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College Commitments

College Commitments

Second-Year Charlotte Rush Forward Iannucci Commits To Arcadia University

By Joshua Boyd / 11/11/2021, 9:00am EST

Drew Iannucci had such a fun time winning a USPHL Premier Championship last year with the Charlotte Rush, he came back to try and do it all over again. In the process of returning with the Rush, he was also able to seal up his NCAA hockey future, as he has committed to Arcadia University for 2022-23. 

“Well, first off it was amazing to win at the National level and share that experience with the entire Rush organization. The biggest impact was being a part of that team, where there was so much talent and everyone knew their role and how to win,” said the 2001-born native of Lincoln University, Pa. “Charlotte's coaches taught me leadership, patience and commitment and most of all ‘buying in’ to the entire process.” 

The process with Arcadia began right after playing his first games with the Rush in October 2020. 

“I first spoke with Coach [Vincent] Pietrangelo last year after my first junior hockey game in October and have been talking with him pretty consistently about becoming a Knight,” said Iannucci, who has a total of 37 points in 46 regular season games with Charlotte. He also registered two assists in six playoff games last year, including three Nationals games. 

“Coach Pietrangelo complimented me on being a goal-scorer, my ability to create opportunities with the puck on my stick and also making an impact on the ice right away,” added Iannucci. “I am hoping to complement their roster and continue that consistency at the next level.”

There are currently four former Rush players on the inaugural Arcadia roster this season - Pallen Brooks, Miles Read and Cam Parrott were alongside Iannucci in winning the Premier title; additionally, Hunter Price helped the Elite team win the matching “double dip” title. He’s looking forward to the big reunion next year at his new home north of Philadelphia. 

“I really like the size of the campus and open space between buildings. The academic buildings are close to each other and the library is incredible and of course having a castle on your campus very cool,” said Iannucci, who will major in Criminal Justice. “Growing up, I played at Hatfield Ice so many times and it is awesome to see all the upgrades made to the facility to make it an NCAA rink. The Kuch Athletic Center is state of the art and will be a huge part of my campus life.” 

Iannucci had plans to play Tier II hockey last year, but both teams he originally lined up with canceled their seasons. 

“My advisor felt the Rush would be a better fit [than a different Tier III team]. Right from the start, I loved the culture and the way the coaching staff ran the team on and off the ice,” said Iannucci. “Everything is run top notch and to a higher level and expectation, which helped me grow my game and become a better player, teammate and person.”  

More than a year later, Iannucci can clearly see many levels of improvement across the board. 

“My defensive zone play has become stronger and I’m playing on the penalty kill,” said Iannucci. “I’m more confident to shoot the puck because I always thought I was better being an assist player and Coach [Troy Schwab] kept telling me to shoot as much as I pass. I definitely will keep up my shot work and strengthen my defensive zone positioning as well as building up my physical play for the next level.” 

The USPHL congratulates Drew Iannucci, his family, the Charlotte Rush and Arcadia University for his commitment. 


Springfield Pics Alum Pelletier Commits To NCAA Westfield State University

By Springfield Pics Staff 10/25/2021, 2:00pm EDT

The Springfield Pics are proud to announce the commitment of 2020-2021 season player Matthew Pelletier to play for the Westfield State University Owls. The Owls play in the MASCAC, who participate at the NCAA Division 3 level.

Pelletier, a defenseman who already called Westfield, Mass., home, scored one goal and 14 assists in 35 games while playing for the Pics.

“We are excited to hear the news of Matt making the Westfield State team. Matt worked extremely hard throughout the season and was one of our top defensemen by the end of the season, and he had a great playoff round.  We wish Matt the best at Westfield State this season," said Pics Premier Head Coach and General Manager Rob Bonneau.

“My childhood dream has come true. I have been blessed to have been coached by some remarkable coaches over my youth, high school , and junior hockey career  - names like Mushenko, DeClementi, Kervick, Moose Matthew, Foley and now Coach Bonneau - who prepared me for what I’ve been dreaming about sense I was a kid, to play college hockey," said Pelletier. "Hockey has given me some unforgettable memories - a Lake Placid championship, Western Mass. and State titles - and most importantly friendships that will last a lifetime.

