The United States Premier Hockey League is back for its second year of the tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference, which saw a great first year with more than 120 college commitments from what was then an 11-team league.
The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs join the NCDC team for this season, and all 12 teams are chomping at the bit to make Year 2 even bigger and better than last year’s successful inaugural season.
Connecticut Jr. Rangers
Playoffs: Semifinal Loss
Outlook: Head coach Jim Henkel is thus far optimist about the Jr. Rangers having a better season than last year. Considering they made it to the semifinals, that’s saying a lot.
“As of right now, I like the direction in which we’re going. We have solid returners we’re excited about and tenders and kids we drafted both last year and this year,” said Henkel. “I don’t think our approach will be much different from last year. We’ll play with a lot of speed and puck possession. We’ll be deeper at forward, and the ‘D’ will join the rush.”
Top returning players: The return of Troy Kobryn, a ’99 goalie, provides great confidence right off the bat. Forward Noah Strawn (’98) is expected to take a leadership role for the team. Takato Cox and Colin Slyne (’98’s) topped the 40-point mark last year.
Defensemen Alex Sheehy (’98) and Richard Zemanek (’99) were a successful late season pairing, and they also return.
Top newcomers: Defenseman Kevin Lassman (’00) is a smooth-skating puck-moving defenseman who can be very creative. Power forward Philip Ekberg (‘99) “will get acclimated quickly,” and Chris Morrison (’99) is a battler who can skate well and “will figure into everything.”