Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman Latimer makes NCAA commitment
June 28, 2017
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights and NAHL defenseman Elijah Latimer is heading west. The long-time Knights defenseman has committed to play NCAA Division III hockey for St. Thomas University to play division three college hockey in Minnesota this fall.
“I loved the school when I visited this past season,” said Latimer. “The school, the coach, the team-all of it impressed me.”
The Tommies, who play out of St. Paul, Minnesota, are guided by head coach Jeff Boeser. In his tenure, the team has posted an impressive record of 109-54-22 dating back to 2010. The program has a proud tradition of sustained success, having qualified for the NCAA tournament 16 times since 1983, including two National Championship appearances. Latimer looks to fortify a blue-line that saw three of its members graduate this spring.
“Elijah has grown up with the Knights,” said Knights NAHL head coach Tom Kowal. “He’s been here since day one. He’s made progress every year and had success at every level of our organization. He has a skillset that he’s worked hard to improve, and it’s one that will transfer well to the college level.”
His earliest coach with the Knights echoes these sentiments.
“I coached Elijah from PeeWee to U18,” said Alex Vasko. “He’s always been an excellent backward skater, and there was no question he was going to be best as a defenseman. He’s got excellent positioning, home defense and outstanding skating skills.”
After affiliating with the Knights NAHL team in the 2015-16 season, the 2016 draft pick brought a stabilizing presence to the Knights NAHL defensive corps this past year.
“We always look for our affiliate players to make an impression when we first bring them up to the NAHL level,” said Kowal. “Elijah was someone we were very familiar with and confident in our first year in tier-II. When we gave him a few games in the NAHL, he didn’t disappoint. This past season we drafted him, knowing we were getting a good fit. We were able to lean on him throughout the year to provide us with a strong two-way game.”
Over 54 games this past season, he scored one goal and seven assists, while playing a lot of minutes in a variety of roles. The experience was one he believes has improved his ability and prepared him to play in college.
“The NAHL is such a tough league and we play in a strong division,” said Latimer. “It puts you up against some really athletic players and challenges you in a lot of ways. I think it definitely made me a better player for it.”
The next challenge will be adjusting to his new home, as the long-time local of Northeast Pennsylvania will get settled in St. Paul.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Latimer of the upcoming move. “Just having been here so long, it’ll be different playing somewhere else, but I’m excited for the new experiences college will bring.
Reminiscing all the good times is easy for Latimer, but picking out a single favorite memory proved to be a bit harder.
“We won a lot,” said Latimer of his many years with the Knights. “Probably the best memory was winning the National Championship.”
Latimer’s name is inscribed on a banner hanging inside the Revolution Ice Centre, commemorating the organization’s USA Hockey National Championship in 2012.
“Elijah was part of my Bantam Major team that won the National Championship in 2012,” said Vasko. “He spent two years playing on the same line with Ivan Provorov and was great.”
With all the success that he’s had with the Knights, Latimer was quick to recognize those who helped him reach that goal and others throughout his career.
“I want to thank the ownership of the Knights, they’ve helped me so much. Alex Vasko has been a coach to me from the beginning and has taught me a lot and I’m really grateful for that.”
As Latimer departs, the Knights say goodbye and good luck to one of their most tenured veterans, and the organization is happy to have had him as a member.
“I have always seen a lot of potential in Elijah as a player and that was with him playing on a team with Ivan Provorov, Daniel Sprong, Denis Smirnov and Nikita Pavlychev,” said Vasko. “I am very happy for him and wish him the best of luck.”
“It’s going to be odd not having Elijah here,” said Kowal. “He’s been an asset to us on and off the ice, and we’ve all gotten to know him well. I’m proud of how far he’s come and know he’ll be successful wherever goes. We wish him all the best.”