"This all would not have been possible if not for the support of my parents and playing hockey with my older sisters and younger brother," Pelletier added. "We are a true hockey family. I am looking forward to the next chapter, playing for Coach [Bob] Miele and supporting the Westfield State team over the next four years."

The Pics and the USPHL wish Matt the best of luck in his college career.

Philadelphia Hockey Club's Libetti Commits To Arcadia University

By Joshua Boyd / 10/14/2021, 9:15pm EDT

Sam Libetti is a big fan of the Philadelphia area - not only did he grow up in nearby Marlton, N.J., but he also is well into his second USPHL Premier season, but first with the Philadelphia Hockey Club. To top it off, he’ll be moving on in 2022 to Arcadia University just over 10 miles from the City of Brotherly Love’s downtown. 

“I began to talk to Arcadia around a year ago, around July or August of last year,” said the 2001-born Libetti. “The recruiting process went well. They had good interest in me and didn’t push anything on me to make any instant decisions.”

Last year in the USPHL Premier, Libetti posted seven goals and seven assists in 25 regular season games. Matched! He's already put up 14 points in just eight games so far here in 2021-22 with his new team. 

“[Arcadia] seemed to love that I’m a small guy with skill. They said they need a skill guy to put up points and help produce and that I would fit that role well,” said Libetti. “I expect to be a go-to guy that the boys can count on when we’re down by one - a guy they trust no matter what situation we’re in.” 

Libetti got the personal tour of the Arcadia campus from Knights Head Coach Vincent Pietrangelo. 

“The campus was awesome. It’s a smaller campus, but that means more attention is put on you, towards your academics,” said Libetti.

He is also excited about the blank slate of the upcoming 2021-22 season, in which to get to that point of being the “go-to guy” for the Philadelphia Hockey Club. 

“This year, I plan to focus more on playing a 200-foot game,” Libetti added. “As all coaches say about me, I have the skill but if i put together a full 200-foot game, it will change many things for me and I’d be more successful.” 

The USPHL congratulates Sam Libetti, his family, the Philadelphia Hockey Club and Arcadia University for his commitment. 


Islanders Hockey Club Forward Schwartz Commits To Brown University

By Joshua Boyd / 10/13/2021, 1:45pm EDT

Aaron Schwartz and his family had a good inkling when he was still in elementary school that working with then-future Islanders Hockey Club NCDC Head Coach Tim Kyrkostas was the right move. 

“Playing for Tim was something I wanted to do since playing for him back in Florida, when I was probably 6 or 7 years old,” said Schwartz, who grew up with Tim’s son Jackson Kyrkostas. “Last year was a really good year developmentally and recruiting-wise.” 

Brown University first watched him while with the Islanders USPHL 16U National Championship team last season, and kept watching over his first few games of the new season, Schwartz’ first in the NCDC with the Islanders. With a goal and four assists in his first five NCDC games, Brown was sold. Schwartz committed for a year still to be fully determined, but as of right now probably the 2023-24 season.

“I’ve been in contact with them the last couple weeks. I visited campus on Sunday, got the offer Monday [Oct. 11] and took it,” said Schwartz. “The first thing I liked was their coaching staff - the way they handled the whole process was very professional. They talked to me like a regular person and not just another recruit. The school is unbelievable, it’s a tight-bond community.” 

He became at first intrigued with the Ivy League and then completely determined to make it there after working with his personal trainer Ryan Vesce. 

“Ryan graduated from Cornell, and just seeing how far an Ivy League degree can take you helped me focus on school the last couple years, to make sure I had the marks that can make it into an Ivy League school,” Schwartz added. 

“I am so happy and proud of Aaron and his entire family,” added Kyrkostas. “I have watched this young man since he first started to play all those years back in Florida. To see him go through a lot of highs and lows over the years and for him to finally see all of his hard work pay off with this commitment is just awesome! He's a great young hockey player. 

“He's really bought into the process of becoming a well-rounded 200-foot player,” Kyrkostas said. “He has a great hockey mind as he loves to watch the game and then analyze every aspect of it. I think Brown University is getting a great one.” 

