It happens every year, but never gets all that easy. The overagers in junior hockey will now move onto their next part of life in college. For the Black Bears, to have five of seven overage players get commitments this season shows they know the right cogs to bring in to get these players noticed. Especially with three of the seven being part of last year’s team– the Black Bears lose another batch of outstanding people and players; but were honored to have them on the squad for the time they did.
CONOR COLE: After coming onto the squad last season, Cole was a leader on and off the ice. Late in the season in 2020-21, he got an alternate captaincy and was a solid piece in the playoff run the Black Bears had last season. It garnered him attention in the Top Prospects Tournament at the end of the year, which was a jumping off point for him this season. Being named captain at the beginning of the season, Cole led by example for the team, chipping in wherever called upon and proving he deserved to have the “C” on his chest. His play got noticed by schools, as well, with Alaska-Anchorage winning his talents for the next four seasons. With Alaska-Anchorage rebuilding their team, expect Cole to play a big role for the first year back and beyond for the Seawolves’ squad.
AIDAN MCDOWELL: A three-year Black Bears and coming out of the Mercer Chiefs program, McDowell was a heart-and-soul player for the Black Bears, putting in the work every day in order to get and keep his spot in the line-up. Being able to get through injury adversity and a deep defensive group, McDowell took the next step this season with a well-rounded game on both sides of the puck, culminating in a commitment to Stevenson University starting this fall. You can tell how much McDowell means to the team when he finally got his first goal of the season late in the year and his teammate mobbed him not only for the go-ahead marker, but for the excitement of his hard work paying off.
MICHAEL MORELLI: Coming into camp two years ago, Morelli dug and clawed and earned every minute of ice time he got. With a work ethic second to none, Morelli helped the Black Bears get to their first playoff berth, as well as securing the series-clinching win over Johnstown. Coming back for a second season, Morelli continued to dig deeper while he opened and closed the season with shutouts– leaving the Black Bears with the franchise lead of four shutouts. With a commitment to Michigan Tech, you can bet his work ethic will only increase as he moves onto the D1 ranks.
JACOB BROCKMAN: Scoring the first goal of the 2021-22 season for Maryland, Brockman showed off his versatility throughout the season. After two seasons in the BCHL, the El Segundo, California native got back stateside and showed off all aspects of his game from a goal-scorer to a set-up man, as well as being a key contributor to the power play with eight points throughout the season. While his future college is yet to be determined, Brockman will fit in any way necessary for the success of his team and himself.
MATTHEW DAVIES: Closing out the season with the last goal for the Black Bears, Davies play is a well-balanced attack. Not afraid to jump up in the rush and create offense, Davies also played a solid in his own zone, making sure that he wasn’t caught too far into the offensive zone and missing an assignment on defense. After coming to the NAHL via the Omaha AAA youth program and some stops in the NCDC, Davies’ right-handed shot from the point and vision of the ice should help him out with his next step in hockey.
LAKER ALDRIDGE: Coming to the Black Bears after the NAHL Showcase, Aldridge carved out a knack for scoring the opening goals for the Black Bears and creating the momentum needed for the squad. Not only that, but Aldridge was able to adjust and adapt to whatever role he was called to do– whether it be being the aggressor and dropping the mitts or if it meant playing a shutdown role late in a period to protect a lead. The different styles he showed impressed Michigan State and allowed him to commit to the Spartans with teammate Luca Di Pasquo and former Black Bear Dylan Wegner.
TYLER YOUNG: This year’s first round pick in the NAHL Draft came later into the first half of the season, but his impact on the ice and ability to turn a game around showed that he was worth the wait. With great speed, hands, and vision, Young had the ability to take over a game and score in bunches. The son of a former NHLer, Young knew what it takes to advance in hockey and will continue on with Merrimack College next season.
(All Photos: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction)