With the fourth season of the United States Premier Hockey League in the books, the league has continued to enjoy significant representation at all levels of the NCAA hockey landscape. The league features organizations that are spread throughout the United States, and thanks to operating in the backyard of nearly every NCAA team, the member organizations have little trouble advancing players to the next level.
Not surprisingly, the USPHL’s Division One placement continues to be on the rise with over 100 committed players participating in the league last season. With players such as Jack Eichel and Jimmy Vesey playing for USPHL teams on their way to college hockey and the NHL, the member organizations’ history speaks for itself. Players such as University of Denver forward and Jersey Hitmen alum Evan Ritt illustrate the nationwide exposure given to the USPHL’s players.
In the 2017-18 season, the USPHL will be welcoming six new organizations with rich histories of developing players for college hockey. The Boston Bandits, New Jersey Rockets, Northern Cyclones, Connecticut Nighthawks, Hartford Jr. Wolfpack, and New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs will augment the league’s tremendous lineup of teams from coast to coast. The six organizations have contributed a total of over 175 freshman to the NCAA ranks in just the past three seasons.
While the six teams may be new to the USPHL, they have all significantly impacted junior hockey in the Northeastern United States.
The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, coached by Ryan Frew since the 2012-13 season, took home a regular season title and a playoff title in the Eastern Hockey League since its inception in 2013. The New Jersey Rockets produced NHL players such as Brian Mullen, Bobby Sanguinetti, John Carlson, and top prospect Charlie McAvoy, who recently signed an entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins. The Northern Cyclones have won three EHL regular season and playoff titles, respectively.
“When the final buzzer sounded on the NCAA Division III Frozen Four at the end of March, the players on Norwich University and Trinity College saw plenty of familiar faces in the handshake line”, stated USPHL Director of Hockey Operations John Pellerin.
Norwich, the 2016 champion, received significant contributions from USPHL alumni. Co-captains Tyler Piacentini (South Shore Kings) and Austin Surowiec (Islanders Hockey Club) were called upon to accept the trophy. Kevin Salvucci (Bay State Breakers) led the team in goal scoring with 21, and playmaking defenseman Cody Smith (Junior Bruins) sat at the top of the assists leaderboard with 31.
Trinity similarly built its team around USPHL alumni such as leading scorer Tyler Whitney (South Shore) and starting goaltender Alex Morin (Islanders). When Morin graduates, South Shore alum and current freshman Tedy Loughborough assume the role as the starter. In total, eighteen USPHL alumni skated in the Division Three Championship Game, enough to fill nearly an entire roster.
Although the NCDC Division is based along the East Coast, the Premier and Elite Divisions operate as far north as Boston, as far south as Florida, and all the way out to the Pacific Northwest. South and Midwest Division teams have quickly established themselves at the top of their divisions, and the teams’ showings at USPHL Showcase Series events have opened the eyes of college coaches. With NCAA Division Three teams clustered along the East Coast, upstate New York, and Great Lakes regions, it is no secret why the teams consistently reload their rosters with USPHL players.
The exposure is not simply limited to players. Last spring, Aurora (IL) University announced the signing of new head coach Jason Bloomingburg, who arrived after having led his Florida Eels team to the 2016 Elite Division Championship Game.
While the composition of the USPHL may change, the message is as clear as ever: no other league in the United States will provide better coaching and exposure to college hockey prospects.