After playing with the Kyrkostas’ at Palm Beach, Kyrkostas later moved on to the Florida Alliance youth program, including representing the Alliance at the prestigious Quebec International Peewee Tournament in 2017. 

After he turned 15 and living in both Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale, he played his first year fully away from home with the Shattuck-St. Mary’s 15U squad. 

“I got the whole being away from home experience, and then the whole thing of playing for Tim fell into place last year, and I thought that was a good place to be,” said Schwartz. 

“This is truly a great success for the IHC and the USPHL model - he was a Futures draft pick who played one year in our Midget program and now in the NCDC garnering his commitment,” added Kyrkostas. “The model works for those that have the talent and are willing to trust us in how we develop players.” 

Midget hockey was a mess in the main COVID season of 2020-21, and he only got into seven regular season games for the IHC’s 16U team, posting a 4-11-15 line in that short time. He also got a game with the USPHL 18U Islanders. In the 16U playoffs, Schwartz was a prime mover for the Islanders team that won the championship, scoring a 3-2-5 line in four playoff games. As Tim Kyrkostas does double duty as the Islanders’ 16U National and NCDC coach, the transition to the higher junior level was seamless. And Schwartz has loved every minute of it so far. 

“We have a great team with a good shot at winning the championship in the end,” said Schwartz. “We have a lot of guys who just want to be here and they’re good, hard workers with skill and grit. We really have what it takes [to win the title].

“The NCDC as a league is on the rise, especially last year seeing and practicing with the team and the good players who came through the team,” Schwartz added. “The league is just going up, and I have only good things to say about it.” 

It’s a couple years away yet, but Schwartz believes he will pursue a business track once he arrives on the campus of Brown University. For now, the main order of business is to bring the Dineen Cup back to the Islanders Hockey Club for the first time in four years. 

The USPHL congratulates Aaron Schwartz, his family, the Islanders Hockey Club and Brown University for his commitment. 

Utica Jr. Comets Alum Whitehead Commits To Northeastern University

By Michael Lehr / Utica Jr. Comets 10/01/2021, 3:00pm EDT

Utica Jr. Comets 2020-21 NCDC goaltender Cameron Whitehead has committed to Northeastern University to play NCAA Division I hockey.

Whitehead, 18, came to the Utica Jr. Comets NCDC team for the 2020-21 season and has now moved on to the Lincoln Stars in the USHL. He was the 30th ranked North American goalie on the NHL Central Scouting list in May.

"It feels pretty surreal to be committed to such a great school," Whitehead said. "I'm really looking forward to these next two years of development to be ready for Northeastern in the 2023-24 season. I'm really excited to play at Northeastern because fo the amount of talent that goes through that program that will help me try to get to the next level."

Whitehead spent 29 games in Utica and trained with Robert Esche, a former NHL goalie and Olympian, outside of practices.

“I’m very proud of Cam and what he has been able to accomplish over the last year," Esche said. "His dedication towards becoming a better goalie each and every day has paid off, and I wish him nothing but the best as he continues his growth as a goalie.”

Cam said he loved his time in Utica.

“I had a lot of great memories throughout the year. I got to spend a lot of time at the rink and with the team and just got to know everyone really well. Especially off the ice with my billets I had a lot of great memories with them and created a lifelong friendship.”

He was drafted by the Lincoln Stars in the 2021 USHL Draft and is ready to make the leap to the next level.

Minnesota Mullets' Defenseman Fuss Commits To College Of St. Scholastica

By Jim DenHollander / Minnesota Mullets 09/17/2021, 12:15pm EDT

The 2020-21 hockey season was full of challenges and disappointment for many who saw the challenges of a world in pandemic trying to find ways to stay on the ice amid restrictions and precautions.

It’s nice to see a successful conclusion on a season like that and for Jack Fuss, it ended up being an amazing campaign as, this time last season, he wasn’t even thinking about playing.

Ultimately, he couldn’t give up on the game though. He returned to play for Head Coach Chris Walby and the Minnesota Mullets, and his time there ultimately ended up with him being pursued by the St. Scholastica Saints. As a result, he finds himself back at a college campus again this fall, but this time, as a student athlete.

