Gary Demopoulos of Hockey Night in Boston News wrote a feature story about the New England Wolves in the Nov. 19, 2013 issue of the magazine. Read the complete story below.
When the New England Wolves broke camp for the start of the American Hockey Institute’s inaugural 2011-2012 campaign, administrators didn’t really know what to expect of their unique program.
Now, just over one-third of the way through the program’s third season, they couldn’t be happier. It hasn’t taken long for the Wolves to show they belong as a serious choice for the elite player looking to play at the college level. With a schedule full of the Northeast’s top junior programs, both in the States and Canada, the Wolves have more than held their own, racing out to a 15-2-2 record through mid-November.
Last winter, the Wolves took home the initial championship in the first season of the Academy East Hockey League, where the Wolves compete with Bridgton Academy and National Sports Academy, among others.
“We are extremely pleased of how far our program has progressed since its inception in January of 2011,” said AHI Director of Player Personnel Jon Fontas. “Each year we have been able to refine our product not only from a hockey standpoint but also with the other major components of our model, which include academics, food/lodging, off-ice strength and conditioning, and the addition of a 44-passenger bus.”
The home base of the American Hockey Institute is beautiful Waterville Valley, NH, where the players stay from September through March, practicing every day, and most importantly, taking college courses that are transferable.
“AHI believes that we have a one-of-a-kind hockey development model where players benefit greatly by the state-of-the-art training facilities and vast hockey resources that we make available to them,” Fontas said. “Also, the ski resort town of Waterville Valley provides an all-in-one campus setting where everything is within walking distance of their living residence and has the feel of an Olympic village. This environment allows the players to train, develop and focus without any outside distractions. That said, we are convinced AHI is the ideal program for the highly motivated post-graduate hockey player.”
The AHI coaching staff has remained the same since the program’s beginning, with former Cushing Academy mentor Steve Jacobs serving as head coach, assisted by Jay Gallant and Brett Tryder.
In addition to the professional coaching staff, players receive 10-12 hours on ice per week (practices/skill sessions), a highly competitive 60+ game schedule with 6-8 showcases, 4-6 hours of strength & conditioning, townhouse condo style living, two meals per day and two college courses with six transferable credits.
Improvements to the program for this season include three college courses (English comp, Statistics and The American West). Each player is required to take two courses which are fully accredited through Plymouth State University and are taught on our Waterville Valley campus.
Offensive leaders for the Wolves thus far have been Jack Musil (40 pts/Hull, England), Nick Marin (32 pts/Shrewsbury, MA), Griffin Rogers (25 pts/Bow, NH) and Matt Michaud (12 goals/So. Portland, ME).
Offensive-minded defensman Sam Kent (15 pts/+20/Sandwich, MA), along with Andrew Nelson (+18/Staten Island, NY) and Garrett Gunski (+10/Goffstown, NH) have been invaluable in the defensive zone. Eric Bogart (London, ONT) and Parker Bonis (Rochester, NY) have shared the bulk of the goaltending.
Joining the Academy East Hockey League has been a positive step for AHI.
“Head coach Steve Jacobs was instrumental in creating the AEHL, his vision was to bring good hockey programs together as scheduling partners that shared the same academic/hockey philosophies,” said Fontas. “The concept of the league was to ensure each hockey team member that participates have an academic component attached to it and included in its tuition, whether it’s a traditional or a not-traditional type of education. The league is in an excellent position to expand,” Fontas continued.
“There is no question that AHI benefited by being a participant, not only from its highly-competitive play and talent pool, but also from the diversity of our schedule. It was a great experience for our players and organization to win the AEHL championship the first year of the league. Our team made it a goal of theirs from day one and it is very rewarding to be able to reach your goal as a team and set the standard for next year’s team.”
In the end, college placement is the name of the game, and the Wolves can be proud that in year two of the program, they placed their first Division I player with Collin Bourque headed to UNH, where he is a freshmen player with the Wildcats this winter. Other players m oving on included Joe Cerulo (Salem State), Kendall Culbertson (Bowdoin), Julian Fialkow (Colgate), Riley Flanagan and Tord Thoresen (Plymouth State), Mike Fish (Fitchburg State), Matthew Heise (Wentworth), Will Humfryes (Becker) and Chris Harlow and Nick Wirth (University of New England).
As for the future, AHI is hoping to have as many as four teams under its umbrella down the line.
“Our vision has always been to have four teams playing out of Waterville Valley under the AHI model within the next two years,” Fontas said. “Ideally we would like to have two boys and two girls teams, however, if for some reasons that does not happen, we will adapt to meet the market demand and what will work best in Waterville Valley.”
The Waterville Valley Academy, which provides AHI’s academic component, has recently added an accredited full-time high school and as a result, AHI now has the option to expand into teh U-18 and U-16 levels as well.
Any player interested in finding out more abou tthe New England Wolvews at AHI can go the program’s website at www.americanhockeyinstitute.com.