Odessa goalie Creel makes NCAA DI commitment
February 3, 2015
By Joey Battaino, Odessa Jackalopes
When Tanner Creel left the United States Military Academy at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, the Kildeer, IL native was left wondering if he would ever get the chance to play NCAA Division I hockey again. Late Monday night, the NAHL netminder announced he would have that chance, committing to the University of Connecticut for the 2015-16 season.
Creel was acquired in mid-December from the P.A.L Junior Islanders and was thrusted into the starting role almost immediately. Creel made 10 consecutive starts from December 19th until January 17th , stabilizing a position for the Jackalopes that had been a question mark all season long. Creel did not bat an eye at the daunting workload, however. He relished in the fact that the Jackalopes had given him the opportunity to further his hockey career.
“I just feel blessed to have been given a second chance,” said Creel. “Not many people are given a second chance on an opportunity like this. I want to make sure I make the most of mine.”
Creel also decorated the efforts of both head coach Greg Gatto and assistant coach Cody Campbell in helping him achieve his goal of returning to Division I hockey.
“I knew from the first conversation I had with Cody (Campbell), Odessa was where I wanted to be,” proclaimed Creel. “I cannot thank the coaching staff enough for bringing me in and giving me a chance to succeed. Their work, day in and day out, to develop and promote players put me where I am today. I also have to thank my teammates, who have continually battled through the good times and bad. They have pushed me to want to be better for them.”
Coach Greg Gatto knew he had found a diamond in the rough when Creel became available right before Christmas.
“With all the talks we had with Tanner, Cody and I were very impressed with his demeanor,” said Gatto. “Tanner is a competitor. He competes to see pucks, he competes to get in the right position to make saves and he has been an excellent presence in our locker room. We are very proud of Tanner, and wish him the best in the future.”
Creel becomes the fourth Jackalopes goaltender in four seasons of NAHL play to make a Division I commitment. Connor Hellebuyck – UMASS Lowell, Jacob Theut – Northeastern, and Nick Deery, Minnesota-Duluth all started their junior hockey careers in West Texas, further proving the legacy that is forming with the NAHL’s edition of the Odessa Jackalopes.