Fuss, a 5’9” 180-pound defenseman who turned 20 on Sept. 8, is a resident of Edina, a hockey player factory on the outskirts of the Twin Cities with a high school team that plays in the annual State Championship tournament regularly.

Looking for a little more hockey exposure, Fuss decided to take his act to Wisconsin as a high school junior playing AAA for the Madison Capitols. 

“We played somewhere around 60 games and it was great for my development,” said Fuss in an email interview. “We played teams like Shattuck and Culver, so it was good competition.

“I went back home to Edina High School for my senior year. I was supposed to play on the varsity team that year, but because of transfer laws in the MSHSL, I was not allowed to play. I ended up having to play for the Junior Gold A team that year.”

Fuss dealt with the disappointment, but it was a bit of an unexpected gut punch for the player.

“It was a good year,” said Fuss. “But also, it was hard for me because I wanted to play for EHS ever since I watched my brother win a state title there in 2014.”

Fuss finished high school and moved on to college in the fall of 2020, temporarily leaving the sport behind.

“I started off last year, just going to school at the University of St. Thomas and I wasn’t playing any sports. I was a full-time student, but I stayed in the weight room. With about four weeks left in the first semester there, I realized I didn’t want to go to school and not play hockey, the sport I have been playing all my life. Hockey has been a big part of our family forever and not playing just felt weird.”

“I reached out to Coach Walby and asked him if there was still a spot for me on the team or not and thankfully, there was,” said Fuss. “As soon as I found out he had a spot for me, I went down and skated with my dad’s team in Sioux Falls. He coaches the 18U Sioux Falls Power hockey team.”

The layoff wasn’t long, but Fuss realized he needed to shake off some rust and he worked hard to prepare.

“It was my first time skating in over 10 months, so I stayed out on the ice for a while and just trie3d to get back into it as fast as I could,” said Fuss. “After about two weeks of skating, I started skating with the Mullets and I was fully a part of the team. After the first two practices I knew I was going to love it. I got along with every single person on that team and really felt at home. 

“After a few weeks on the team, I started to play with Darren Shykes a lot and he as my D-partner for most of the season. I played 11 games and then sadly, I got a bad ankle injury that took me out for the rest of the season. 

“I played in the first game of playoffs, and everything went well, but five minutes into the second game I re-injured it taking me out of the game.”

The short but exciting experience had Fuss looking forward to returning for another season with the Mullets and Coach Walby looked forward to him being a key player on the defense corps. Showcase tournaments through the season give players like Fuss to get noticed by college and university scouts, but the process got rushed a bit along the way. 

“I got contacted by the Head Coach at St. Scholastica and they told me they needed a right-handed defenseman, and I was the first person they contacted,” said Fuss.

It turns out the Coach had watched a few hours of Mullets film and had a good idea of what the defenseman brought to the table. He just couldn’t pass up a chance to play for the MIAC school that had expressed a need for what he could bring.

“They said they were going to start talking to me this next year on the Mullets to play with them in the 2022-23 season and they were already on the list of schools I wanted to possibly play for. Some things happened and opened the door for me to come in and play a year early. My goal coming back was to play hockey for a Division 3 school and I felt like it was something I just couldn’t walk away from.”

But there is another draw that plays an even bigger role.

“On top of that, my brother is a senior at the school, playing for the hockey team and I thought it would be cool to play on a team with him. He is four years older than me so it always seemed like it would be impossible to ever play with him.”

Fuss has already started taking classes at Scholastica and will major in Business Management. 

His time with the Mullets and Coach Walby may have been brief, but Fuss said it played a huge role in helping him achieve his goal of playing college hockey.

“If it wasn’t for Coach Walby, none of this would be happening. He took me and had confidence in me, knowing I had been away from the game for quite a while.

“He told me he knew that I would be able to adjust and get back into it the right way. I will never forget what Coach Walby has done for me and I am very thankful.”

The Mullets are also thankful for what Fuss brought to the team in the 2020-21 season and wish him luck with both his education and hockey career at St. Scholastica.

