Midget AAA's NAPHL Membership Brings Great Opportunities

FARIBAULT, MN – Every season brings something new for the Midget AAA team – new players, new opponents, etc. This year, however, brings one more new element for the team as they take part in their first season as a member of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) 18U Division. USA Junior Hockey Magazine released the following article on Shattuck-St. Mary’s new partnership. 

After playing an independent schedule in recent seasons, the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Midget AAA team is experiencing success both on and off the ice in their initial season as a member of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) 18U Division. 

“A big reason we wanted to join the league was that it gave our kids something to play for,” said Shattuck-St. Mary’s head coach Pat Cullen. “We were in a league in the past that folded, so the chance to get back into a league where you have a chance to play for a spot in the standings is a huge thing. The other thing that was really big was the exposure it would provide our kids to junior hockey scouts and potentially college scouts.” 

Currently, Cullen’s squad is off to an impressive 7-2 record, and has participated in several showcases. 

“The world of hockey has gone to showcases and so it’s kind of one-stop shopping, where scouts can come in and see lots of kids in a short amount of time. That exposure we have gotten already has been a huge, huge win for our program,” added Cullen, who also serves as Director of Player Development at Shattuck-St. Mary’s.

As for the organization of the NAPHL, Cullen has been impressed.

“[The NAPHL] is really well run. Lou Trombetta (Director, NAPHL) and Mark Frankenfeld (NAHL Commissioner and President) and the whole the NAHL staff and NAPHL staff are very well-organized,” said Cullen. “When you get to the events, you know exactly what you need to do.”

Additionally, Cullen has been enthralled by the competition within the league.

“The level of competition has been really good. We’ve been very impressed. Everything about it has been a plus so far,” he added. 

Playing teams in locations they haven’t seen before has also provided some new experiences for his 2016-17 team. 

“It is a very good experience for the kids to play in a lot of different venues. We bus everywhere, so they have to learn to prepare themselves for that. The next step for most of our players is junior hockey and that is what junior hockey entails,” said Cullen, a former assistant coach at St. Olaf College and a former head coach at Hamline University. 

An off-ice benefit of the travel and a result of the fact that Shattuck-St. Mary’s is a boarding school is that the players spend quite a bit of time together. Cullen sees that as another positive opportunity for his players. 

“Even though the kids don’t realize it, we’re becoming a stronger team just by all the time they have to spend together. We think it helps us become better as the year goes, because of the time they spend together and the closeness they develop and the friendships they develop,” added Cullen. “We think it is a huge, important part of the development not only as a hockey player but also as a student. It helps us a lot.” 

As often is the case in the early season, the leadership of Cullen’s team is being provided by his more experienced players. 

“We look to our seniors for leadership,” Cullen said. “We also look to returning players who had a good finish last season and hope to have a good start to their second year.”

Statistically, among the players leading Shattuck-St. Mary’s in the early going in the NAPHL were Tyler Cooper, Jake Vaughan and Peter White. Each registered four goals and five assists, thereby averaging a point per game.