, about one of his early yet busy days at Amherst College. The former Twin City Thunder NCDC goalie is enrolled and just waiting (and hoping) to start with official team practices in October, the beginning of his NCAA hockey career.
“Amherst reached out to me during Hub City Tampa, a few weeks in, I want to say in February,” said Leslie, a 2001-born native of Leesburg, Va. “They offered me a spot in March, so I was technically committed then, but couldn’t make it official until I actually got accepted into the school.”
Amherst College plays in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, NESCAC, a collection of institutions often referred to as the “Little Ivies” due to their high level of academic standards and achievement. Leslie is certainly excited to be taking on that challenge in addition to facing NCAA shooters.
“Everything I had heard of NESCAC schools is true, especially Amherst, with how rigorous it was getting into the school. The coaches were by my side and my family as well, when I was going through the process,” added Leslie. “I had great grades when I was in high school and finished with a 4.39 GPA, which was beneficial. I also submitted a good essay, including talking about what I want to do after school.”
Part of these post-collegiate plans include pro hockey, but he definitely has a fall-back plan, one that may include wearing dark suits, dark sunglasses and a sidearm.
“Whether it’s possible to go pro in hockey - and nothing is impossible - my career interest is getting into the Federal Bureau of Investigation or some other government agency like that,” said Leslie. “When I was a sophomore in high school, I was in a program called FBI Junior Agents In Training, and I learned all about the different fields that the FBI works in, and I learned a lot about domestic terrorism. It was super-compelling.”
However, as aforementioned, he would not rule out going for a pro career - he has the determination to help his team, as he helped the Thunder to its first-ever NCDC Championship Series, competing in the semifinals against eventual Dineen Cup champions the Jersey Hitmen.
He played in 18 games and registered a 3.20 goals against average.
“By far, the Thunder were my most favorite team that I’ve been on in terms of team morale, and a great coaching staff - I always knew they’d make me better, not just as a goalie but as a person,” said Leslie. “They had everything together - practices every day, working out whenever we wanted to. I loved the facilities we had, the Auburn area was good and I liked the billet home I was at.”
At one point, the Thunder’s season was not only paused but its completion was threatened when the governors of seven states from Maine down to New Jersey banned interstate hockey games. The USPHL came to the rescue, creating Hub City Tampa, which featured a closed community setup where players got to go to Florida, play games and practice in nearby arenas and only otherwise remain at a full-service resort in Wesley Chapel, Fla., where they had all their meals, played golf, swam, played tennis, and fished.
“When we went to Hub City, that made our team closer than before - we were always together, and the atmosphere was unreal. Being in Tampa was really nice. We got to be in sunny weather in January and February instead of in the cold of Maine,” said Leslie. “And we got to have fun with the sport we love.”
Leslie was certainly thrilled with the work he got in not only with the Thunder bench coaches but also Goaltending Consultant Joe Clark.
“At the beginning of the season, I was a bit nervous, going into my first year of juniors. I still had to work on different parts of my game - strength, being vocal, playing the puck, my depth in net,” said Leslie. “By the end of the season, I had really worked on all of those and corrected those things I had been struggling with in the beginning. By the end, I felt like a true junior goalie, and now a college goalie. I can bring those skills and be able to develop, enhance and incorporate them at the NCAA level.”
The USPHL congratulates Connor Leslie, his family, the Twin City Thunder and Amherst College for his commitment.