Former Twin City Thunder Goalie Leslie Settling In At Amherst College

By Joshua Boyd / 09/03/2021, 6:00pm EDT

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. 

Islanders Hockey Club Premier Blueliner Wisely Commits To Elmira College

By Joshua Boyd / 08/28/2021, 9:00am EDT

When August 2021 showed up on the calendars at the Wisely home, 2001-born Carter Wisely was expecting to go back to the Islanders Hockey Club Premier squad to be a defensive leader for one of the Premier Division’s regular title contenders. 

Now, however, he is packing his bags to become a college student - and a college hockey player as well. Wisely committed late in August to Elmira College, a late development that was extremely exciting for Wisely and his family. 

“It’s a last second thing, going in this year, right before their season starts,” said Wisely, a native of Syracuse, N.Y. “I’m happy with everything they have done for me, and what they’re going to do.” 

Elmira first reached out to Wisely in early August, as they suddenly had one roster spot they had to fill.

“I had another year of eligibility with juniors. I went on a visit and loved it there, though,” said Wisely. “I love that Elmira is a hockey town, and I really found what I wanted to find in a school, academically - small school, small class sizes, which makes it easier to learn. I am super excited about the hockey program and they’re moving to a new conference. The coaching staff is super-trustworthy and super-invested in me as a hockey player and as a human being. They are going to be developing me as a four-year player, not just leaving me on my own.” 

Elmira’s Soaring Eagles are taking flight to the New England Hockey Conference starting this season, and will face the likes of Norwich, Babson, Hobart and UMass-Boston now on a regular basis. 

“The NEHC is an unbelievable conference with great teams. It’s a little further away [from many opponents], but we’ll make great memories on our bus trips,” he added. 

Wisely knows a lot about programs that invest heavily in their players, as he just came off a huge year with the Islanders Hockey Club, one that saw the team make a convincing push in the National Championships. Only a tiebreaker kept them out of the semifinals. 

“I couldn’t have made a better choice. I loved playing under coach Jay Punsky,” said Wisely. “He’ll do anything for his players. He works with you on a daily basis, every single day. We get after it with the Islanders Hockey Club, you work so hard in practice. It doesn’t matter where we are in the standings, we’re always pushing to get so much better.”

Wisely played in 24 games in the regular season and three more in the playoffs. He posted a pair of goals and six assists for eight points, and also emerged as one of the team’s most accurate passers. He executed 288 tape-to-tape passes for an 87 percent success rate, fifth best on the IHC team among players with at least 100 passes. 

“Defensively, we had a really strong D corps from top to bottom, we were super deep and we all loved each other as a team,” said Wisely. “We were all rooting for each other to play well, and also fighting each other to get into the lineup.

“Nationals was a cool experience,” he added. “It was a little disappointing with a tie in the final game, because we thought we were the best team there. But I wouldn’t trade any of that time, it was a great experience for everyone.” 

All of a sudden, this month, Wisely has found himself scrambling to change plans - he was physically and mentally prepared to be an age-out leader for the Islanders this season, but now he finds himself suddenly an incoming NCAA hockey player. 

“[My preparation] has changed a lot, I’m in a little bit of a rush,” he said. “Now I’m the underaged kid instead of the age-out in juniors. I’ll be up against bigger, stronger players and I have to catch up and mature to get on everyone else’s level in college.”

The USPHL congratulates Carter Wisely, his family, the Islanders Hockey Club and Elmira College for his commitment.  

NCDC Junior Bruins Defenseman Spence Commits To Holy Cross For 2022

By Joshua Boyd / 08/24/2021, 2:15pm EDT

COVID changed so many plans during the infamously memorable year of 2020, and defenseman Charlie Spence was certainly swept up in having to act on his feet last year. 

In the end, it was serendipitous, as a full season of playing NCDC hockey for the Boston Junior Bruins has now resulted in his NCAA Division I commitment to the College Of The Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., where he will begin his college hockey career in the Fall of 2022. He will return for a second season with the NCDC Junior Bruins in 2021-22. 


