IceRays forward Kelly makes NCAA commitment
July 30, 2015
By Collin Schuck, Corpus Christi IceRays
The Corpus Christi IceRays of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) are proud to announce that forward Connor Kelly has committed to Saint John’s University, a NCAA Division III program in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). Kelly will join teammates Joe Chitwood and Matt Colford with the Johnnies this fall.
“I was just waiting for a little bit,” said Kelly. “I know Joe and Matt committed earlier than me. I was waiting on a few schools that were talking to me, and then I found out that Saint John’s gave me a lot of scholarship award. Both of my parents went there and met there. My grandmom works there. Most of my family members went there. So I knew it was the right fit for me.”
Kelly, 21, completed his final season of junior hockey eligibility during the 2014-15 season with the IceRays, recording nine goals and 17 assist for 26 points with 76 penalty minutes and a -13 rating through 59 games. He also earned one goal and one assist during the team’s two games of postseason play. The Chaska, Minn., native shared the team lead in games played in an IceRays uniform, missing only one game this season.
Over his IceRays career, Kelly earned 14 goals and 27 assists for 41 points with 122 penalty minutes and a -32 rating through 99 games. He hit 100 career NAHL games on March 28, 2015 in a 5-2 win over the Amarillo Bulls to conclude the 2014-15 regular season. The forward arrived in Corpus Christi on Nov. 5, 2013 after being acquired from the Bismark Bobcats in a move to bolster an injury-plagued lineup.
“I am so happy for Connor to be able to continue playing along side of both Joe and Matt,” said IceRays head coach John Becanic. “From the time he got to Corpus Christi to his last game, Connor always treated playing here as a privilege. Connor’s infectious energy and personality will be greatly missed here in Corpus Christi. He is a bright, hard working player that will make his teammates better.”
“I’ve been a lot of places in the United States,” said Kelly, “and Corpus Christi was definitely one of the best places that I have ever been. The town is just great. The people are great. Our organization is just top notch, the best one I’ve ever played. You were treated like a professional, and I got to play in front of 5,000 fans a night. I don’t think I’ll be able to play in front of that many fans again. I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything.”
Kelly joins teammates Chitwood and Colford, who committed at the NCAA Division III program in May, looking to continue his education by joining the University’s pre-med program along with Chitwood in the hopes of becoming a trauma surgeon, continuing the family lineage with the institution, and extending a deep-rooted friendship among teammates. With the addition of Kelly, the MIAC now has six former players actively playing against one another: Chitwood, Colford, Jon Grebosky (Concordia-Moorhead), Kelly, Alex Koopmeiners (Concordia-Moorhead), and John Roisum (St. Thomas).
“We’re very excited for any of our players,” said IceRays general manager Pat Dunn. “Connor made it through what we can call the ‘Becanic Purge.’ He was a great asset for our team and one of the major reasons for our successful year last season. Not only did he make big contributions on the ice but also off the ice as a leader in the locker room with his personality and humor. The Kelly family has been very supportive of our program and have become family friends throughout the past two years. We wish Connor all the best. Saint John’s should be happy with their acquisitions and having three quality individuals in their program.”
“A huge thank you to Coach Becanic and the IceRays staff for trading for me from Bismark and allowing me to play two years down there,” said Kelly. “It was the best two years of my life. Junior hockey is definitely an experience that only a select few get to live, and I thank them for allowing me to live it and play it in the best place you can play juniors, and that’s Corpus Christi.”