Corpus Christi forward Krueger makes NCAA DI commitment
November 1, 2016
By Collin Schuck, Corpus Christi IceRays
The Corpus Christi IceRays of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) are proud to announce the commitment of captain Mason Krueger to Army, a NCAA Division I program in the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA), for the 2017-18 season.
“It’s an honor that a school like that would look to me to come help them make a difference not only with hockey but also see what I can do there in schooling and the military,” said Krueger. “It’s extremely prestigious and has a lot of history, so it means a lot to go there.”
Krueger, 20, is a model of the effectiveness of junior hockey development now in the early portion of his third season with the IceRays. The Bettendorf, Iowa native came to the IceRays out of the Omaha AAA program, a perennial powerhouse in the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL). In his final midget season in 2013-14, the then 17-year-old finished fifth on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points and earned the respect of ex-National Hockey League (NHL) player and now Omaha AAA U18 Head Coach David Wilkie both on and off the ice, leading to his tender signing by the IceRays in November 2013.
After an adjustment period during the first half of the 2014-15 season, Krueger came into his own during the second half of his rookie season, earning 10 points in his last 20 games en route to a 17-point season. In 2015-16, Krueger was named an alternate captain and built on his success from his rookie season leading into year two, putting up 27 points while finishing tied for second on the team in goals with 13 and tied for fifth in points. This season, Krueger is flourishing in his final year of junior eligibility, recording five goals and nine assists for 14 points and leading the team in points and sharing the lead in assists. A large part of his development this season came during the summer through rigorous training and preparation to become one of the league’s best forecheckers as evidenced at the NAHL Showcase by helping on a game-winning goal in overtime. In crucial points this season including on October 28, Krueger has led his team back into games with his play.
Most importantly, his character both on the ice as a teammate and leader in the locker room earned him the unanimous honor as team captain as voted by the players as well as IceRays Community Man of the Year in the 2015-16 season. His tenure with the IceRays now leads him into prestigious categories, recording 26 goals and 32 assists for 58 points through 129 games. He sits fifth in junior franchise history for games played, sixth for career goals, seventh in career points, and 11th in career assists.
“It’s been a long road with a lot of ups and downs, and there’s been a lot of people that have helped me along the way. A big thanks to Coach [Dave] Wilkie in Omaha and Coach Flynn. They’ve just pushed me to be the player I’ve become today. It’s been a long road, but it’s been well worth it, and I’m excited.”
“We’re extremely proud of Mason for his commitment to Army,” said IceRays Head Coach Brad Flynn. “Mason’s an example of what we’re about in Corpus Christi with a strong work ethic and his performance to back it up. He’s a consummate teammate and leader, and we wish nothing but the best for him in his future.”
The U.S. Military Academy is the nation’s first engineering school and was founded in 1802 to develop the next leaders for the United States Army. Each year, more than 900 new officers graduate and enter the military after building on the foundations of development: intellectual, physical and military. The program seeks individuals who possess success in academics, athletics and leadership that lead to a well-rounded person, qualities they see in Krueger.
Krueger joins the highly touted Army West Point program in the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA) next year. The Black Knights, led by Head Coach Brian Riley, is in its 112th season of program history after beginning in 1904 and since then have earned over 1,100 wins since the program’s inception. Riley, now in his 12th season, is the third of his family to coach the Black Knights since 1951 following his father, Jack, who coached the team for 36 seasons, and his brother, Rob, who took the helm for 18 more years. IceRays teammate Cody Fleckenstein will join Krueger at Army West Point following his junior career, and knowing another player heading into a new program does help some of the adjustments to a new environment.
“It’ll be a lot easier, especially having someone to turn to with a lot of unknowns like West Point,” said Krueger. “It’s not your typical college, but I’ve always strived to be different and do things to put me ahead of other people, and I think this is the right place to be. I’m definitely looking forward to the opportunity and where this takes my life.”
“Talk about a well deserved scholarship,” said IceRays General Manager Pat Dunn. “Mason is one of the nicest, most humble and polite young men I have ever met. He is the son every parent would dream of having. We were sold on ‘Kroogs’ three years ago coming out of David Wilkie’s program in Omaha. He earned his ice time over the years, and nothing was handed to him. He worked hard every day to get better, always had a great attitude and always wanted to get better. He earned the respect of both Coach [John] Becanic and Coach Flynn, and today he is rewarded. I am so happy for him right now. Coach Riley is really getting a quality individual on his team for the next four years.”
Krueger is the first member of the 2016-17 IceRays team to earn a college commitment and becomes the fifth player on the roster to hold a NCAA Division I commitment, joining David Baskerville (Canisius College), Nathan Bryer (Mercyhurst University), Camden Burggrabe (Northern Michigan University), and Fleckenstein (Army West Point).