##usphlcommitments ##usphl ➡️ ##ncaahockey @juniorbruins Charlie Spence ➡️ College of the Holy Cross ##juniorhockey

♬ Finish Line - Skillet

Originally, the 2002-born Boston native Spence was planning to play his senior season for Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. When that season was canceled, his opportunity to play with the Junior Bruins NCDC season opened up.

“My Split Season [Little Bruins] coach Peter Masters recommended I try out for the NCDC, as he expected the prep season would not be played,” said Spence. “I was with the Junior Bruins for the whole season, and it was a good learning experience. The league was really good, with kids coming from the USHL and BCHL, and it was really good competition.” 

Indeed, Spence played 25 of the Junior Bruins’ 42 games, posting a pair of goals and two assists during the regular season. He also had two assists in the Junior Bruins’ six-game postseason that saw them reach the NCDC semifinals. Spence honored the USPHL for its forward thinking initiative of bringing the entire NCDC down to Florida when the season was in jeopardy last fall due to northeastern U.S. COVID restrictions specifically banning interstate hockey travel between the New England states and New Jersey, accounting for most of the NCDC footprint. 

“I thought Florida was a great opportunity for everyone to be able to play while other players were at home locked down,” said Spence. “The teams kept adding players and getting better as the time went by. You also had the visibility where a lot of college coaches were at home watching HockeyTV.”

This included Bill Riga, who took the Head Coaching position at Holy Cross after 13 productive and successful years as the Associate Head Coach for a Quinnipiac program that twice made the Frozen Four in his time there, both times reaching the National Championship Game.

Additionally first-year Holy Cross Assistant Coach Eric Sorenson played his junior hockey for the former Syracuse Jr. Stars, now the Utica Jr. Comets, another NCDC Member Organization.

Fellow Assistant Coach Castan Sommer is a Holy Cross alum and resident of Shrewsbury, located about halfway between the Junior Bruins’ home base in Marlboro and Worcester itself (Riga himself is from Westboro, next to Marlboro). Volunteer Assistant Coach Bobby Butler is a former Junior Bruin, former Junior Bruins Director of Player Development and veteran of 133 NHL games.

From top to bottom, the incoming Holy Cross coaching staff were all very familiar with the Junior Bruins - two former Junior Bruins, goaltender Thomas Hale and defenseman Michael Higgins, are on the 2021-22 Holy Cross roster. Two other 2020-21 Junior Bruins - Joe Solimine and Coleman Jenkins - are also bound for Holy Cross.

And with its proximity to Marlboro, the Junior Bruins players are very familiar with their closest Division I school and its illustrious space in the game - no one will ever forget when 16th-seeded Holy Cross ousted top-seeded Minnesota in the opening round of the 2006 National Tournament. 

“They first reached out to me around the start of [this] August. My Head Coach Mike Anderson put them in touch with me. I went and toured the campus four weeks before I committed. It’s a good spot with good facilities,” said Spence. “In terms of hockey, I like the new coaching staff they put in place. I think they will help change the hockey culture at Holy Cross. In terms of academics, I love the fact you can get a really good education and still play in a Division I program.” 

Spence is excited in the meantime to return for another season with the Junior Bruins. The 2019 Dineen Cup Champion Junior Bruins are going to look to bring the Cup back north after the Jersey Hitmen captured it this past March. Along with team goals, Spence has individual improvement goals in mind.

“I want to improve upon my physicality and decision-making - I want to think the game a little quicker, because college hockey is a faster pace,” Spence added. “[This summer], I’ve just been working and skating and working out, staying local.” 

He has more than a year to decide his educational path on Mount Saint James, but he already has some ideas of where he’ll go. 

“I’m sort of undecided right now. I’ll probably go into something related to finance, something with a math degree,” he added. 

The USPHL congratulates Charlie Spence, his family, the Boston Junior Bruins and the College Of The Holy Cross for his commitment.

When the time came and colleges were able to talk with Chris Delaney on January 1, the University of Massachusetts was right there on his phone.

They kept the conversation going within the allowed parameters, and on August 1, when they were able to offer him a future spot with the Minutemen program, they were there on the phone again. 

