To call Chris Dienes’ season a whirlwind affair is putting it mildly. He started the year with his Traverse City West High School team, preparing to help the Titans defend their Big North Conference crown.
Four months later, he has committed to play Division I college hockey at Western Michigan University.
In between, a call-up to the Traverse City North Stars cemented Dines’ station as an up-and-coming defenseman earmarked for duty in the elite CCHA conference.
“It’s been a little overwhelming at times, to be honest,” said Dienes, a 6-foot-2, 180-pounder with just 16 games of junior experience under his belt. “Obviously, it’s a dream come true to get the opportunity to play college hockey.”
Western’s staff began to take notice of Dienes during the Michigan Developmental Hockey League season in September - a league that showcases the top high school talent in the state. When the North Stars called on Dienes to join the NAHL ranks in early November, WMU staffers again got the chance to see him play his first junior series in Springfield and Dienes agreed to take a visit.
“I don’t know if I was ready for it, but it was great,” he explained. “They played Ohio State in front of a sellout crowd, which was awesome, and the campus was great, too.
“I got a chance to talk to (former North Stars) Patrick Nagorsen and Travis Paeth and they told me all about the school and the program and how much they loved it, and that was good to hear.”
Dienes, who plans to study computer engineering at WMU, didn’t get a chance to help West seek another title, as Traverse City head coach Anthony Palumbo didn’t hesitate to bring him aboard when veteran blueliner Trevor Campbell was dealt to Topeka.
Dienes has seen action in 16 games for the Stars, and scored his first junior goal on Dec. 4 at Motor City. He also assisted on a key score in a 5-4 win against Michigan on Nov. 27.
“Chris has tremendous upside,” said Palumbo. “He’s already very good; he’s a big kid with that long reach, he skates well and plays his position. Those are attractive qualities for colleges when they’re looking for kids who can play at that level.
“We’ve seen Chris play all the way through from his Grand Traverse Hockey Association days, and seen him develop into a high-end hockey player with a great work ethic.”
Dienes, who began playing hockey at the age of 4, followed in his brother P.J.’s footsteps as a Titan, and cites his family’s heavy involvement in their sport of choice as one of the reasons for his successes.
“My mom and dad were always driving us to practices and games and tournaments, and they deserve many thanks,” he added. “And my brother really helped guide me through, along with support from family and friends.
“I’ve also had some great coaches along the way, like coach (Bob) Spence and coach (Jeremy) Rintala at West, and (North Stars assistant coaches) Chad (Fournier) and (Mike) Mattuecci and coach Palumbo here. They’ve had a real impact on my later development.”