Delaney, coming off nearly 10 years with the Boston Junior Bruins organization - most recently with their NCDC program in 2020-21 - now has his future path set, as he will arrive at the flagship Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts beginning with the 2023-24 season as a true freshman. 

“I started talking with them the first day I could [Jan. 1], and they showed interest with what they could talk about,” said Delaney. “I did an unofficial tour in June of the school, and August 1, when they could officially offer me, I knew from the start that was where I would commit.” 

The Minutemen are the defending NCAA Division I National Champions, which is obviously a draw for any recruit, but even without that hardware won in April, Delaney said he would certainly still have committed, as there’s obviously so much more to the Minutemen than their first D-I title.

“The main thing for me was the culture there. Every time I talked to them, it was about the culture and character you have to have going into the school,” Delaney added. “I talked mostly to [Assistant Coach] Jared DeMichiel, and he reinforced about the program having the best character players. The facilities are also top-notch.

“[The championship] shows that the coaching staff would push their players to their highest limit, and that each year, they’re going to be in the Frozen Four,” he said. 

There’s another type of commitment that Delaney feels very passionate about, and that was the 10 years that he spent with the Boston Junior Bruins program, from his Mite years straight up through this past season with the semifinalists in the Tier II National Collegiate Development Conference. 

“The Junior Bruins program is one that any kid from around New England should join, because of the development, the people, and the character that everyone has,” said Delaney. “[Co-owners] Peter and Chris Masters pave the way. I’ve known them since I was 7 years old, and I always just trusted the process with the Junior Bruins. They’re so caring - it’s not the hockey ability with them, it’s the people. They’ll take care of anyone.” 

He also talked about current Junior Bruins 16U coach Topher Bevis as having a great impact on his earlier career within the USPHL from 2018 to 2020. 

“Topher was my skills coach from when I was 7, so I credit him for a ton of my success,” said Delaney. “Being a 13-year-old when I was first playing 16U, I was able to get that second season to develop.” 

As a 15-year-old, Delaney was already a USPHL All-Star, playing in the 16U game. That was only his first appearance in that star-studded affair, as he was also named to the NHL Prospects Games of both Jan. 18 and Feb. 8 at Hub City Tampa. 

His NCDC season of 2020-21 was evidence of Head Coach Mike Anderson seeing his potential as a 16-year-old and Delaney living up to that potential right from the get-go. 

“[Coach Anderson told me] ‘When you have the opportunity take the most of it.’ I ran with it and stuck with the NCDC for the entire year,” said Delaney. “The program is just top-notch. They’ll bring you the most eyes. I credit the Junior Bruins for all of my success.” 

Delaney not only made the most of his opportunity, but he finished fourth in scoring on the Junior Bruins with eight goals and 23 assists for 31 points in 37 regular season games. He was astronomical in the playoffs, leading the team with 10 points (1-9-10) in six postseason games.

“I improved my vision and speed the most. I really had to pick up my speed to play against bigger and older guys, and the hockey IQ came with it, seeing the game better at a different and faster pace,” said Delaney. 

Delaney knows full well there is always another ladder to climb, so he will be taking his game for the next couple seasons to the Tier-I level in the United States Hockey League, playing for the Chicago Steel until he arrives on the UMass campus in 2023. 

“The Junior Bruins care about their players and getting them to the next level. They cared about my decision and they really want me to take the next step and play against even better players,” said Delaney. “I’m excited to play there a couple seasons.” 

Delaney said that, while he “can’t control [his] height,” which is 5-feet-6-inches, there is plenty he can control to become a greatly impactful NCAA player when he arrives in Amherst.

“The main thing will be getting faster and stronger, that’s what I can control,” he added. “It’s just about being the fastest and strongest and hardest-working kid.” 

Delaney also looks forward to the impact to his life outside the rink that UMass will have, though he is still keeping an open mind as to his exact educational path two years from now.

“It’s definitely very early. They do have one of the best business schools,” said Delaney. “The way the school is perceived, it’s definitely a harder school to get into academically.”

The USPHL congratulates Chris Delaney, his family, the Boston Junior Bruins and the University of Massachusetts for his commitment.  

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